Part of a rhythm nation

As a part of the Walker’s AfricaNow series, Compagnie Tch

by Sara Nicole Miller

Bare feet stomp out jagged rhythms while arms wail through the air, partitioning and enshrining the bodies of the dancers. Backs and hips bend and quiver in fluidity with one another. Shaved heads are cradled by foreign hands. Bodies delicately intermingle.

In “Dimi,” the body communicates the most essential of languages, transmitting emotions by tapping into intense physical articulations. Bodily appendages – heads and forearms – become vehicles for empowerment and resistance. The dancers of “Dimi,” in experiencing their own limits of physicality and intensity, transcend the more superficial theatrical aspects that modern dance sometimes falls into.

The Walker’s series “AfricaNOW: Currents of a Continent” explores theater, music and movement from four countries, looking at the array of contemporary expressions of sub-Saharan Africa.

In the past decade, African contemporary dance has emerged across the globe as a highly celebrated, entrancing form of movement.

“Dimi,” performed by Compagnie TchéTché
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
WHERE: The Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $25 ($20 for Walker Members)

The series continues with “Dimi,” a performance by Côte d’Ivoire dance group Compagnie TchéTché.

The group was founded in 1997 by choreographer Béatrice Kombé. The all-female dance group draws on everything from ancient traditions to the realities of contemporary life in urban Africa for their pieces.

“Dimi” translates as “women’s sorrow.” However, the performance, even in its most emotionally charged sequences, is not reminiscent of a dramatic victimization. Rather, the highly physical performance explores the complexities that contemporary African women embody.

“Dimi” features four female dancers and an accompanying live musician playing the keyboards and Fulani flute.

“I worked on ‘Dimi’ in the context of sensitivity for the African woman,” Kombé said in a video interview. The African woman is commonly represented as a marginalized, oppressed figure, she explained. “Dimi” attempts to break through damaging stereotypes of African women as docile and subservient.

The performance, Kombé said, works to illustrate a sense of feminine solidarity, a chance for women to involve and express themselves, to illuminate their strength and vulnerability. In doing so, it emits a powerful emotive ambience.

TchéTché means “eagle” in the language of the Bété people, an ethnic group from western Côte d’Ivoire. The bird is a symbol of power, elegance and domination. The dancers seek to represent these qualities through the elegance and rhythm of their movements.

“Dimi” is raw and visceral, yet thoughtful and dynamic. The dances evoke emotions that stem from sources such as the experience of growing up in the midst of civil unrest, African womanhood and the universal struggle of being human. Through the dance, their bodies become free of suffering; the self is relinquished.

“Dimi” is an investigation of patriarchal ideas, a questioning of post-colonial discourse and a testament to the power of womanhood. It encapsulates a unique African aesthetic within the broader context of femininity.