A new language or the emanation of a passing fashion? Reactions to « Dimi » (« Pain » in Dioula), the first piece by the Abidjan-based company Tchetche, which is composed of four young female dancers, were very divided. At the crossroads between contemporary dance, hip hop, and African styles, a fast, athletic and spectacular dance has emerged amongst a new generation of Ivoirian dancers. Béatrice Kombé, who also works with N’Soleh, the key company of this movement, is one of the figures of this trend, which advocates a total rupture with the traditional aesthetic of African dance. « Dimi », like « Corps actifs » (« Active Bodies ») by N’Soleh, makes violence the central theme of the ballet. Interior, relational, urban, sensitive violence… in a wrought style which tackles these different forms one by one, literally head-on.
During the choreography, the four dancers empty their bodies of all suffering. Like Amazonians with muscly bodies and almost masculine forms, their heads shaved, or bearing Afro styles, they drive the accepted image of African femininity into the ground. Set to a breathtaking rhythm, their bodies roll, jump, crash into one another, dislocate themselves, drop brutally to the ground… Dressed in large grey men’s suits, they lead us into a sombre and stressful urban universe that is ruled by speed and violence. Jerking heads, screwed up faces, hands which hit the ground or deform faces, grimaces, groping around squatting, feet and knees which crash together, the dancers, like hardened warriors, put their bodies through the paces in a highly athletic choreography. « Dimi » is meant to be a piece of tragic intensity. In spite of an undeniable choreographic and theatrical experimentation – live music (Fulani flute and synthesizer), an interesting use of silence, the detail, the mirror play between the dancers – the dancers are prisoners of an energy which is too demonstrative to be totally convincing. At ease in the physical and acrobatic, they are less convincing in the slow tempos and tortured movements. With the exception, that is, of the fascinating solo by Béatrice Kombé, which is set to the detached and crystalline notes of the piano.
This talented, twenty-six year old dancer created Tchetche (« Eagle » in Bete, an ethnic group from western Côte d’Ivoire) two years ago. The company can be seen as the female version of N’Soleh. Whilst both groups share the same concern for perfection in their interpretation, Tchetche still needs to distinguish itself sufficiently from its predecessor if it does not want to simply be its copy. We are in no doubt, however, that Béatrice Kombé will progressively manage to stand out.
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