With visiting groups, dance at Yale gains foothold

This week, the West African dance company Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue will debut three performances at Yale’s Iseman Theater.
This week, the West African dance company Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue will debut three performances at Yale’s Iseman Theater. Photo by YDN.


As part ofa push for a more diverse presence of dance on campus, Yale’s is playing host to a contemporary West African company this week.

The Burkina Faso-based Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue came to Yale through “No Boundaries,” a collaborative project organized by the Yale Repertory Theater and the World Performance Project at Yale, which brings international artists to Yale and New Haven.In addition to leading an open workshop onWest African dance on Wednesday night, members of the company sat in on classes and will make their American debut in three performances at the Iseman Theater from Thursday to Saturday.

Sterling Professor of Theaterand WPP co-founder Joseph Roach said the project’s directors chose the West African group because it exemplifies the wide range of dance in Burkina Faso while also pushing the bounds of those styles.During their visit, the dancers will present works from their“Engagement Féminin” initiative, which seeks to counter history of underrepresented women in the field by celebrating and promotinga rising generation of female choreographers and performersin the West African dance world.

“It is looked down upon by society for women to dance, above all in contemporary dance as a career,” said Auguste Ouédraogo, choreographer and co-founder of Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue, in an interview conducted in French.

Ouérdrago said the two pieces that the group will perform at the Iseman Theater emerged as a way for the female dancers to explore their role in West African society through movement. He added that the group worked with two female contemporary choreographers from Burkina Faso, whose successful careers as choreographers inspiredthe female dancers in the group.

WPP Artistic Director and Theater Studies lecturer Emily Coates ’06 GRD ’11 said the presence of guest artists like Auguste-Bienvenue is fundamental to promoting a thriving and diverse dance curriculum and extracurricular environment at Yale.

Still, though initiatives such as the WPP’s “No Boundaries” project are working to bring dance to the forefront of Yale’s artistic scene, Roach said the art form is still struggling to establish itself on campus.

To complement study through dance classes, programs such as “No Boundaries” offer additional research opportunities, Coates said. In every event, the WPP invites scholars to offer their insights and exchange ideas with the visiting artists.

And visitors like the Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue not only contribute to intellectual conversations about dance but also enhance the art form’s presence at Yale by drawing in new audiences. Wednesday’s workshop and a Saturday symposium on improvisation are both free and open to the public, in the hopes of attracting a large and diverse audience of dancers and non-dancers alike.

“I hope that the Yale students interested in dance and alums who are really interested in dance and don’t know it yet will discover that interest [will] come to these programs and their interest will be intensified and redoubled,” Roach said.

At the workshop led by Ouérdrago, about a third of the 20 participants were students not previously involved in dance groups at Yale.

The World Performance Project at Yale founded “No Boundaries” in 2008.

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