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Bloom Festival

Posted on September 23, 2010

Bloom Festival

On June 6 and 7 The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora presented Bloom (ADAD), a festival held at various locations across the Southbank Centre which offered free workshops, films and talks, and two performances of a mixed bill in the Purcell Room.

The Association offered free workshops in Kizomba (an Angolan dance) and Caribbean dance in the Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall, an open and inviting space near the foyer and bar, and a film screening of Movement (R)evolution Africa was also held in the front of house space in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This featured interviews and rehearsal footage from nine African choreographers, giving an invaluable insight into the meaning of the emerging African dance scene from a uniquely African point of view; one choreographer declares that “My only true country is my body”.

On the first night of the festival, award-winning Kenyan dancer and choreographer Opiyo Okach gave a talk, introducing his own work and examining the rise of contemporary dance in East Africa. Okach gave a detailed account of his own background and how he became involved in the dance world through theatre and mime. These experiences had a huge effect on his future work, which would become well known as a kind of non-speaking theatre. He talked about his role as one of the first artists to begin making pieces after a period in the 1980s, when many artists began to go into exile due to the Kenyan government’s view of dance as somehow troublesome and subversive.

Okach introduced us to his own work and the choreographic initiative he has set up, Dance Encounters, which continues to flourish. He also gave an interesting account of the tensions between “contemporary” and “traditional” dance in East Africa, suggesting that contemporary dance tends to be seen as inauthentic. When asked what he would define as “contemporary”, Okach answered that it is anything that is made today, regardless of style or form, affected by influences that exist in the complex reality that surrounds us.

Each day of the festival concluded with a mixed bill performed in the Purcell Room. This featured a variety of dance inspired by African themes or created by black artists, some established and some up-and-coming. Many of the choreographers had also been part of the ADAD Trailblazers fellowship scheme which offers funding to selected choreographers.

Movement of our Ancestors by Mohammed Dordoh used a range of traditional African dance vocabulary and traditional live music to express his connection with his past, while in The Body, Tolo Ko Tolo used a more contemporary form to explore her own body in relation to African dance. Imani Jendai narrated her own past through spoken text and tap dancing in Tap Lyrical, and Paradigmz linked the experience of clubbing with traditional African rituals.

Freddy Opoku-Addaie’s Mis-thread was performed alongside moveable wooden sculptures by Friedel Buecking, and examined non-verbal communication. To conclude the programme, Avant-Garde Dance Company performed Another Day in Between the Lines, a piece incorporating intense athleticism, hip hop, spoken word, clever lighting and improvisation.

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