ADAD Forum Training Day with Germaine Acogny
This year, the ADAD forum sessions focus on the theme of celebrating the vast heritage and achievements of African Peoples’ Dance.
It was apt that the first ADAD forum of 2006 profiled an artist who has contributed worldwide to the development of African dance since the 1960s. ADAD hosted Senegalese choreographer and dancer, Germaine Acogny at Interchange Studios, London.
The day kicked off with Germaine teaching a masterclass to 35 dancers ranging from African dance enthusiasts, to dance students, to seasoned professionals. And from the feedback collected, it was apparent that all three categories of dancers took inspiration from Germaine’s refreshing approach, and were keen for her to return in the near future.
Germaine Acogny has developed a dance technique which combines the traditional base of West African dances with the structural elements of classical ballet and western modern dance. From her unique mode of delivery, these three forms not only influence, but actually enable each other.
Her class was disciplined, thought provoking, and enlightening. It also provided much needed insight into the numerous subtleties contained within African dance forms that can be overlooked.
After a hearty lunch, the forum resumed with Germaine being interviewed by dance practitioner Akosua Boakye. Through the interview, and subsequent question and answer session, forum attendees learnt about; the beginnings of Germaine’s explorations into dance, her journey to accept her abilities as an artist as well as gain acceptance by her many critics, her approach to choreography, her vision for African dance, and her determination to consistently provide opportunities for dancers to train in African dance to a professional level.
Germaine was joined by her husband and manager Helmut Vogt, who shared with the forum his and Germaine’s 20 year voyage to build the multi-disciplinary arts institution in Senegal - L’ecole des sables (The School of Sands).
The publicity for this institution describes L’ecole des sables as a place where young dancers from all over Africa can benefit from a professional education, giving them a strong foundation and preparation for the life of an artist, as well as opening them up towards other horizons. Forum attendees watched an excerpt from a film made about the centre, and it was evident that L’ecole des sablesis not only a great place to find (or recall) one’s inspiration with regards to African dance, but it also offers valuable opportunities to collaborate with artists of other disciplines in an honest quest to be a ‘total’ artist.
Germaine is often termed ‘The Mother of Contemporary African dance’
Through meeting her and observing her approach and philosophy, it became clear as to why she has earned that name. It is not only because she began experimenting with African dance movement vocabulary back in the 1960s, and established institutions where dancers could train in African dance, (most notably Mudra Afrique which was founded in 1977, and offered students a three year fulltime course in the performing arts), but it is also because she understands the importance of continuously nurturing and supporting the next generation.
In her own words - “I cannot do what they can do, yet they cannot do what I can do”. So, whilst she still performs her own work, and choreographs for her dance company Jant-Bi, she generously shares her wisdom and experience with younger dancers, and encourages them to develop their own individual styles of expression.
Germaine and Helmut kindly donated the film of L’ecole des sablesto the ADAD archive, as well as a copy of Germaine’s book African Dance. Both film and book are available for ADAD forum members to look at. For a full transcript of the interview with Germaine, please contact Pamela Zigomo at ADAD. ADAD hopes to invite Germaine Acogny back to the UK later on in the year. Please ensure that you are on the ADAD database in order to find out about future forums at the earliest opportunity.
The ADAD Forums provide a voice for the sector and a meeting, consultation and advocacy point. The Forums offer the opportunity to share skills and experience, and develop a crossform community based on mutual aspirations and needs.