Senegal dance festival undeterred by controversy

August 2009 -

Alouine Diagne actually enjoys taking a bit of a risk. As soloist he was the last to perform during his own festival, DuoSoloDanse edition 2009. Without music and with two flip-flops he enraptured his audience for a full fifteen minutes during his solo Point d'Interrogation. The artistic director of DuoSoloDanse took a risk in 2008 by organising an ambitious, regional contemporary dance event in the former capital of French West Africa, Saint Louis. "First and foremost the festival is intended to exude contemporary dance in West Africa and elsewhere," says Diagne. "But I also hope to contribute to the cultural revival of Saint Louis."


Point d'Interrogation by Alioune Diagne

He has succeeded, with assistance from a number of local businesses, the (newly-elected) mayor of Saint Louis, the Senegal Ministry of Culture, and the Dutch and French Embassies. But above all thanks to the efforts of a group of technicians who worked for free five evenings and nights to build the decors, orchestrate the lighting and sound, and run through the stage planning.

Five successive evenings of contemporary dance, in the cool open air of the local Centre Culturel Francais - would anyone be interested in highly conservative Saint Louis? Test case: Kaolack, the stage name used by Pape Ibrahima Seck. He used the humiliation he was subjected to by the Morrocan police when passing through that country in an impassioned performance J'accuse, in which no sympathy is shown for anyone. Not for the racist Morrocans - and not for what he considers the mentally lazy Africans. "I despise them!" Kaolack spits over his audience. He is rewarded with a standing ovation, perhaps due to the unease the audience feels. "Kaolack knocks you off balance," says one viewer. "But we need people like him."

In short: the risk is worth the effort, both artistically and financially. Which is why the day after edition 2009 Alioune Diagne was already able to start thinking about the next edition: he informed the director of the CCF that the first promises of funding for the edition had already been received.