SKIN, Ghislaine Dote and Andrea Queens performing at the Bloom National Festival 2015, Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, UK ©

Foteini Chistofilopoulou

The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD) based in London Virtu'o Danse in Montreal share some of their insights on their ongoing partnership as part of QC-UK Connections.

Tell us a little bit about ADAD's mandate.

Mercy Nabirye: Since its inception in 1994, ADAD has worked in partnership with artists, organisations and institutions to support, nurture and develop the practice and appreciation of Dance of the African Diaspora in the UK and beyond. ADAD cultivates excellence and diverse experiences at key cultural venues as part of the British cultural offer.

What are you working on with Virtu'o Danse in Montreal? 

Mercy Nabirye: We are currently working on a project that focuses on Choreographic Exchange of the African Diaspora. The choreographers involved are Ghislaine Doté from Canada and Alesandra Seutin, Andrea Queens, Freddie Opoku-Addaie from Britain and dramaturg, Funmi Adewole. 

The first part of the project took place during the summer of 2015 when Ghislaine Doté visited Britain. She collaborated with Andrea Queens in producing a duet performed at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, as part of ADAD’s Bloom festival.  Doté also took the opportunity to become acquainted with the British dance scene and explore a solo she will produce in the future. She also had creative meetings with Alesandra Seutin and Freddie Opoku-Addaie. In February 2016, Ghislaine, Alesandra and Freddie will be resident in Québec City at Musée De la Civilisation, as part of the Rebel Bodies Exhibition, making work and performing improvised pieces in a studio setting/open space, where the public is free to observe the process. The UK choreographers and Funmi Adewole will be back in Canada in 2017 on the invitation of Tangente in Montreal, to perform completed works, solos and duets.

Describe some of the outcomes from your partnership with the Canadian organization? 

Funmi Adewole: Skin was the first outcome of phase one through multiple meetings and a number of workshops. Artists explored a common interest they had in the action of touch – various qualities of touch, brushing, kneading, soothing, patting – and the emotional and relational qualities this produced. Alesandra contributed to the process by exploring movement vocabulary and dynamic qualities through creative tasks. As Dramaturg, I fed back to the artists the various associations, images and narrative possibilities evoked by their improvisations and made suggestions concerning the overall structure of the piece. Ghislaine also performed the first version of her solo which drew on a similar vocabulary but began to explore character and dynamic range. A reviewer described the event as a great example of how to introduce contemporary dance to a general audience. The sensitivity of the dancing, the restrained emotional depth and the relationship between the dancers transcended popular and high art divides.

How is this cultural exchange with a UK organisation impacting your work?

Ghislaine Doté: The exchange has given me a platform to create, time and space to explore a specific theme and renew my creativity alongside other artists. I was able to be inspired from working with Andrea Queens and Alesandra Seutin. I discovered their way of working, which is different from mine and I was able to draw from it more creativity. This process was facilitated by our dramaturg Funmi Adewole who entered each artist’s creative world with great openness and helped us deepen the creation through pertinent questions and suggestions.

What is the latest performance that inspired you? 

Funmi Adewole: The Bloom National festival of Dance of the African Diaspora where Skin was performed made a deep impression on me. Performances took place on the grounds of the Horniman museum to audiences that ranged between the ages of approximately 2 to 60. It was an example of brave programming which paid off. The audiences responded with equal enthusiasm to Addaie-Opoku conceptual art workshop, storytelling performances and African dance drama. Skin received rapturous applause.

We are pleased to be supporting the first phase of the choreographic exchange between ADAD and Virtu'o Danse. This video features Canadian choreographer Ghislaine Doté, who recently did a creative residency in London, UK.