Sal Yeda

By The National Dance Company (Ghana)

Choreographer: Francis Nii Yartey
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« The insatiable desire to control the Earth has reduced man to a state of poverty and survival. To conjure his death, he solicits the help of « Asaase Yaa », the Guardian of the Earth. This help comes via a stage of confusion, of hunger and of prayer, so that humanity, which has lost faith in its destiny, can be reborn. »
« Sal-Yeda » (« The Destiny of Man ») is interesting in several respects. Firstly because, as a creation by a national ballet company, it testifies to the choreographic experimentation that is emerging even within the State companies which, until only recently, were devoted to traditional dances alone. But also because the Ghanaian choreographer Francis Nii Yartey, who is beyond the Francophone sphere of influence, defends a different vision of contemporary African dance.
« Sal-Yeda » comes under what has been dubbed « neo-traditional » or « tradi-contemporary »: a style that is voluntarily based on the traditional, but seeks to adapt it to suit the contemporary world. In both its discourse and its aesthetic, Francis Nii Yartey’s piece is characteristic of this process. In « Sal-Yeda », however, which is placed under the sign of suffering and redemption, the African and Western elements are superposed, rather than combining to create an original form. The choreography, which is essentially based on African movements and on the expressiveness of the trance, attempts, at times quite awkwardly, to graft a Western classical technique (leaps, lifts…). The dancers’ skin and ripped netting costumes, and the use of a traditional mask evoke the roots of an ancestral culture. The sound track (a compilation of Angélique Kidjo, of Lambarena, which marries Bach and African music…), on the other hand, illustrates the audacity of contemporary artistic blending. Throughout the ballet, these heterogeneous elements fail to provoke a resonance, however, hence the ultimate impression of superficiality that emanates from the piece, even though it does aim to offer a philosophical reflection on the future of mankind.
Despite the fact it is often a mish-mash, however, the choreography of « Sal-Yeda » does not lack rhythm, nor a certain inventiveness. This is particularly the case in the way the the trance movements are used. Although its aesthetic style and dramaturgy are bogged down in too many clichés, « Sal-Yeda » nonetheless poses the question of how a traditional repertory can be used. Do we have to break completely with the latter to be contemporary? Far from the tracks already made by Western dance professionals, Francis Nii Yartey is seeking his own way forward.

///Article N° : 5367

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