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Faustin Linyekula stages the "fundamental resemblance between Negroes and ballerinas" with "La Création du Monde" (Fernand Léger, Darius Milhaud), #HF12.

The 1923 Afro-Cubist dance classic can be seen at Music Theatre today and tomorrow, commented on by Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula. "Europeans have no idea that they are denying the shared history of Africa and Europe. Belgium is part of everyday life in Congo, but Belgians hardly know anything about Congo, or it is the clichés about poverty and mortality. The youngest generation knows nothing about colonial history. At that difference in perception, I question."

La Création du Monde" is also known in France as the first Negro ballet. Léger and Milhaud collaborated with the writer Blaise Cendrars and the choreographer Jean Börlin. Its 1923 premiere in Paris became a scandal-success, with texts appearing such as, "The wildest, dissonant jazz, such as must be heard among backward peoples, erupted in all its fervour. One is surprised to hear this called avant-garde."


What was once wild music and apparently seemed backward has now become spherical modernism. But wild remains the way Africa is brought to the stage, as a dazzling, purely aesthetic, Cubist fantasy at a time when the European colonialism reached increasingly bloody heights. Or as Linyekula writes in an accompanying text, "Why did the greatest intellectuals so doggedly ignore what was happening under the yoke of their own country?"

Linyekula wonders what has actually changed in this unequal relationship in recent decades. A progressive French newspaper wrote favourably of his work several years ago, but felt he was throwing away his talent because he was not making "African" work. At the time, Linyekula was making a name for himself in Europe with a Rock Opera in which he applied punk's no future motto to his own experience.

Faustin Linyekula has been fascinated by the "first Negro ballet" for years and writes in a text from 2006: "This is how I began to understand the fundamental similarity between Negroes and ballerinas: they both have a master ..." In 2002, he founded his own company in Kisangani in Congo, Studio Kabako. He toured the world - the months outside Africa provide the money to fund his company's many activities in Congo - and received the prestigious Prince Claus prize.

Why did Faustin Linyekula collaborate with the Ballet de Lorraine, which on the face of it has a rather young cast and looks very innocent within the fraught context it tackles?

Linyekula: "There were practical reasons, of course. Only with a really big company can you reconstruct "La Création du Monde". But I also wanted to show the dancers that there is more than just obediently performing someone else's steps, - that they are co-creators. I want the audience to see the dancers first, before they go "undercover" in the fantasy, hidden under the exotic masks, costumes and set pieces. Creating a world then means forging a bigger picture out of bits and pieces, which is not the only possible story, but the possible story of these people. By taking the energy of these young people, the little world they live in with tensions and feelings, seriously and putting them on stage, I hope they will each start taking responsibility for what they do and what they are a part of."

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Fransien van der Putt

Fransien van der Putt is a dramaturge and critic. She works with Lana Coporda, Vera Sofia Mota, Roberto de Jonge, João Dinis Pinho & Julia Barrios de la Mora and Branka Zgonjanin, among others. She writes about dance and theatre for Cultural Press Agency, Theatererkrant and Dansmagazine. Between 1989 and 2001, she mixed text as sound at Radio 100. Between 2011 and 2015, she developed a minor for the BA Dance, Artez, Arnhem - on artistic processes and own research in dance. Within her work, she pays special attention to the significance of archives, notation, discourse and theatre history in relation to dance in the Netherlands. Together with Vera Sofia Mota, she researches the work of video, installation and peformance artist Nan Hoover on behalf of Author posts

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