Germaine Acogny

Profile

Senegalese-French dancer and choreographer Germaine Acogny (Benin, 1944) is known as the ‘mother of contemporary African dance’. She studied at the École Simon Siegel in Paris and established her first dance studio in Dakar in 1968. Here she developed her own technique for contemporary African dance, combining the influence of the dances she had inherited from her grandmother, a Yoruba priestess, with the knowledge of traditional African and occidental dance (both classical and modern) that she had acquired in Paris and New York. Between 1977 and 1982, Acogny was the artistic director of Mudra Afrique, a contemporary dance school in Dakar founded by Maurice Béjart and Senegal’s founding president, Leopold Sedar Senghor. After Mudra Afrique closed she followed Béjart to Brussels, where she continued to build her career as a dancer and choreographer. In 1985 she ended up in Toulouse, where she and her German husband Helmut Vogt founded the ‘Studio-École-Ballet-Théâtre du 3è Monde’ dance institute. In 1995 she returned to Senegal to establish an international education centre for traditional and contemporary African dance – what became École des Sables. Three years later she started her own dance company, Jant-Bi, which was followed in 2006 by the all-women Jant-Bi Jigeen ensemble. The following year she co-created the choreography for Bintou Were, a Sahel Opera (Holland Festival, 2007). Acogny has received various prestigious awards, including in 2009 the title of Commander of France’s Order of Arts and Letters (Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres). In 2018 she earned a Bessie Award for the solo "Mon élue noire – Sacre no.2", partly inspired by Bausch’s Le Sacre du printemps.