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Dance Circles

Dance Circles: Movement, Morality and Self-fashioning in Urban Senegal

Hélène Neveu Kringelbach
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Dance Circles
    Book Description:

    Senegal has played a central role in contemporary dance due to its rich performing traditions, as well as strong state patronage of the arts, first under French colonialism and later in the postcolonial era. In the 1980s, when the Senegalese economy was in decline and state fundingwithdrawn, European agencies used the performing arts as a tool in diplomacy. This had a profound impact on choreographic production and arts markets throughout Africa. In Senegal, choreographic performers have taken to contemporary dance, while continuing to engage with neo-traditional performance, regional genres like the sabar, and the popular dances they grew up with. A historically informed ethnography of creativity, agency, and the fashioning of selves through the different life stages in urban Senegal, this book explores the significance of this multiple engagement with dance in a context of economic uncertainty and rising concerns over morality in the public space.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-148-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction: The Shifting Faces of Dance
    (pp. 1-27)

    On a sunny winter afternoon of early 2012, I sat in a house in East London and chatted with a Senegalese dancer-choreographer-musician as he showed me some of the moves he had created in the various dance troupes he used to belong to when living in Dakar. A laptop sat on a table at one end of the room, showing Senegalese pop music videos on YouTube. We sat on the floor and talked, him occasionally getting up to demonstrates steps with careful precision, his arms sweeping the air in broad, wavelike movements which reminded me of my own jazz dance...

  7. Chapter 1 Cosmopolitan Performing Arts in Twentieth-Century Senegal
    (pp. 28-59)

    In the second decade of the second millennium it may be difficult, at first glance, to see the agency of the state as significant in shaping artistic life in Senegal. Dance and music festivals are mostly funded by international sources, and the state is no longer a major patron of the arts. The controversial FESMAN (World Festival of Black Arts) held in Dakar in December 2010 at great cost and subsequent debt should not hide the fact that the flagship arts institutions of the post-independence period have either closed down or are threatened with closure. The biennial state-funded FESNAC, the...

  8. Chapter 2 A City across Waters
    (pp. 60-76)

    It is no wonder that the French chose Dakar as their stronghold in West Africa. Beautifully located at the Western tip of the region, the Cape Vert Peninsula was ideally placed to become a transatlantic crossroads. The most populated of Senegal’s fourteen regions, Dakar is a booming metropolis of concrete buildings rising from a tight grid of sandy alleys and traffic-jammed arteries. A fifth (20.7 per cent) of the country’s population is concentrated in Dakar, an estimated 2.59 million inhabitants out of a total of 12.5 million in 2010. In 2002, according to the latest census, Dakar represented a little...

  9. Chapter 3 Drums, Sand and Persons
    (pp. 77-97)

    The scene is a women’stour² in a house in Fass, near the Medina, in the late afternoon. I have come with a woman friend and the six drummers who are due to perform. My friend and I have been invited to attend by one of the drummers, whom I got to know through the dance troupe he plays with. As we make our way to the tiled rooftop, the hostess, a married woman in her thirties, has already greeted the first guests. She snaps at the musicians for being late, and gives me a cool greeting when the drummer...

  10. Chapter 4 Images of a Mobile Youth
    (pp. 98-120)

    In this chapter I focus on Senegalese popular dances in the age of mass media and digital technologies as a lens through which social tensions around morality can be illuminated. The dances I examine here are mainly the popular music offshoots of sabar, thembalaxrepertoire. As the sabar tradition becomes transformed into new modes of youth sociality and commodified for public consumption, so the moral stakes of the popular dances that emerge in the process rise to a new level. When images of dancing circulate throughout Senegal and the diaspora via TV channels, the internet and mobile phones, it...

  11. Chapter 5 The Politics of Neo-Traditional Performance
    (pp. 121-146)

    The scene is the Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor (CCBS) in zone B, between Fass and Grand Dakar. Most evenings, four or five neo-traditional troupes rehearse there. Space is scarce, and there is a hierarchy in the way in which it is occupied. Established troupes like Sinoméew, Bakalama and Forêt Sacrée work in the theatre room, which features a stage at the back; the workshop room or the inner courtyard. Meanwhile, smaller and more recently formed troupes rehearse in the interstices of the building. That evening, the troupe rehearsing in the theatre room is Bakalama, a Jola troupe based in Dakar...

  12. Chapter 6 Senegalese ‘Contemporary Dance’ and Global Arts Circuits
    (pp. 147-177)

    This chapter starts with words of dancer-choreographers Kettly Noël and Faustin Linyekula, spoken at a panel discussion organized as part of the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Conference held in August 2004 in Durban, South Africa. The symposium was entitled ‘African Contemporary Dance? Questioning Issues of a Performance Aesthetic for a Developing and Independent Continent’, and its proceedings were published in an article edited by dance writer Adrienne Sichel (Douglas et al. 2006).¹ Both choreographers live in both France and Africa, Mali in Noël’s case and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for Linyekula, and both have links to the Senegalese scene....

  13. Chapter 7 Contemporary Trajectories
    (pp. 178-206)

    In this chapter I focus on individual trajectories to illustrate the ways in which people mobilize various forms of creativity to shape their lives. I also examine the broader question of the social status of the performer in light of the transformations in choreographic production described in the previous chapter. Given the individualistic nature of creative agency in contemporary choreography, and given the prominent role of European funding in shaping the genre, local audiences have come to view this as a European phenomenon. Performers, by contrast, think of what they do as embedded in local life. For them, external funding...

  14. Chapter 8 Movement, Imagination and Self-Fashioning
    (pp. 207-216)

    This book is an ethnographic attempt to demonstrate that performance, as dance, music and drama performed together in integrated ways, is the stuff of which social life in urban Senegal is made. For the participants at the centre of this study, moving through life, from one status to the next or from one field of practice to the next, means acquiring new skills: new ways of being attentive to the world, of dancing, of imagining movement, of speaking about dance, and new ways of ‘making work’. This is why several genres are included in this study, and it is often...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-230)
  16. Index
    (pp. 231-236)