Performance Lab Nairobi is an artist and audience development platform designed to bridge the gaps between training, creative process and audience engagement.


While today on the continent there exists a number of programs catering for basic training  and a number of festivals and structures programming work the fundamental processes by which artists develop and work is created remain neglected. The laboratory is neither a basic skills training program, nor an isolated festival event or one-off artistic production exercise. It strives to be an organic process complementary to these different aspects of artistic activity by offering an innovative environment in which experienced and emerging artists can exchange, collaborate, challenge each other, create, engage audiences in the creative process and contribute a new body of innovative work to the general public.


It is a crucial measure against stagnation, intended to stimulate creative development, ensure artistic growth and continuity as well as public engagement. It is a strategic investment in the human and intellectual infrastructures for contemporary creation. Bringing together choreographers, dancers, scenographers and sound designers from divers backgrounds the lab places the body and choreographic work within a broader cross-disciplinary and collaborative contemporary creation context.


Under the theme ‘Place of the Spectator – Frames of Engagement’ the first 2 editions of the laboratory provoke participating artists to reconsider the place of the audience within their work and the role of their work in society as frames of engagement in conceiving, producing and presenting artistic work. It poses performance as an innovative space for imagination, interrogation and critical reflection on social process, civic responsibility and interaction.


Performance Lab #3' is part of the 2-year project ‘Chrysalides’ on which GaaraProjects collaborates with Ecole des Sables in senegal and La Termitiére, the centre for choreographic development in burkina faso. A group of participants consisting of experienced dancers and emerging choreographers from different countries in africa follow the 3-phase program in toubab dialaw, nairobi and ouagadougou. 31 dancer/choreographers from zimbabwe, rdc congo, tchad, togo, mali, benin, rwanda, senegal, ethiopia, south africa, madagascar, cameroon, niger, mauritius, burkina faso, congo, tanzania and kenya participate in the program. Work created and developed during the process is initially presented in nairobi and ouagadougou and subsequently proposed for tour. Intervenants during Performance Lab #3 include the choreographer Sophiatou Kossoko, sound artist Yan Leguay and scenographer Jean-Christophe Lanquetin all of whom interrogate performance from diverse standpoints.


Performance labs #4, #5 & #6 focus on the development of work by young kenyan choroegraphers - Adam Chienjo, Alacoque Ntome, Sara Kwala, Jared Onyango as well as new process by Opiyo Okach.


While creating exchange within africa the lab also involves international collaboration. The latest edition 'Performance Lab #7' includes residencies by japanese/american artist, Takahiro Yamamoto with the project 'Conversations'. Light designer Carrie Wood from new york collaborates with Opiyo Okach and leads design process for choreographers. Lab #7 also hosts south african choreographer Boyzie Cekwana as well as dancers Jabu Siphika and Sifiso Khumalo from durban who engage in process for Alacoque Ntome's 'Coins', Juliette Achieng's 'Mis-represent', Adam Chienjo's 'I am reading from a paper with nothing written on' and Opiyo Okach's 'What flag would it be if your body was a country'.


Performance Lab Nairobi has been made possible with support from EU-ACP Cultures, Doen Foundation, Institut Français, MAPP International Productions, The Contemporary Africa Arts Consortium, The GoDown Arts Centre, Gaara Dance Foundation & Goethe Institut Nairobi.


artistic direction l opiyo okach