Posts Tagged ‘Esther Baker-Tarpaga’

Fragments of Unrest: An Interview with Olivier Tarpaga

Posted October 4th, 2017

Co-founder of the Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project, Olivier Tarpaga is both a choreographer and a musician who brings together disparate nations and identities to create powerful and meaningful performances. Working with his partner, Esther Baker-Tarpaga, the duo have generated a project-centered, transcontinental company that is based in both Philadelphia and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Their work has been noted for its intensity that “proved unforgettable” (Los Angeles Times) and for their projects that “metaphorically and abstractly decenter whiteness” (The Dance Journal). In their newest work, Declassified Memory Fragment, Olivier “declassifies,” or uncovers, experiences that many in Burkina Faso have lived through that are hidden from the world. Through the melding of dance and music, Olivier Tarpaga has created an exhibition of the memories of men in political military unrest from the many uprisings within Burkina Faso. We got the chance to talk with him about his process in creating the work and the contexts that informed it.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Declassified Memory Fragment came into being?

Olivier Tarpaga: It came to me during a research trip in Kenya in 2010. I grew up in Burkina Faso and have witnessed military coups in 1980, 1982, 1983, a very bloody one in 1987, and the revolution in 2014. This piece is addressing the issues of military coups. The irony is that in 2015 a coup in Burkina Faso happened the day of the avant-premier of this very piece at Denison University in Ohio. It felt like history revisited. Our country has been independent from France since 1960 and there are many fragments of my childhood memories during this time of political instability. I wanted to bring this issue into the open air and expose it with an artistic approach.

FringeArts: How did the choreography come about?

Olivier Tarpaga: I began the piece in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. With my cast we first began with speaking about the politics of ethnic conflict during the Kenya election and Ivory Coast war. We spoke about our memories and knowledge of the war zones. Several cast members grew up in conflict zones and their families were directly affected. I gave specific tasks, images, gestures and directions to research movement based on memories and experiences of different conflicts in the region. I then selected, transformed and composed phrases based on themes and emotions. We worked with live musicians creating the work and making solos, duets, and group work.

FringeArts: What made it important for you that it was an all-male dance troupe?

Olivier Tarpaga: This is purposeful because all these conflicts and wars we are focusing on were all created and directed by men. Men fighting for power. I am pro-feminist and thus I am specifically making a critique of men creating violence to grab more power. This is our first project with only men. Our company is not all-male, in fact it is founded by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and I. We frequently have mixed gender casts.

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Meet the dancers of Levée des conflits’ professional workshop, Pt. 2

Posted September 1st, 2016

On September 9th and 10th FringeArts and Drexel University’s Westphal College will present Levée des conflits, a dance in the round from world-renowned choreographer and dancer Boris Charmatz, as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Beginning September 7th, Westphal is hosting a series of lectures and workshops—professional and community—around the performances as part of a series dubbed Boris Charmatz: Dancing Dialogues,capped off with an informal performance from the professional workshop of 24 local dance artists. In anticipation, Dancing Dialogues has been profiling each participant and we’ll sharing their reflections on their craft here. (Pt.1 here)

Loren Groenendaal

loren groenendaal

(photo by Bill Herbert)

“The practice of being present in a meditation practice applied to movement is really amazing. But then it’s also not an attachment practice. It’s like here’s myself and I’m putting it out there but immediately adapting to another, and immediately being yourself. Like always renewing yourself in another and being bold enough to put something out there but not being too attached to the outcome. That’s been a huge life lesson that I’ve gotten back from contact improv. Dancing or teaching – putting out an idea in the world, moving in the body, and don’t be attached to the outcome.”

beau hancock

(photo by Lindsay Browning)

Beau Hancock

“Both sides [audience and dancers] are hampered. To be an observer, you are divorced from the lived experience of the dance, which is such a beautiful understanding of what’s inside the work. Although there is empathic kinesthetic understanding of having a body, of taking in sensory information when watching a performer. You feel it in your bones. You feel a leap across the stage in your pelvis. And for the performers, they’re also missing the beauty of the macro-vision of the work. An audience gets to swim in the fullness of the dance.”


Gabrielle Revlock

gabrielle revlock

(photo by Hallie Martenson)

“A performance is like a portal to this other world. And it feels like a real gift to be able to enter into this other world, entering this other self. I think in a lot of my performances, I’m playing some version of myself. It’s like we have all these different sides of ourselves, it’s all in there but maybe there’s one dominant side that people are seeing in daily life. To turn that into a different side and a performance is really satisfying to me. I really wish that everyone could have the opportunity to perform and to know themselves in this different way.”

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