Dancer Kettly Noël: personal demons or cruel truth?! Cruel truth

by deborah on 08/20/2008

Kettly Noël is one of those impressive performers who can leave a very sharp mark in your personal memory because she’s wiling to deal with roots only to come out with something very concrete… like a mental razor…

Dancer and choreographer Kettly Noël came from the Creolian city Port au Prince in Haiti but has decided to primarily explore her African roots, therefore she oriented her professional career to work and develop African contemporary dance scene. At the age of 17 she joined the company led by dancer Patrick Lacroix, then at the beginning of 90’s she set up her first company.

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Photo: Val Adamson&Jomba! (c) from Ti Chelbe

Afterwards she followed her path towards African continent where she established an art / charitable community in Benin. Some of the youngsters she had trained there, later on become a regular members of the Benin National Ballet. At the end of 90’s Noël has relocated to Mali in order to do the same. She is an award winning choreographer and a founder of dance festival in Bamako.

Kettly Noël is a respectable female artist dealing with women’s issues and trying to resolve their position on the African continent, not being afraid to dig deeply where some people are not willing or not capable to go.

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Photo: Compagnie Kettly Noël (c) from Errance

The performance I saw this summer was ‘Errance’ (a French word for wanderings), her most hermetically closed dance piece, but not because of her elitist style, in contrary, because of the cruelty Noël spoke about. It’s an artwork about that how our corporate society and corporate culture create corporate political apathy, ignorance and ‘Oh, I can’t face everyday so many agony in this world’ opinion.

This is not ‘a world music style’ piece which celebrates very very cool and colorful ethno mannerism, but a piece made by a black woman who sees thingz from the inner perspective. And that inner perspective makes even her to throw up. ‘Errance’ undoubtedly pulls you in from the very subtle beginning, because when Kettly Noël lets you in, she gives you only two ways: stay and prepare your mind and stomach for the truth or go out before it’s not too late. Outside the stage Kettly Noël admits that it’s not unusual when people are leaving her performances because they are not prepared to face the arguable truculent verity.

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Photo: Val Adamson&Jomba! (c) from Ti Chelbe

How can you react after experiencing or facing terror? No sound… No wordz… Mute channels…

How can you  express on the stage the sense of permanent sorrow as a result of terrible atrocity? Kettly Noël does it really with honesty. The same way as she feels despair and sickness she is capable to emanate it on the stage. It’s very interesting that the whole thing is not made in the manner of today’s performance art scene, but in a way human beings see it, when being emotional and physical naked and disgraced. That’s probably the reason why some people in the audience couldn’t stand it till the end.

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Photo: Edwin (c) from Ti Chelbe

Because of confronting the truth itself, there are no specific needs to be very performative, and Noël knows that very well. Her art and life experience in Africa showed her what every day life look like… and she definitely sees it in a way it is; and that’s: brutality, despair, no future.

The only used sound is music by Bjork (in a way presenting her inner feelings) and composer Ivo Malec (symbolically presenting soundscapes).

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Photo: Judith Schönenberger (c) from Correspondances

The way she’s (un)telling story about African women being deconstructed as human beings by the atrocity of every day life where no one seems to care anymore is painfully truthful, therefore hard to stand.

‘Kettly Noël’s choreography ERRANCE draws its vitality from its powerful, expressive character. She wants to show the transformations that take place in the body during the process of remembering. In so doing, she explores the very limits of the possible.’ (HKW)

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Photo: Edwin (c) from Ti Chelbe

There is one thing people usually forget when discussing or dealing with news regarding our black continent Africa… pretty important, see… actually, it’s an anthropological and biological fact…human beings became what they are now exactly in Africa… it didn’t happen after the migration in Europe, it happened in Africa… but do we consider ourselves as Africans?! From what we can see everyday, I don’t think so…

p.s. If you happened to be in the situation to see any of Kettly Noël’s performances, don’t miss this!