Nadia Beugré and an African Woman’s Voice That Soars in Dance

Voices of StrengthEXPAND
Voices of Strength
Photo by Ian Douglas

Tigertail Productions will present Ivory Coast dancer and choreographer Nadia Beugré in a solo performance this weekend at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, as its month long FLA-FRA festival approaches its end. And what a finale this will be. Beugré has been described by the New York Times as “wild like the wind.”

She is among a handful of female African choreographers — another includes former Urban Bushwomen member Nora Chipaumire, who has created works here in Miami — who have gone global with their work, touring to high praise in three or more continents. Perhaps their dance has been so universally satisfying because of the urgency of their work. These women have voices that have been silenced seemingly forever, thanks to the region’s history and politics.

But “those days are gone,” says Beugré. “My generation of artists is willing to wrestle with issues older generations were afraid to touch.”
Beugré in particular is interested in exploring “those spaces where we have been forced to remain” as against “those forbidden spaces where we might choose to wander: spaces made up of free expression, submission, revelation. And if we penetrate them, what would we become?” She regards her work as a “call to action.” Indeed, the piece that she will be presenting this weekend is called Free Territory.

But how does she flesh out such abstractions? Beugré looks through garbage. Well, sort of. Broken water bottles share the stage with her. They serve as a curtain. At one point she wears them like a tutu. Beugré describes them as having “the fragility and force that protects water.” She asks her audience to see their beauty even as they are broken, and to see themselves as well.

Her symbol doesn’t stop there. Beugré is well aware of the rampant consumerism in the Ivory Coast as in so many places, and all the accumulated junk and ecological disaster that accompanies consumerism. The bottles are refuse. Yet since those in the Ivory Coast must buy their water, the bottles are also salvation.

Beugré uses one more prop: an endlessly tangled microphone that at times appears perilously close to choking the dancer.
So many contradictions. She uses dissonant sound as she moves. Her movements reach deep into the audience as she asks them to make some answer to her presence.

Where did such bravado come from? Such things surely defy explanations. But Beugré trained in important and emerging dance centers in Senegal and Burkina Faso. For 10 years she toured with Compagnie Tche Tche, an Ivory Coast dance company headed by Beatrice Kombe that defined its mission as bringing home to audiences everywhere the outrageous strength of Africa’s women.

When the company was disbanded after Kombe’s death, Beugré studied for a time at the Centre Choreographiques in Montpellier, France, a think-tank for the development of cutting-edge dance.

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-Elizabeth Hanly, artburstmiami.com

It was there that Tigertail’s director Mary Luft first saw Beugré and knew she would do what she could to bring such electricity to Miami.
Nadia Beugré “Quartiers Libres/ Free Territory,” on Friday and Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. for French crêpes and wine and ongoing pop-up performances; Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box Theater, 2901 W. Flagler, Miami; tickets $25 www.tigertail.org, 305-324 4337.

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