By John Owoo
(In Abidjan – La Côte d’Ivoire)
It was a cool evening at the Salle Kodjo Ebouclé, one of the theatres located within the premises of the Palais de la Culture – a giant edifice that overlooks the scenic Lagoon Ebrie in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire).
There is an eerie silence and the audience remain attentive as they await Judith Olivia Manantenasoa – a courageous Malagasy dancer / choreographer – who as widely expected sends the audience on an unforgettable journey.
Clad in a mainly white flowing gown with a spotlight in tow, Manantenasoa lunges into “Metamorphoses”, a solo piece she choreographed that show her as a creator / interpreter. She remains motionless for minutes and evokes an imagery of diverse organisms while bending into controllable movements.
In the process she takes off her top, exposing her breasts as she begins a process of transfiguration. Employing movements and gestures that are technically proficient alongside pensive phrasing, she looses her individuality while assuming the character of an object.
She eventually moves closer to lines of twines tired on stage with colorful pegs hanging loosely on them. Further complex movements lead to a nude show as extremely dim lights overshadow the stage. In the process, she fully becomes and embodiment of the word “metamorphoses”.
“Manantenasoa is an extremely audacious artist – she expresses herself in a manner she deems fit – and her message gets across with amazing ease”, says Marie Hervè, a visual artist / poet from Cotonou, Benin.
In yet another compelling solo performance titled “Energy”, Cameroonian dancer / choreographer Agathe Tamo Djokam moves with calculated steps and facial motions as she works her way through what appears to be dense air.
With a metal ladder on her shoulders that signify a satirical symbol of flight or ascent – she climbs, crashes, pulls and carries the ladder while collapsing again and again on the stage – a move that denotes difficulty in her quest for flight.
Through static animation, she seems to be fighting within herself for some form of control – undeniably for energy to assert herself as an artist – but the ladder proves to be extremely heavy. Nevertheless, the quest for her right to choose still persists.
“A self-motivated artist with a mission – Djokam is full of concepts and beliefs that can be effectively and successfully transferred onto the stage. This is surely a teaser”, added Yao Kouame, a dancer in Abidjan.
Over 70 music, dance and theatre groups alongside poets, storytellers, slammers and street artists from various countries in the world performed during the festival, which ended on Saturday March 17.