Serge Aimé Coulibaly

© Koen Broos

The Burkinese/Belgian choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly (1972) was born in Bobo-Dioulasso, the economic centre of Burkina Faso in West Africa. Growing up during the ‘cultural revolution’ of progressive, Marxist president Thomas Sankara, laid the foundation for his later artistic engagement. In a country where everything has yet to be built, culture is essential to stimulating creativity in the minds of people.

For Serge Aimé Coulibaly, dance means social engagement. He calls into question daily reality and social evolutions, and shares that investigation with his audience. In his work he examines the intersection between personality and commitment: the tension between what the individual experiences or wants to say and what a commitment to a better world imposes on that individual. From his engagement, he developed a creative process that takes as point of departure the duality principle. Each movement that traverses the body has an opposite. Each form of energy is accompanied by a second form. This brings body and mind into a state where intuition and urgency take over.

For Serge Aimé Coulibaly, dance means social engagement. He calls into question daily reality and social evolutions, and shares that investigation with his audience.

Coulibaly started his career with the multidisciplinary company FEEREN of Amadou Bourou, with whom he toured Africa and Europe. Here he received training in theatre, music and dance, and he developed from dancer to maker. Dance showed itself to be his great love. At the end of the nineties he appears at the forefront with the group choreographies for the opening ceremonies of the African Football Cup and the FESPACO festival (Panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision). As a young man in his thirties, he had reached the top locally. Coulibaly moved to Europe in search of new inspiration. In 2002, through auditions, he arrived at les ballets C de la B, where he presented successful interpretations in Alain Platel’s Wolf and in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Tempus Fugit.

That same year, Serge Aimé Coulibaly founded his own company Faso Danse Theater, with a scope that became global. He always creates the productions partly in Africa and partly in Europe. The first major European tour with Babemba was in 2008, in which Coulibaly and his dancers present interpretations of the historical figures Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba in their struggle for a better world, and later with Kohkuma 7° sud on the role of violence in forming a new society.

 

After his participation in Alain Platel’s opera C(H)OEURS in 2012, an important new step followed in Coulibaly’s artistic journey. He poses questions about the combination of his ageing body with his explosive dance material, and about his social commitment based on a daily life that is now evenly divided between Africa and Europe. From this emerges the introspective solo Fadjiri in 2013, in which he developed a new choreographic signature.

 

In Fadjiri, the expression through the duality principle is no longer in virtuoso explosive physical jumps, but moves to a much more detailed tension within the body. In 2015, Coulibaly accepts an invitation from De Grote Post to create GLOED in Oostende, a performance with over sixty dancers (professionals and amateurs), all older than fifty. Thus, he further developed the research already begun in Fadjiri. It was also the perfect opportunity to relate artistically to that Western world that is now also his own. The elderly, refugees, the unemployed or people affected by illness are seen as unproductive, used up, useless. They no longer contribute to society. Their value has decreased, they no longer speak the language of innovation or technology, no Dutch, … A mass condemned to silence. In GLOED, Coulibaly opposes these popular, simplistic stigmas. Together with the older dancers, he focuses the spotlights on the humanity of these anonymous groups. Filmmaker Lisa Tahon makes an eponymous documentary about the creation process.

 

It is typical for the person and creator Serge Aimé Coulibaly to invest in another dream during the same period: ANKATA, an international art laboratory for research and creation in Bobo Dioulasso. This arts workspace, managed by Coulibaly and without interference from the network around the Institut Français, is there to support local artists as well as international makers looking for a different context for their creations.

ANKATA opened in September 2014 with the first rehearsals for Nuit Blanche a Ouagadougou – a production about a night of revolt and change in an imaginary African capital. At that moment, reality overtakes fiction.  Local elections are imminent and the subcutaneous tension is palpable. The first performances take place in Ouagadougou just before the massive civil protests of 30 and 31 October 2014 that overthrow President Blaise Compaoré. What is happening on stage and in the city merge into one. During the day rapper and activist Smockey addresses the masses and the media at the “place de la révolution” and the dancers are among the demonstrators. In the evening they are on stage together with a performance that precisely concerns rebellion. After the performance, the conversation continues, with the audience, with the other artists and programmers present.

 

Kalakuta Republik in 2016 leads to the big international breakthrough. Where in Nuit blanche à Ouagadougou Coulibaly interrogates African society and in GLOED especially Western society, now the complex and globalised world is the subject. The music and life of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti form the basis for a few pressing questions: what events in the world are driving people to look for alternatives? Why the need for a charismatic leader? What power does a movement have and under what circumstances can this be carried out? … These questions find their way to an increasingly complex choreography in which the voice and text are also given a place within a multimedia scenography.

 

In addition to the creation of his own productions and the management of workspace ANKATA, sharing his working method is also an important element in the artistic path of Serge Aimé Coulibaly. Through this exchange he not only invests in the formation of dancers and choreographers worldwide, but also ensures that he is continually calling into question his own material. This also allows him to meet and discover new dancers for future creations.

In response to the great demand for workshops and master classes, in 2013 he created Quand Je Danse Je Parle Aussi et Quand Je ne Parle Pas, Je Danse Peut-Être.  Through this ‘conférence dansée’ he meets dancers worldwide and guides them in finding their personal language of movement. He questions their beliefs and habits, and challenges them to develop their own dance from their own personal history and cultural background.