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Choreographer Nadia Beugré’s inspiration for Legacy was the myth of the woman warriors called the Amazons and a specific moment in the history of her country, Ivory Coast. In 1949, women in the city of Grand-Bassam protested in a long march for the release of political prisoners, and to stand against French colonialists. Legacy is a homage not only to those women, but to all the women around the world who are fighting to be heard. Nadia Beugré and Hanna Hedman share the stage with a group of Amsterdam women. To stirring live music by the Ivorian musician Manou Gallo they move across the stage. With their bodies, voices and even their bras, they take over the space.
The group that performs Legacy is already in action when the audience arrives to take their seats, which are arranged in a circle around the stage. They are running, but they don’t seem to be
getting anywhere. Two of them — Hanna Hedman and Nadia Beugré, the choreographer — are professionals. The other women, for all are women, are local amateur dancers or semi-professionals. They move in silence, or to the accompaniment of music comprised of percussive patter, bass guitar throbs and powerful vocalizing by Manou Gallo. The performers are of all ages, shapes and origins. Their expressions reveal their effort. They grow tired, sweat, remove items of clothing — but they do not stop. They are, it is clear, fired by the same spirit.
Legacy, by Nadia Beugré, presents the story of women on the move. It is an ode to women all over the world who have fought and continue to fight for freedom, justice and respect. Women who yield their own interests to a common cause, an ideology, an entire people. What’s important here isn’t a particular historical event; it’s about the ongoing struggle, and the endurance and risks it demands. Beugré wants us to remember the extraordinary women whose voices were silenced, whose battles and victories were suppressed, but who finally, despite all opposition, made themselves heard.
In addressing this universal theme, Beugré delves into the history closest to home: legends from her motherland, Ivory Coast. One such legend is the eighteenth-century tale of Queen Pokou, who led her people safely into exile. With pursuers on their heels and the raging river that separates Ghana from Ivory Coast blocking their path, the queen willingly sacrifices her most precious possession, her son. The act placates the river, which yields to reveal a path for safe passage. Once everyone is across, Pokou turns and cries out 'ba ouli' ('the child is dead'), and thus the Baoulé tribe was born.
Beugré’s choreography draws especially on a historic march that took place in 1949. With the country under the constraints of colonial rule, a swelling group of women undertook a heroic trek from Abidjan to Grand Bassam to demand the release of their husbands, whom the authorities were holding as political prisoners. Their peaceful demonstration was met with brute force. A notable aspect of the march was the women’s use of an old ritual, 'adjanou', as a form of protest. It involves women singing, dancing and exposing their normally taboo-enshrouded bodies — unadorned or smeared in white clay — to onlookers for the purpose of shaming their adversary.
Elements of this ritual are clearly discernible in Legacy, which marks Beugré’s first appearance at the Holland Festival, but the choreographer does not rely on it as an aesthetic concept. Instead, she allows the dancers’ movements to arise from emotion and primal urge.
Nadia Beugré was born in Ivory Coast in 1981. She made her first appearance in 1995 as a member of the Dante Theatre, where she trained in traditional dance. Two years later, she became a founding member of Béatrice Kombé’s groundbreaking,
all-female dance ensemble, TchéTché, with whom she toured for years to critical acclaim across Africa, Europe and North America. Following Kombé’s untimely death in 2007, Beugré immersed herself in modern dance by taking choreography classes with Germaine Acogny in Senegal, and continued her training in 2009 by joining Ex.e.r.ce., Mathilde Monnier’s programme for talented, up-and-coming choreographers at the Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier.
She was soon staging productions of her own, such as un espace vide: moi ('An empty space: me') in 2009 and Quartier libres ('Free Territory') in 2012, and attracting attention from estimable publications like The New York Times, which wrote of her work: ‘It's harrowing, both in action and sound, Ms. Beugré knows how to make a crowd trust her just as, in a split second, she knows how to knock the air out of people. She’s wild, like the wind.’ Legacy premiered at the La Bâtie festival in Geneva in 2015, and has also been performed at the Festival d'Automne in Paris, among other events. Beugré’s most recent piece, Tapis Rouge (2017), builds on an earlier work she co-created with Sébastien Martel for the Festival d'Avignon in 2014. Beugré also performs in works by fellow choreographers, such as Seydou Boro (Burkina Faso), Alain Buffard (France) and Dorothée Munyaneza (France/Rwanda), and appeared in Boris Charmatz’s most recent production. In 2017, Nadia Beugré began a five-year artist-in-residence programme at De Vooruit in Ghent.
- Nadia Beugré
- performed by
- Nadia Beugré, Hanna Hedman
- music, performed by
- Manou Gallo
- dramaturgy, coaching participants
- Boris Hennion
- Rosane de Abreu, França Kemi Alake, Dorothy Blokland, Deborah Cameron, Cecilia Dirks-Caton, Lynn Fokkens, Magnolia Hechavarria, Yolanda Jansen, Agnes Matthews, Naomie Pieter, Nancy Rustenburg, Samira Saidi, Maia Elisabeth Sørensen
- light design, scenography
- Erk Houllier
- technical director, light
- Anthony Merlaud
- executive producer
- Latitudes Prod. – Lille
- production direction
- Maria-Carmela Mini
- production officer
- Boris Hennion
- National Choreographic Center in Roubaix (FR), National Choreographic Center in Montpellier (FR), FUSED – French–US Exchange in Dance, Festival d’Automne à Paris (FR), La Bâtie – festival de Genève (CH), Théâtre Garonne (FR), BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen, NO) House on Fire is supported by the Culture Program of the European Commission, Festival d’Avignon – Sujets à vif/ SACD (FR), Le Théâtre de Nîmes (FR), Fabrik Potsdam (DE), Le Parvis Scène Nationale Tarbes-Pyrénées (FR), PÔLE SUD, Centre de développement chorégraphique en préfiguration /Strasbourg (FR)
- supported by
- ÉTAPE DANSE, initiated by Institut Francais Deutschland / Bureau du Théâtre et de la Danse and fabrik Potsdam with the support of Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / DGCA and the City of Potsdam studio residency // Ballet du Nord – Olivier Dubois / Centre Chorégraphique National de Roubaix Nord-Pas de Calais With the support of DRAC Nord-Pas-de-Calais Special thanks to the participants for their commitment in the project Thanks to the Grand Studio (Bruxelles), Tarmac – La scène internationale francophone (Paris), the association Pink Bra Bazaar
- world premiere
- Genève, La Bâtie, Festival de Genève, 30 August 2015