Abdou N'Gom sits before a mirror in a tiny pool of light. He begins to cover his face with a thick white paste and strips of gauze that look as if it will choke him, and there is both violence and tenderness in the gesture.
Entre Deux (In-Between), choreographed by Clarisse Veaux and Abdou N'Gom (aka Stylistik) and Buanattitude , choreographed and performed by Junior Bosila Banya, both world- renowned B-Boys from France, are intimate glimpses into a complex, hybrid identity that contains both African and European heritage. Both pieces depict the struggle to form a sense of oneself, estranged from one's motherland and simultaneously 'at home' in a new world.
N'Gom cuts a powerful figure onstage. With roots in break-dancing, he is a performer who has a true mastery of his body, to the extent that he appears to defy gravity. If our art, in the words of Lliane Loots (in her festival opening address) is a political weapon against forgetting, then his body is certainly ammunition.
He is able to articulate in movement what can hardly be described verbally. Lighting artists Christophe Mangili and Dorothee Tournour, together with visual artist Claire Rolland, create lighting states that isolate N'Gom and use light and shadow in ways that reinforce the metaphors he creates in movement. He is capable of flight and yet somehow trapped; his African identity is concealed and choked by a European mask. Composer Damien Traversaz provides a layered, hybrid soundscape which combines electronic pulses and classical instruments as well as African rhythms. The result is a textured and introspective solo that speaks to anyone who has felt caught 'in between'.
Junior Bosila Banya's first solo work Buanattitude, with lighting designed by Patrick Clitus and music by Manuel Wandji, compliments Entre-Deux in that it speaks of his own dreams of an imagined Africa; an ideal world in which he may find 'home'. This work is deeply personal, and moves between examples of B-Boy Junior's own form of break-dancing and moments where he addresses the audience candidly about his personal struggle to find a sense of himself as a break-dancer who didn't break like anyone else, and an African existing within a Western paradigm. When he dances, he seems superhuman, able to move in ways that seem impossible. Like N'Gom, Banya communicates through movement, and in movement he embraces his Congolese heritage. It struck me that while he was able to speak volumes when he danced, his decision to address the audience in English made it difficult for him to truly express himself.
Hip-hop is political from its foundations and these two works are a testament to the way in which contemporary dance is constantly shifting to encompass an ever widening range of experience.