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Reflections from Burkina Faso

I travelled to Burkina Faso this May to complete a residency and mentorship with Serge Aimé Coulibaly thanks to the support of the Keith Bain Travel Fellowship (Ausdance National) and the Innovating Practice Grant (Ausdance NSW). Here are some of my impressions and reflections from my first two weeks.

Thinking about my first few weeks here at CDC La Termitiere in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso I am left pondering about all the training, mentorships and information I have accumulated in my body over the years and what it means to make an intentional departure from what is known. Serge has invited me to stay in Ouagadougou to work with dancers at CDC La Termitiere because he thought it would be a fertile learning space for me to take on a new direction, to try and leave behind past training and preconceptions and push my boundaries to see what is possible beyond my current ways of embodying movement. In doing so, I found myself grounding myself in the space by exploring lots of directions. I have also had the opportunity to observe how the other dancers here use their bodies to tell a story and to try and understand the force that inspires the work that people create here and the way they move.

Some of my initial observations are that there are no rules here when it comes to dance and movement - there are no particular ways of pointing the toe or falling or posing or dressing on stage, and performance here is heavily informed by physical theatre. Most of the dancers here also have a background and training in physical theatre and movement practice is informed by contemporary culture that is by everything and anything. You are encouraged to bring everyday experiences into your movement – something from your childhood or an observation from the street.

With Serge’s guidance, encouragement and questioning I have been breaking through what is known to explore all the different possibilities for movement generated from my body. It has prompted a shift in thinking about what is possible and not possible on stage and the strengthening of my understanding and knowledge in developing a new movement language that can then inform new ways of working. It has also prompted the realisation of my location of self – in understanding where I am coming from and also locating myself in Burkina Faso.

Dance/drama/theatre are one in Burkina Faso and part of my learning and experience here is trying to understand the language (both artistic and verbal), so I can enter into their world and explore its connections with what is already known to me in my body. What is today's movement? Is the question guiding the everyday practice of the dancers here. And for me I also ask myself what is my purpose here and how do I observe and analyse this process?

Observing the way artists practice here and where they draw their inspiration from is an opportunity for me to reflect on and develop a deeper understanding of how I move the way I move and to find new stories to tell with my body. I look forward to finding new ways to share these stories with my community and the world.

Many thanks to my mentor Serge Aimé Coulibaly for his wisdom, encouragement and support.

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