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Gender always plays a role in the work of Ivorian choreographer Nadia Beugré. At the 2018 Holland Festival, her piece Legacy was an impressive homage to the strong women from her native country. In her newest piece, L’homme rare (‘The rare man’), Nadia Beugré elevates the issue of gender into the central topic. She is amused by the question of why male dancers feel embarrassed to make movements that are known as ‘typically feminine’. Is masculinity endangered by swaying your butt, hips or pelvis? Why do we think of certain things as typically masculine or feminine, and how do those concepts influence our way of looking at things? With a troupe of five high-heeled and scantily clad dancers, trained in a range of different styles, Nadia Beugré creates an exciting, provocative choreography centred on the pelvis.
‘What would the world look like if genders were not tools for stigmatization anymore, but drivers of creative potentials instead of repressive ones?’
– Nadia Beugré
An artists who deeply changed and greatly inspired Nadia Beugré is dancer and choreographer Alain Buffard. The admiration was reciprocal and she performed in his pieces Baron Samedi and Mauvais Genre - two out of four pieces he wanted to survive himself after his passing away. He considered Beugré’s Quartiers Libres, the signature solo of the Ivorian choreographer, as a female version of his work Good Boy.
The gender issue, tackled many times in Buffard's work, has always been underlying in Beugré’s work. However, her will to make it central and to deal with it head-on appeared recently. She got amused with the discomfort felt by many men while they were letting themselves indulge in dances qualified as more ‘feminine’, or better, judged as such, because of their insisting use of the bottom. As if engaging in wiggling or moving pelvis and hips was a threat to a hard constructed manliness.
In L’homme rare she gathers five dancers and performers who see themselves as belonging – permanently or temporarily – to the male gender. Wearing high-heeled shoes, showing their backs, relatively naked, the virtuosi artists master different choreographic trends and are alternately assembled and left to their own intimate expression. Nevertheless, they are always linked by a common choreographic construction dealing with the flexibility of their undulating pelvises to various rhythms. Those movements are based on the study of specific urban dances from all over the world Beugré is leading. In this piece, she’s especially interested in those sociologically ‘reserved’ for women, based on hip movements.
What defines and distinguishes the notions of genders, how are they built and/or broken? The choreographer also questions the attention paid to the bodies and the qualities their movements are assigned. While experimenting on the inversion of masculine and feminine attributes, she tackles the issues of this particular perception and the notion of peeping, granting in this work a white cheque to the voyeurs.
According to Beugré, analysing how people pass judgment on other people is also be the opportunity to lead an historical research on the way populations from Middle-East and Europe consider and scrutinized the black bodies in past times of slavery, how they were valued and given a price. ‘What about actual forms of slavery? The influence of this mercantile gaze is still lingering nowadays, in the trends raising the building of ones' bodies, and those of others they authorize themselves to be linked with, to the rank of a cult.’
The Ivorian choreographer Nadia Beugré (Adibjan, 1981) started her career in 1995 at the Dante Theatre in Abidjan, where she trained in traditional dance. Two years later, she became a co-founder of Béatrice Kombé’s groundbreaking, all-female dance ensemble,
TchéTché. They toured together through Africa, Europe and North America, until Kombé’s death in 2007. Beugré worked through the loss of her mentor in her internationally acclaimed debut solo performance, Un espace vide: moi. Subsequently, Beugré immersed herself in contemporary dance by taking choreography classes with Germaine Acogny in Senegal at the École des Sables. In 2009, she was accepted at Ex.e.r.ce., Mathilde Monnier’s programme for talented, up-and-coming choreographers at the Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier, where she continued her training.
Beugré developed an idiosyncratic oeuvre including works such as her 2012 piece Quartiers Libres (‘Free Territory’), Legacy (2015) and Tapis Rouge (2017). Her work merges traditional folk dances, contemporary experimental dance and urban/hip-hop influences. The New York Times wrote in praise of her work: ‘It’s harrowing, both in action and sound; Ms. Beugré knows how to make a crowd trust her just as, in a split second, she knows how to knock the air out of people. She’s wild, like the wind.’ She has also performed as a dancer in works by fellow choreographers Seydou Boro (Burkina Faso), Alain Buffard (France), Dorothée Munyaneza (France/Rwanda), Faustin Linyekula (DRC), Bernardo Montet (France) and Boris Charmatz (France). Legacy, a ritualized homage to the power of women rebels in the Ivorian war of independence, was Beugré’s debut at the Holland Festival in 2018. In 2017, Nadia Beugré began a five-year artist-in-residence programme at Vooruit in Ghent. In her most recent piece, L’homme rare, which will be performed at the 2020 Holland Festival, Beugré explores gender roles in dance.
- choreography, direction
- Nadia Beugré
- external eye
- Faustin Linyekula
- performed by
- a.o. Kaolack, Lucas Nicot, Daouda Keita, Nadim Bahsoun
- Anthony Merlaud