By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
The thump of rolling bodies and whoosh of sand poured over a dancer's head form part of the soundtrack to the entrancing one-hour piece Figninto, performed by the Salia ni Seydou dance company. Two musicians accompany the bare-torsoed movements of the troupe from Burkina Faso. Sitting before the three male dancers on the shadowed stage, one plays a large freestanding drum. Another mans the musical arch, also known as a sano or lolo, that is sometimes described as "part guitar, part Jew's harp." The musicians, like the dancers, also play the sand, whooshing it in piles across the stage or letting it fall, laden with the symbolism of passing time, through their fingers.
Figninto, which means "blind eye" in the Bambara language, explores the relationship between physical and spiritual blindness in the story of the journey from birth to death. Salia Sanou has been likened to a cricket, "riding up with explosive force," and Seydou Boro an albatross, long-limbed and slow-moving. Their company is widely regarded as one of West Africa's most innovative, and their spellbinding performances in Figninto earned them the People's Choice Award at the International Festival of New Dance in Montreal.
Salia ni Seydou offer an enlightening and poetic new perspective on global fusion. Salia was trained in African styles by the older men in his village, and he and Seydou transform those traditional elements with modern dance moves and suggestions of urban influences like break dancing and tap. Likewise the hypnotic music, which creates a framework for the dance both ceremonial and experimental, at times recalling an African-tinged Philip Glass.