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Tue, 08.01.1944

Germaine Acogny, Dancer born.

Germaine Acogny

*The birth of Germaine Acogny is celebrated on this date in 1944. She is a Black African dancer, teacher, and choreographer.

Born in Benin to a Senegalese civil servant, Germaine Acogny was also a descendant of the Yoruba people through her grandmother. When she was 10, the family moved to Dakar, Senegal, where she spent the remainder of her childhood.

After showing a natural ability in dancing, she decided to pursue this as a career, moving to France in the 1960s to study modern dance and ballet. Upon her return to Senegal, she began to teach dance locally, both privately and as part of the local secondary education system. Soon, she developed a new style, which she would later call the "African dance." After choreographing dance to the poem Femme Noir, Femme Nu, she came to the attention of the author - President Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal.

After realizing they had similar aspirations for African identity and culture, he sent her to work with choreographer Maurice Béjart in Brussels, Belgium. With the assistance of Senghor and Béjart, she founded Mudra Afrique, a school of dance, in 1977. Acogny was the sole director of the school. She continued developing the African dance as an ongoing hybrid between modern Western and traditional African styles. In 1980, she published Danse Africaine (African Dance), which set the standard for Senegalese dance.

She left Mudra Afrique in 1982. 1985, she founded Studio Ecole Ballet Theatre in Toulouse, France, alongside her husband, Helmut Vogt. She returned to Senegal in 1995 and opened the dance school l'Ecole des Sables. She involved the local villagers in the performances, with the studio set in the open air overlooking the ocean. Around the same time the new school opened, she began collaborating with overseas choreographers such as Susanne Linke and Kota Yamasaki with her company Jant-Bi to develop three-hour dances for evening performances.

Between 1997 and 2000, she was the Artistic Director of the Dance section of the Paris-based Afrique en Creation. In 2021, Germaine Acogny received the Golden Lion for Dance by the Venice Biennale.


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