After some detours and thus somewhat later than planned we arrived at L’Ecole des Sables. Notwithstanding previous agreements we seem to arrive unannounced and to take the grounds by surprise. Anne Mbaye who is responsible for the administration very kindly shows us around and informs us on the history and the policy of L’Ecole des Sables / Jant-Bi foundation.
The school was initiated in 1998 by well-known dancer and choreographer Germaine Acogny and her husband Helmut Voigt. The first years it was located in the village of Toubab Dialaw, but after a few years they started constructing an infrastructure and buildings on an idyllic site overviewing the sea. There is a theatre, rehearsal spaces, residencies and even a restaurant.
Two remarkable things were mentioned: The first is that in the 1960s the notion of ‘contemporary dance’ (‘art dance’, academic dance) was totally unknown and underappreciated in Africa, where dance was being considered as a social event. As such it was / is mainly practised by women, whereas the ‘African contemporary dance’ is mainly done by men. Germaine Acogny has developed her own dance idiom and more or less invented African dance.
The second relevant remark was that this could only have happened through the stimulating support of president Senghor (1906 – 2001). Senghor in the 1960s and 1970s has been en pivotal figure in the development in Senegal of the contemporary arts at large.
If we consider the information we’ve received until now it’s hard to perceive and appreciate how the cultural climate and infrastructure would have been without him. Nevertheless under subsequent president the situation hasn’t improved. Hence the remark of Anne Mbaye: “In Senegal we don’t wait for the government anymore”. Continue reading