Front Page
Ottawa XPress


Stage Front


Companies & Artists


February 17th, 2005
Write a comment on this article !

Zig Zab
Philip Szporer

Maboungou: Dance agitator Photo: Cindy Diane Rheault

Zab Maboungou dances circles around the world

Choreographer-philosopher 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.

In Lwáza ("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."

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 space."

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."


Going 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

Report a mistake
Jobs at Hour
Contact us