The dance program has developed a strong relationship with West African master drummer and choreographer Olivier Tarpaga, and he is bringing his acoustic group Dafra Kura to campus this week for a residency ending with a public performance on Thursday, Sept. 10.
The show at 7 p.m. in Rosse Hall features voice, blues guitar, the kora string instrument and percussion. The musicians from Burkina Faso will play excerpts from the evocative score created for Declassified Memory Fragment, a 2013 dance theater work inspired by the history and images of politics and cultural realities affecting Africa.
First, the band will offer a music/drumming workshop based on the Griot tradition of music and storytelling from 4:10 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7, in the Shaffer Dance Studio.
Various band members will teach dance classes over the week, leading a discussion on faith and power in Africa in a history class, giving a workshop in ethnomusicology and visiting a beginning French class.
Over the past several years, Tarpaga has taught classes in African dance and contemporary African forms and has choreographed three works for Kenyon students in the Department of Dance, Drama, and Film.
“His approach to dance-making is interdisciplinary,” Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada said. “He composes the music and choreography in direct collaboration with Kenyon musicians and dancers to make powerfully evocative dance-theater that has broadened the range of our students and added excitement to our dance concerts.”
Tarpaga approached Craig-Quijada last year about bringing his ensemble of musicians and dancers from Burkina Faso to Kenyon in a campus-wide residency.
Dafra, founded by Tarpaga in 1995, aims to bring people together to investigate tolerance and diversity and to draw in audiences from diverse communities to celebrate the rich diversity of West African music and dance. The name Dafra comes from Burkina Faso’s sacred river in the city of Bobo Dioulasso.
The group’s visit is the first of a three-part immersive residency that includes Denison University and culminates at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh. There, the group will perform Declassified Memory Fragment in collaboration with Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project, the dance theater company Tarpaga co-founded in the city. The full-evening dance theater work uses choreography, text and live music that "pulses with the beauty and complexities of contemporary African society," according to the company’s online description.