Interweaving Performance Cultures
Fellow 2015/16, 2016/17
The dancer and choreographer Koffi Kôkô has been known as one of the initiators and most prominent representatives of the modern African dance scene. Kôkô works and lives in Benin and France. Koffi Kôkô was born in Benin West Africa, where he grew up in close contact with the animist religion of his home. From the outset this drew Kôkô’s artistic interest to a dance form which in its initiation and ritual character was later to form the basis of his perception and recreation of contemporary dance and theatre culture. This symbiosis is also reflected in Koffi Kôkô’s collaboration with some of the most important representatives of western dance and theatre. Among his partners are names such as Pierre Doussaint, Bruno Boêglin, Shiro Daimon and Yoshi Oida, Gabriel Gbadamosi, the Flamenco dancer Mari Carmen Gracia and Peter Badejo. Furthermore he worked with Ismael Ivo, with whom he created the “Maids” after Jean Genet in March 2001 under the direction of Yoshi Oida. This production has since been presented with sensational success from Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris to Sao Paulo and Seoul. In London in 2003 the work was awarded the Time Out Prize for the best production of the year. For the years 2004 and 2005 Koffi Kôkô was the artistic director of the international In Transit Festival at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. Koffi Kôkô’s international reputation extends to his work as a teacher: in Europe, Africa and the USA he has held various positions as professor and holds master classes.
It was an important step in my development to leave my hometown Ouida as an initiated priest and choreographer in order to start a new life in France and in Western culture. For me, dance as an art form on a European stage was an important step in presenting the substance and knowledge of my culture in a different cultural sphere. At the same time, this translation process meant personal growth and developing my interests further. My spirituality and my artistic form of expression have challenged and nurtured each other. Moreover, my experiences as an artist and as a European flow back into my local African context, and at the same time my African knowledge and its concomitant traditions enrich the concept and possibilities of stage dance.
The twenty-first century must become a century of spirituality to give people a way out of the domineering constraints of capital, economic growth and environmental destruction. For this I would like to apply the experiences and the knowledge of a centuries-old West African living tradition to the concepts of modern and responsible action via the means of the art of dance. The parallel translation of a dialogically conceived volume as task for my research period is another step towards transmission and communication.