Africa takes centre stage at Lyon's dance biennale

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By Andrea Bolitho
Africa takes centre stage at Lyon's dance biennale
Copyright  euronews

Another victim of the pandemic last year, France's festival of dance is now back - and bursting with energy.

La Biennale de la Danse begins this week in Lyon, featuring more than 40 dance companies from across the world.

At the heart of this year's Biennale is Africa and young people, with performers from 16 African countries, including Nigerian choreographer Qudus Onikeku and his dancers.

He has adapted an excerpt of their show to include 16 young amateur dancers from around Lyon for the traditional opening parade this year held on stage in the Fourvière amphitheatre, rather than on the streets of Lyon.

Entitled Re:INCARNATION it pays homage to Nigerian music, the energy of Lagos and the idea of reinvention and body memory, as Qudus explains:

"I was interested in the way the dancers of the younger generation re-embody knowledge and research of the past in a more contemporary way even if they don't have direct education or transmission of that but there is a way the body regenerates itself and remembers."

The decision to go ahead with the festival came down to the wire, but the nerve-racking months have paid off for performers and organisers.

One of the opening shows is Urgence - Emergency - performed by five young men who discovered dance through their local social centre - a performance of dance and speech that crackles with rage and passion. They work with Compagnie HKC, director Antoine Colnot explains why it is called Urgence:

"The emergency is the emergency of being alive, it is this emergency that puts us on a journey, that puts us on our feet. We met so young people who had already given up and then we met these five who wanted to find their voice, wanted to tear themselves away, to break free of their shackles.

The 'Grande Personnes' group performs with giant puppets that are nearly 4 metres high and weigh up to 30 kilos. The dancers had to rethink how to move to bring out the puppets' grace and personalities. Choreographer Bouba Landrille Tchouda says the key is understanding how the puppets move:

"The puppets can't do everything, but they can do lots of things and I tried to work with them like the dancers, to work on their possibilities, their strong points."

The Biennale de la Danse runs until June 16.