Zab Maboungou dances circles around the world
Maboungou: Dance agitator
Cindy Diane Rheault
Zab Maboungou embraces the complexity of what she sees as the living
traditions of African dance. As an African dancer, she's changing
directions, repeatedly, never purely frontal, dancing every which way.
It's potent dance, a kind that people get.
("chatting"), her latest production for two drummers and three dancers,
the passage from being agitated to agitator is the order - and disorder
- of the day. "I like disturbances," she says. "I like things that are
unsettled. Because that is the way that I see life is. Life is a way of
moving in different directions that we did not foresee or prepare.
There are contractions and paradoxes. That's what I'm interested in."
Maboungou's distinct composition and dramatic construction, she uses
her capacity to agitate her body, "which I've learned to do in certain
ways," she says, "and which today I try to transfer onto other bodies
that do not come from the same place I come from. I like the idea of
different bodies meaning different personalities in conversation. We
have a way of carrying our life, and life itself. It's unique. And I
need this uniqueness to start agitating the space. So the space starts
moving in ways because of these bodies, and this is what I use in Lwáza."
Constructed as a question-and-answer exchange, Lwáza is the answer to Nsamu ("the subject of debate"), her previous solo dance, a conceptual formalistic piece contextualizing motifs. "With Lwáza I'm agitating, breaking
down things, but the formalist aspect never leaves what I do because of
the way I work rhythms. It's about designing - literally - time and
A shift in time, space and worldview is at the root of
African dance. "Time, in African terms, never ends - it never begins,
it never ends. We can only capture moments," says Maboungou. The power
of the contemporary African dance movement resides in the spirit of the
drum rhythms that instigate the dancer's pulse - the rhythms capture
time. The African take on rhythm is a complex, cosmic vision relating
to the harmony of life.
"In the West, rhythm is either an
abstract thing, or limited to a sequence," Maboungou explains. "Rhythm
is far more important than that. It links you to the universe, to the
present and the past. It links your own biology. It's everything that
has helped make you. Past ancestry inside of you is being activated
each second I'm talking to you."
A public discussion of Maboungou's new book, Heya... Danse! (Éditions
CIDIHCA), will take place at MAI this Saturday, Feb. 19, at 4:30 p.m.,
with the choreographer and her publisher, Frantz Voltaire. The volume
was written out of Maboungou's need to say that "there is this dance
that is invading the world, for a long time. African dance is not just
referring to the continent, it's in the world; it's moving."
window shopping? Head to the Simons store on Ste-Catherine Street West
and catch some 60 emerging dance artists taking part in Vitrines,
a project produced by La 2e Porte à Gauche. It's a far-out project, a
testing ground of sorts, all about bringing dance to the masses. Free
of charge, to boot. Through Sunday, February 20.
At MAI, until Feb. 26
At Simons on Ste-Catherine, until Feb. 20