Declassified Memory Fragment
Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project
“In the context of West African tradition, music and dance are one. One does not exist without the other.” Oliver Tarpaga of Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project
The act of “declassifying” is a process of revealing, exposing what is hidden from view and obscured, not spoken. Declassified Memory Fragment is a work of dance, live concert, and theater created as an open letter to life in countries—specifically Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe—where everyday life is subjected to restrictions and cultural expectations of secrecy and privacy, even within the family.
An exploration of African lifestyles, cultures, beauty, complexities, and politics, the performance ranges from tremendous energy to haunting quiet, from beauty to terror. Led by an all-male cast from Burkina Faso, with an electrifying live band that at times supports and at other times takes center stage with the dancers, Declassified Memory Fragment caustically and humorously stages a two-tier society where craving for power simultaneously creates and unravels friendships—and yet a brotherhood remains.
Conception and Choreography Olivier Tarpaga Music Concept and Composition Olivier Tarpaga in collaboration with the Dafra Kura Band Lighting Cyril Givort Dramaturg and Artistic Advisor Esther Baker-Tarpaga Set Concept Olivier Tarpaga and Sada Dao Set Face-O-Sceno Props Sahab Koanda Costumes Olivier Tarpaga Musicians Flatié Dembelé, Boubacar Djiga, Daouda Guindo, Olivier Tarpaga Dancers Ousséni Dabaré, Aziz Dermé, Jérôme Kaboré, Adonis Nébié, Olivier Tarpaga
The presentation of Declassified Memory Fragment was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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$15 students & 25-and-under
About the Company
Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project is a transnational performance project founded in 2004 by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and Olivier Tarpaga. Some projects center on dance theater, others in performance art, and others in music only. All the work creates a rich blend of music and physical image making, BTDP is currently based in Philadelphia, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. BTDP are embodied border crossing ethno-choreographers investigating the beauty and dissonance of the human condition. Their work has been performed at REDCAT, Highways, The Alex Theatre, and John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, VSA N4th in New Mexico, Cornell College, Purdue University, Denison University, Rich Forum Stamford Center for the Arts, CT, Jacob’s Pillow Inside Out Festival, Action Danse Festival in Morocco, Center Stage Santa Barbara, The Ohio State University, Dialogue De Corps in Burkina Faso, The Maitisong Festival in Botswana, Abok I Ngoma Festival in Cameroon, and The French Cultural Center in Senegal.
About Olivier Tarpaga
Lester Horton Award-winning dancer–choreographer and musician Olivier Tarpaga is a dance lecturer at the Lewis Center for the Arts and a music lecturer at the Department of Music, Princeton University. Tarpaga is the founder and artistic director of the internationally acclaimed Dafra Drum and Dafra Kura Band and co-founder of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project. He danced with David Rousseve/REALITY from 2006 to 2010 when he was also a State Department Art Envoy in South Africa, Botswana, Burkina Faso, and Sri Lanka. Commissions include: Wind of Nomads (2017) by Malaysia’s internationally renowned HANDS percussion; MAYA dance theater of Singapore for RESIST, RESURGE: Traces of Hope (2015) ; the Ministry of Culture of Niger to train and mentor Abdallah Dance Company and serve as an artistic advisor during the making of Une pour trois for the Francophonie games in Nice, France (2013); the Temple of Fine Arts in Perth, Australia to create The way of sands (2012); Zig Zag Ballet to choreograph Visage at the Rich Forum Stanford Center for the Arts in CT. Tarpaga has performed and recorded with celebrity rock star POE at Capitol Records in Hollywood. In 2008, he was invited to re-interpret Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with West African instruments for a sold-out concert with British singer Billy Bragg and numerous guests at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA. Tarpaga is the artistic director of Nomad Express International Multi-Arts Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and has performed and taught dance in fifty countries throughout Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania.
Interview with Oliver Tarpaga
FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Declassified Memory Fragment came into being? Do you remember where you were?
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 movement of 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 will then select, transform and compose phrases based on themes and emotions. We worked with live musicians creating the work and making solos, duets, and group work.
FringeArts: The musicians and dancers begin apart, but then start to invade each other’s spaces and the musical and dance aspects become more entwined physically on stage. Can you describe your approach to their relationship (the musicians/the dancers)? Also, what having the music take on a more live concert vibe—as oppose to merely accompaniment—what did that open up for you?
Olivier Tarpaga: In the context of West African tradition, music and dance are one. One does not exist without the other. I grew up in traditional and contemporary contexts. I am equally and musician/composer as dancer/choreographer. Live music affects everything and the dancers feel different and create different when the music is live. Once the movements are solid, it informs and inspired specific musical solo written for specific moments and emotions. Live music is a signature of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project.
During the October 2014 revolution, an unarmed million marchers walked with their hands up towards parliament in Ouagadougou to stop an unconstitutional vote for the regime to stay in power. They were faced by heavily armed soldiers. When the army opened fire, there was no distinction of religion, ethnicity, class, sex or age. It was a blend of determined citizens. This is what inspired me to have the musicians sometimes invade the stage, perform physically and theatrically this way with the dancers in DMF.