West African Excellence in Performance
Racial tolerance has so much variance in the ways that it can be fought for and expanded. It doesn’t have to be demanded in political statements and marches, although these are just as effective, it can also be subtly shown in culture, surprising you with silent movements and afrobeats. No other performance has surprised me in this way than the Faso Danso Théâtre Kalakuta Republik. I’ve always had a deep fascination with other cultures, especially the African community, one of the many deep-rooted cultural communities that are continuously marginalized and ostracized within Western societies. Most recently, however, the release of Marvel’s Black Panther film as started to reveal a shift in appreciation for African culture. Shortly after being brought to my knees after viewing this film in the cinema, I experienced this dance of West African excellence at the Stadsschouwburg in Groningen.
The performance of Kalakuta Republik (Burkina Faso) by the Faso Danso Théâtre was captivating from the start to finish. It was a performance that was impossible to tear your eyes away from for even a second because you’d be afraid you were going to miss the action that was going to come next. The drumbeats and never-ending saxophone filled your ears with rising, intense crescendos, leaving it to plateau, but then staying at that level to maintain the anticipation. The performance is actually inspired by Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician who invented afrobeat but was also a political activist (Read more: http://fela.net/about/).
After seeing the performance, I immediately went to YouTube to listen to his music and I was somewhat transported back into the Stadsschouwburg. Since this show has recently finished its tour, I advise you to do the same!
There were many remarkable aspects of this performance. The first thing you’d notice is that all except one of the dancers are black, making you wonder the significance of this one white dancer in the political undertones of this performance. In the first half of the performance, the dancers switched between simultaneous choreography and individual movements, both which were extremely unique to contemporary dance (at least from my experience with Western contemporary dance). They were the kind of movements that were borderline provocative, but purposefully shown not for aesthetic or a flashy statement, but rather because it was necessary for the story to flow. The second half of the show was, indeed, a story in the performance with such mindblowing intimacy that crossed the artistries of dance and theatre. Vocals and movements wrapped your mind with wonder and curious (so much curiousity!) fascination with West African culture.
Unfortunately, the show had a short tour in the major Dutch cities: Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, and Groningen and is now finished in their live performances. Nonetheless, their performances are renowned, and have been filmed can be easily found online (I’ve placed a YouTube link below).
If you’re a potential student from the African continent and looking to study here, or wish to become more involved in the African community in the city, you are not alone! The University of Groningen has a student association just for African students. GroningenLife! has all the information for you to peruse with interest, along with links to their Facebook page so you can be informed of their upcoming events:
Additionally, the Staddschouwburg is a primary venue for further events similar to this one. I found out about this performance from the ‘Uitgaanskrant’ newspaper that can be found literally all over the city– in libraries, cafés, etc (check the entrances). But you can also almost always find them in a university building. Similarly, there is the ‘Uitoper’ brochure that is published weekly and in a bright colour every week. These are also found next to the newspaper in the same places.