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IMPRESSIONS: Germaine Acogny in Olivier Dubois' "Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2" at BAM

IMPRESSIONS: Germaine Acogny in Olivier Dubois' "Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2" at BAM
Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter

By Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter
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Published on October 16, 2017
Germaine Acogny; Photo: Julieta Cervantes

BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)

October 4-7, 2017

Choreographer: Olivier Dubois / Dancer: Germaine Acogny

Music: Igor Stravinsky — Le Sacre du Printemps 

Lighting Design: Emmanuel Gary / Costume Design: Chrystel Zingiro

Technical Direction: Robert Pereira / Assistant Choreographer: Cyril Accorsi

Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is dance’s equivalent to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Nostalgic reverence attracts artists to reinvent these classics. Ballet du Nord Director Olivier Dubois’ ongoing intrigue of Stravinsky’s compositions led him to Germaine Acogny — “the mother of contemporary African dance.” Together, they composed Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2. This work is part of Dubois’ collection Sacre(s) du Printemps

The music, Le Sacre du Printemp, starts vivaciously. A tiny flame flickers, dancing on and off. The smell of burning tobacco fills the air. Gradually, the light reveals Acogny crouching in a vertical, transparent box. Soft light ricochets off the sheer lining that swaddles the container’s black frame.

Germaine in a black bra and skirt with a black scarf over her head hiding her face while she stands in the clear box.
Germaine Acogny; Photo: Julieta Cervantes

 Acogny wears a black bra with a rectangle of black fabric wrapped around black pants. A tobacco pipe hangs from her lips. She rhythmically chugs her bare feet into the hollow platform. This steady boom charges through the polyrhythmic musical composition.

Contorted shadows hang like a willow tree over her hunched frame. She looks back at the audience alert and wide-eyed. Her hands and feet move in quick flicks. Her elbows push through space while her hips sway in opposition. She releases the fabric from her waist to become a shawl, then a mask. Her body contracts into a faceless figure as she repetitiously thrusts air from her solar plexus. This image reappears when she pushes her face into the darkest edges of the box. Her face disappears while her body remains lit. 

Acogny’s voice penetrates the space with guttural laughs that morph into vocalized melodies. In one moment, she lounges with her pipe to deliver a French monologue. The music harmoniously waltzes in the background. 

Germaine, with a pipe in her mouth, outstretches her hands and grins.
Germaine Acogny; Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Theatrical lighting complements sound and teases with limited visibility. We are left in the dark during long pauses only to catch flashes of silhouettes and commanding stances. I long for sustained light to see everything. 

Without warning, Acogny lifts three floor panels and descends into the floor. White smoke engulfs her floating torso. She conjures white paint from somewhere below and smacks it against the black panels. Although calculated, these frantic white lines surround her with a hint of aggression.

She presses against the edges of her confinement, daring to escape. White paint oozes from her onto the outside of the box. Tufts of clouds whip around her frame, and then she disappears into the abyss.

Ferocious. Primal. Contained. Harmonic dissonance marries Acogny, Dubois, and Stravinsky into a unique partnership that allows you to hear the music differently through visual portrayal. Call it an ancestral superpower, sophisticated maturity (Acogny is 73 years old), or both. The black chosen one proves that she can occupy the vastness of an entire room while contained in a box.

The Dance Enthusiast Shares IMPRESSIONS/ our brand of review and Creates Conversation.
For more IMPRESSIONS, click here
Read our IMPRESSIONS of Mark Morris' interpretation of Rite of Spring and our feature about Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company's Rite collaboration

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