Acogny, Germaine (1944--) By Baker-Tarpaga, Esther
In a career that has spanned over forty years, Germaine Acogny has contributed to modernism in dance by merging culturally situated West African dances from Senegal and Benin with Western dance forms such as the Graham technique and classical ballet to create a new African dance aesthetic. Her work emerged from an African postcolonial framework, and her pedagogy codified a modernist Africanist technique. In the 1960s when African dance was viewed by some Western audiences as primitive and timeless, Acogny advocated the necessity of viewing African dance as evolving and changing. Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and French choreographer Maurice Béjart appointed Acogny director of the Senegal-based Mudra Afrique that trained African-based choreographers and teachers. Acogny has taught and performed globally and is the founder of École de Sables (School of Sands), a training, residency, and research center in Senegal. She also founded the Jant-Bi (The Sun) Company in 1996. She is known as “Mama Acogny” because she has mentored numerous young dancers and choreographers in Africa and globally. She has also been referred to as one of the founders of contemporary African dance. Fagaala (2003) is a notable touring work, which addressed the Rwandan genocide. It was a choreographic collaboration between Jant-Bi and Japan’s Kota Yamasaki in 2004.