PATHS: a collaboration between Danes and Kenyans

A serving of modern dance and poetry at the GoDown Matthew Ondienge and Katrine Noorlen of Denmark perform in a past rehearsal. The two will hold their first show tomorrow. COURTESY PHOTOS By Margaretta wa Gacheru Posted Thursday, September 6 2012 at 18:01 Business Daily In Summary ‘Paths: Walk all over me’ is a joint cross-cultural work of Matthew Ondiege, a dancer, and film-maker and choreographer Vibeke Muasya. Their paths first crossed when Vibeke was in Kenya to shoot her film, ‘Lost in Africa’. Apart from the notable cast, ‘Paths’ will be a multimedia event including video, modern dance, live music and poetry. It is a lively performance that captures freedom of expression seen in spontaneous movements. The ‘world premiere’ of an original modern dance production choreographed by a Kenyan and a Dane is taking place tomorrow at the GoDown Arts Centre. ‘Paths: Walk all over me’ is a joint initiative of Matthew Ondiege of Dance Into Space and Danish film-maker and former classical ballet dancer/choreographer Vibeke Muasya. Funded by the Danish Cultural Fund, which loved the idea of a cross-cultural dance creation, Paths has been percolating in the minds of Ondiege and Muasya for nearly two years. “Ever since we discovered we are both dancers and choreographers, we wanted to create a production like Paths,” said the award-winning film-maker who was in Kenya shooting her film, Lost in Africa when their paths crossed. Ondiege had a small part in Lost in Africa, and the film’s Danish casting agent had already alerted Muasya about the striking Kenyan actor who also had a part in another award-winning Danish film, In a Better World. (Both films were screened in Nairobi during the recent European Film Festival, which Muasya also attended.) What will make Paths so special is not only the collaboration of successful dancers, but that it is also a multi-media event including video, modern dance, poetry and live music all performed by the multi-talented incredible Kenyan musician, Michel Ongaro. Ongaro alone could be an incredible one-man show since the blind musical virtuoso not only has a remarkably powerful voice (somehow reminiscent of a Stevie Wonder in his prime). He also has a marvelous versatility given that he doesn’t just sing in this production. He also provides all the musical and sound effects using everything from guitar, flute, bongos, Brazilian shaker and a duo-action finger piano called an Ilemba from Tanzania. But the Paths cast also includes an exceptional range of modern dancers, most of whom are members of Ondiege’s modern dance troupe, Dance into Space. They include Ondiege himself, Alice Kamene, Nicholas Ouma, Alacoque Ntame, and newcomers Rufus Mwakirungu and Alfred Apopa. Contrasting images Vibeke also brought the classically trained Danish dancer Katrine Noorlen with whom she has worked on several other projects in Denmark for the past few years. The presence of Noorlen, who is also a lithe and lovely modern dancer enhances the Paths theme — exploring the miraculous ways people’s paths in life cross, particularly in this increasingly globalised world where old stereotypes and boundaries no longer apply; people from different cultures and climes increasingly exchange energies and have impact on one another’s lives. It’s a no-holds-barred type of performance that lays emphasis on freedom of expression, spontaneity of movement and lyrical interactions that are invariably life-transforming and liberating. The fact that there are two ‘disabled’ members of the ensemble — Ongaro and Ouma — is almost incidental to the production since both choreographers felt strongly about treating everyone in the cast as ‘able-bodied.’ Dance into Space has done pioneering work in the past, working with both able-bodied and disabled dancers, but for Paths, the perspective is strictly on the impact (or imprints as Muasya puts it) that individuals have on one another as their paths in life cross. “It’s all about the way our [intersecting] paths affect both our outer and inner landscapes of the mind,” says Muasya, who intentionally shot videos of landscapes in Kenya and Scandinavia. These contrasting images will serve as backdrops for the production, which will run for two nights only (Saturday and Sunday) before it prepares to be staged first in Copenhagen, and if all goes well, in other parts of the world. “I think this company and production are good enough to go all over the world, if I do say so myself,” adds Muasya, who first came to Kenya in 1986 and has been coming back and forth from Europe ever since. Share This Story The Scandinavian tour may not be immediate since Muasya got to finish scripting and shooting another film that features both Kenya and Copenhagen called Nobody Needs Flowers. But once that is done, she is committed to seeing Paths go on a global tour. Ironically, one of the dance pieces is called I want to go to Europe’, which is a witty interpretation of what quite a few Kenyans have told her in the past. “Let them go and then be grateful they have a land like Kenya to come back to,” she adds.

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