Staging cultural intimacy as social critique in Senegalese contemporary choreography
Paper short abstract:
Focusing on two examples of contemporary choreography from Senegal I examine the ambivalent performing of 'cultural intimacy' on stage, which articulates social criticism concerning the female condition in society but also indicates the translocality of Senegalese urban life.
Paper long abstract:
Many contemporary choreographers from Africa are staging through their work perspectives on African urban life which are characterized by social criticism. I analyse this kind of art with reference to Herzfeld's notion of 'cultural intimacy', which not only entails the acquaintance with a culture but also especially focuses on that part of a cultural identity that insiders do not want outsiders to get to know. I argue that in contemporary dance the performance of 'cultural intimacy' is used as an important creative device to critique the female condition and the established gender order in society. I further show that this kind of socially engaged performance is based on border-crossing professional networks and transcultural artistic practices which are transgressing the boundaries of intimacy. Focusing on two contemporary dance pieces that are staging intimate aspects of urban Senegalese women's everyday life, the paper considers these performances as simultaneous expressions of belonging as well as longing for becoming 'other'. Reconstructing the biographical trajectories and tracing the entanglements of the choreographers' professional and family relations I examine how their art contributes to the multiple translocal connections of Senegalese urban life. Thereby I dismiss the view of contemporary dance in Africa as a culturally alien or alienated practice while instead contributing to a better understanding of this translocally and transnationally embedded art world as part of ongoing societal transformations and the creation of new gendered urban spaces.
Intimate collaborations and gendered spaces in African cities