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Choreographies of African Identities

Choreographies of African Identities: Negritude, Dance, and the National Ballet of Senegal

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 264
  • Book Info
    Choreographies of African Identities
    Book Description:

    Choreographies of African Identities traces interconnected interpretative frameworks around and about the National Ballet of Senegal. Using the metaphor of a dancing circle Castaldi's arguments cover the full spectrum of performance, from production to circulation and reception. Castaldi first situates the reader in a North American theater, focusing on the relationship between dancers and audiences as that between black performers and white spectators. She then examines the work of the National Ballet in relation to Leopold Sedar Senghor's Negritude ideology and cultural politics. Finally, the author addresses the circulation of dances in the streets, discotheques, and courtyards of Dakar, drawing attention to women dancers' occupation of the urban landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09078-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Positionality and the Choreography of Theory
    (pp. 1-16)

    Dance and Africans have a long-standing association that has been nurtured through the last two centuries by colonial histories and anticolonial struggles. On the colonial side of history, the coloring of the African body with the heavy tones of racist discourse and the devaluation of dance as a prediscursive form of expression concurred to make African dance a powerful icon of primitivism. On the anticolonial side, African dance allowed for the articulation of indigenous cultural beliefs and the expression of historical continuities, making dance also a powerful medium of indigenous resistance against the European colonizers.

    The space between personal and...

  5. 1 The National Ballet of Senegal at a Theater in California
    (pp. 17-33)

    Irvine,California,March 1995. This is the land of highways, malls, and parking lots: Southern California, the “Inland Empire.” My car is my most precious asset in this empire, where the lack of adequate public transportation and a staunch belief in independence oblige us to drive everywhere, often alone. Those of us who can afford to own a car, that is. I am one of those lucky polluters, and I happily jump into the car to drive down to Irvine’s Barclay Theater, where the National Ballet of Senegal is performing. It is March 7, 1995.

    I arrive at the theater...

  6. 2 African Dance, Africanist Discourse, and Négritude
    (pp. 34-59)

    This chapter applies the genealogical method of Michel Foucault and its appropriation by V. Y. Mudimbe to interrogate the constitution of “African Dance” as an object of study and a discursive field. Mudimbe, inThe Invention of Africa(1988) andThe Idea of Africa(1994), interrogates the ideological operations that have enabled the definition of Africa as a unit of meaning, as one concept, so that we can talk ofAfricanhistory,Africanpolitics,Africanarts, andAfricandance. Mudimbe asks: Is a truly Africanist discourse possible, and how does it come to be constituted as such? What kind of...

  7. 3 The National Ballet of Senegal at the National Theater in Dakar
    (pp. 60-69)

    Dakar,February 1996. I sit in a crowded courtyard, the neighbors’ giant speakers blasting hip-hop through the air, the vibrations bouncing over the concrete wall that separates the two households. The music thunders loudly once a week, as the neighbors set up a small backyard disco to make a bit of cash. The glaring television in the living room of this compound, with bad reception and flickering images, also blasts sounds into the central courtyard. It brings us the high-pitched singing of amarabout.¹ The sounds of hip-hop and prayer mix in the air. I inhale these sound-aromas in one...

  8. 4 Sabar Dances and a Women’s Public Sphere
    (pp. 70-101)

    “Dakar, Dakar, Dakaaaru!Yeggal,bu gaw[Get on, quickly]!” Theapprenti—the boy who collects fares and taps on the roof of the van to signal the driver when to stop and when to move again—pushes me into the vehicle, helping the woman behind me load a bright blue bucket full of fresh fish. I squeeze into a seat, jostling for space between two passengers. The van races off at great speed, only to stop two hundred meters away to pick up more passengers. Taking advantage of the red light, two youngtaalibes¹ approach the vehicle. Reciting a prayer...

  9. 5 Tales of Betrayal
    (pp. 102-123)

    The first cup is sweet, even aromatic at times, with a mint leaf added to the brew. Bintu and I smile at each other. Usually the men like to prepareattaya, and to serve it via a young boy to all the members of the family and the guests, letting the slow process of preparing the three rounds of tea pace the visit of neighbors and friends. But today it’s only the two of us. Bintu has come to my “house,” a single room on the second floor of a narrow building. I let Bintu prepare the tea, pouring the...

  10. 6 The Circulation of Dances on and off the Stage
    (pp. 124-149)

    In chapters 1 and 3 I have analyzed the performances of the National Ballet of Senegal as a product consumed by white foreign audiences comfortably seated at the theaters in California and Senegal. In chapter 2 I have looked at the narratives and historical relations that allow for and support the intercultural exchange between white spectators and black performers. In chapter 4 I have introduced the reader to the sociocultural landscape within which the work of Dakar’s African Ballets is inserted, and I have begun to analyze dance practices from the point of view of Dakar’s citizens. I have argued...

  11. 7 Urban Ballets and the Professionalization of Dance
    (pp. 150-173)

    Ballet troupes animate most of the popular neighborhoods of Dakar, rehearsing in schoolyards, classrooms, youth centers, football fields, and other open spaces. Every late afternoon, when the heat of the day is more bearable, a fluctuating membership of ten, twenty, and up to thirty youths gathers under the direction of an older dancer/choreographer to dance intensely for two or three hours. Ballets share in common a commitment to represent the ethnic repertory of dances of the country and to provide a unique opportunity for the youth of the city to learn and practice these dances. Furthermore, Ballets share an interest...

  12. 8 Exploiting Terànga
    (pp. 174-196)

    The hospitality of this country, this is how we’re praised.

    The singer’s singing the hospitality of Senegal,

    the rapper is telling about the hospitality of Senegal,

    the writer is writing about the hospitality of Senegal.

    Since hospitality is what we are known for,

    we should never prove otherwise.

    When visitors come to our country,

    if we give them a warm welcome

    they will want to come back.

    Hey, cab driver, don’t take advantage of them,

    hey, salesman, don’t overcharge them.

    Whatever they bring

    it’s for the whole country.

    We should never prove other than what we are known for:

    when somebody comes to our country...

  13. Conclusion: Négritude Reconsidered
    (pp. 197-204)

    In this final chapter I will reexamine the relationship between the interpretation of ethnicity offered by the National Ballet of Senegal on the stage of the theater and the interpretation of ethnicity offered by Négritude ideology on the stage of national politics. To do so we need to interrogate the ways in which Négritude, as the ideology of the Senghorian state, was integrated into the project of nationhood—what in chapter 2 I call the second phase of Négritude. In his earliest elaboration of the concept, Senghor defined Négritude as the “ensemble of the cultural values of the Black world,”...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 205-222)
  15. References
    (pp. 223-236)
  16. Index
    (pp. 237-246)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-248)