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Opiyo Okach choreographer / media designer


Opiyo Okach is a dancer, choreographer and artistic director of GaaraProjects. He divides his time & develops work between France and Kenya.


Since 1999 his work has toured in Africa, Brazil, Europe & the US and been presented at a wide range of venues and festivals including Dancespace at St Marks New York, Festival Avignon, Rencontres chorégraphiques de Seine-Saint-Denis, Dance Umbrella, Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco, Theater der Welt, Pact Zollverein in Germany…


He has acted as a catalyst for the development of dance in East Africa and continues to support the emergence of a new generation of dance artists.  He recently initiated ‘Performance Lab Nairobi’ - a collaborative platform for contemporary creation process at the GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. He has received numerous awards including the ‘Rencontres chorégraphiques Africains’ in 1998, the ‘prix du Nouveau Talent Chorégraphiques SACD 2003’ as well as a ‘Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development 2005’.


In I996 Opiyo Okach & Faustin Linyekula form the first contemporary dance company in Kenya, La Compagnie Gàara. With its first creation, ‘Cleansing’, the company wins a prize at the African Choreographic Encounters 1998. ‘Cleansing’ opens the door to the international scene and marks the beginning of support by principle figures of French dance such as Régine Chopinot or Mathilde Monnier. From 1998 the Ballet Atlantique Régine Chopinot supports and partners the group through a series of residencies and choreographic exchange.


In 1999, in collaboration with the Centre Chorégraphique de Montpellier, the Ballet Altlantique supports the company’s new project consisting the solo ‘Dilo’ for which Opiyo Okach becomes known in Europe. Following presentation at the Plateaux de Biennale du Val-de-Marne in 2001 and Hivernales d’Avignon in 2002, the solo, ‘Dilo’ based on improvisation and instant composition work and inspired by the mythology of nomadic ethnic groups in eastern Africa tours internationally to over 17 countries.


Between 2000 & 2002 Opiyo Okach, with the support of a number of international partners, lays the bases for a long time choreographic development project in Nairobi. In 2002 the choreographic creation ‘Abila’ premieres in Nairobi and is presented at Ballet Atlantique and Centre National de la Danse in France, then subsequently tours in Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region as well as in Europe.


In 2003 the society of authors and dramatic composers (SACD) awards Opiyo Okach the prix du Nouveau Talent Chorégraphique 2003. SACD commissions him to create a new solo for Festival d’Avignon 2003. His collaboration with the renown improviser, Julyen Hamilton, gives birth to the solo ‘No Man’s Gone Now’. The work premieres at Centre National de la Danse in January 2004 and has since known international success. 2004 is rich in new transversal collaboration, notably with choreographer such as Thierry Niang, hosted in residency in Nairobi and Emmanuel Grivet.


Opiyo’s recent work, ‘shift…centre’, is an evolutive process in which audiences, local artists and company dancers occupy the same scenographic space. ‘shift…centre…’ premiered in Nairobi in 2005 and has toured in France, Germany, South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil and the UK. He is currently developing the choreographic project ‘Territories in Transgression’ interrogating today’s global polarisation. The first work of the project ‘Border Border Express’ premiered at the Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in May 2009. Other works in development include ‘Body Evidence’ a solo, ‘What flag would it be if your body was a country’ - work for 9 performers, ‘The house that never walked’ - work for 8 performers, ‘The innocent, the guilty, the victim, the perpetrator’ - a multi-disciplinary work integrating digital creation.


Today Opiyo Okach is also artistic director of Gaara Dance Foundation - created in 2002 to consolidate the choreographic activity initiated in Kenya. Its activities include choreographic research, artist residency, choreographic exchange, support for creation and diffusion of work. Regional and pan African exchange such as the Dance Encounters (East African Dance Encounters 2003, Retracing Connections 2004, Encoding identities 2005) initiated in 2003 are part of its mission. Starting 2011 he initiates a new project - Performance Lab Nairobi – an artist, choreographic and audience development process placing the body within a broader contemporary creation context.