How can we make our everyday struggles visible? The Burkinabè choreographer Salia Sanou had a boxing ring set up in Limoges on the Place de la République and two female boxers led a dance around the fight for values that bring us together. This participatory show opened Wednesday, September 21 the Zébrures d’automne at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges, in central France, with an audience enthusiastic about this artistic eulogy “À nos combats”. Maintenance.
RFI : To our fights, what kind of fights do you pay homage to ?
Salia Sanou : It is an encounter between dance and boxing, between culture and sport. Combat sports have always fascinated me. I find there a material to explore and mix to make it meet with my choreographic universe.
For the show, you keep the boxing ring setting, clothes and moves, but you change the meaning of it all. Is it a question of pacifying boxing, of reconciling dance with boxing ?
This statement is made by two young women, and for me, it is emblematic. What inspired me to create In our battles it was the fight of the century between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa. But, I didn’t want the fight to be led by men again. When we talk about boxing, we immediately talk about man’s virility. I wanted to deconstruct this by entrusting the main roles to two young women, to Marlène Guivier, former vice-champion of France, and Fatou Traoré, professional dancer. So that the subject of the show, the fights in our lives, is carried by young women. It’s quite a symbol.
I also wanted sport and culture to meet. These are two disciplines that affect the body, respect for others, competition, youth, everyone. Here too, I wanted to erase the boundaries, for my dance to intersect with boxing and for boxing to blend into my dance. Dance, culture, boxing, these are values of encounters, of humanism, it means having the other face to face and dialogue with the other.
With boxing, most people think of violence and force. What place do they occupy in your boxing ring transformed into a spectacle in a public square in the city ?
My ring will tell of all kinds of violence. And he magnifies the noble side of this art. I install it in the middle of two artistic disciplines: boxing and dance. It is a meeting place. My dance meets boxing and I create a third space, the space of dialogue, tolerance, respect for others. It is a space where one is with the other. It is also the whole point of performing this show in a public space, like here at the Place de la République in Limoges. To share this spectacle with spectators and with about sixty amateurs invited to represent the public of this fight. I invite them to be spectators and actors in the show.
Why do you seek to be so in osmosis with your dancers and your spectators ?
For me, dance cannot exist if there are stares in the face. Whether it’s the aesthetics or the emotions that my dance is going to convey, it has to go towards the other, it has to have an echo in the other. There, the contact was created, the osmosis existed. My dance rubs against the other, echoes with the other, goes to the other and comes back. For me, the gaze of the spectators or the spectator-actors is decisive. I do my dance for the public, so that it is shared, that it goes to meet the other. This other is us. A culture that goes towards the other can only be enriched.
Francophonie is often associated with language. As a dancer and choreographer, do you consider that there are also French-speaking gestures and movements ?
Francophonie is a culture, a way of looking at the world, of living the world. I come from a French-speaking country, Burkina Faso. I learned French at school, in life. The crucial question is always: how are we with the other? My dance also carries this diversity. My dance starts from the village where I was born, Léguéma, near Bobo-Dioulasso, then my dance arrives in Ouagadougou, Montpellier, Paris, then crosses the Atlantic, arrives in Los Angeles, goes to Japan… This dance goes to meet the other, is modified, enriched. This gesture is not fixed, it is always in perpetual motion. This is my definition of the Francophone gesture. It is both something that takes root and has wings, takes flight and dialogues with the rest of the world.
Your show To our fights is labeled “ Paris 2024 – Cultural Olympiads “. Is there an Olympic spirit in your creation ?
Yes, there is sport, boxing which slides over dance. Dancing is also a way of being a high-level athlete. These are hours of training, rehearsals… I am very proud that this show is labeled “Cultural Olympiad”. My message is a call for dialogue, for interculturality in our worlds and our diversities, in our sporting and cultural practices. I want the show to go everywhere to create this connection and this dialogue, and to share this energy.
► To our fights, choreography by Salia Sanou, on September 21 and 22, at 6:30 p.m., at Place de la République, in Limoges, with Marlène Guivier, Fatou Traoré, Marius Sawadogo, Soro Solo and 60 amateurs. Music: Sega Seck.
► Les Francophonies – from writing to the stageLes Zébrures d’Automne, festival of theatrical creations, in Limoges, from September 21 to October 1, 2022.