Film screening highlights Department of Dance residency

New production of Pina Bausch’s 'Rite of Spring’ features a cast of 37 dancers from 14 African countries. Florent Nikiema featured centre. Photo credit: Maarten Vanden Abeele

On Nov. 1, the Department of Dance and the Harriet Tubman Institute will host a screening of the biographical documentary MABOUNGOU: Being in the World as part of dancer and choreographer Florent Nikiéma’s guest artist residency at York University.

Florent Nikiéma
Florent Nikiéma

As part of the residency – which began Oct. 14 and will end Nov. 3 – Nikiéma has been working with the students of the York Dance Ensemble, the Department of Dance’s pre-professional performance company for third- and fourth-year dance majors, on the creation of a new piece. Alongside this process, Nikiéma is also guest teaching each of the dance program’s undergraduate modern dance classes, including Traditional and Current Dances of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Department of Music’s West African Drum Ensemble course, as well as two courses in the Drama and Creative Arts program at Glendon.

“We are so fortunate to have an artist of Florent’s international standing working with our undergraduates,” says Susan Lee, assistant professor in dance and the artistic director of the York Dance Ensemble. “Exposing our students to different working processes and to new creative ideas is an invaluable experience for them.”

Nikiéma will also be collaborating with Associate Professor Ian Garrett in the Department of Theatre on the lighting and projections design for the new piece that will premiere in February 2024.

A practitioner of contemporary African dance and music, Nikiéma studied under Senegalese artist and African modern dance pioneer Germaine Acogny at the École des Sables before his engagement with Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany. In November 2022, Nikiéma toured in Toronto as part of the groundbreaking remount of Pina Bausch’s iconic 1975 work Rite of Spring with an all-African cast. During his time in Toronto, Nikiéma came to York University to give a contemporary African dance workshop. His class was so well-received that Associate Professor Bridget Cauthery applied for a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Knowledge Mobilization grant to bring Nikiéma back to York for a longer period.

Nikiéma’s creative work is informed by his deep knowledge of traditional West African dance forms, Acogny technique and by concepts from Western European concert dance. His choreography prioritizes ecological attunement to landscapes and to the non-human. Stating that “human beings have lost the true meaning of the term cohabitation with nature and its components,” Nikiéma’s new work for the York Dance Ensemble will respond to his concerns for environmental disaster.

In addition to the screening, there will be an artist discussion panel featuring four artists all originally from Africa, now living in the diaspora: Governor General’s Performing Arts Award-winner Zab Maboungou; Executive Director of the African Dance Ensemble Isaac Akrong; dancer Pulga Muchochoma; and Nikiéma. The event is sponsored by PUBLIC, the journal of arts, culture and ideas.

“This Department of Dance and Special Tubman Talk event presents an opportunity for African-based choreographers to define their approaches to creating, teaching and performance that cannot be reduced to normative definitions of traditional or contemporary dance,” says artist/scholar Collette “Coco” Murray, who will be moderating the discussion panel. “I look forward to having this important and far-reaching conversation with my colleagues.”

For more information and to register for this free event, follow this link: