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…In the university the teaching and study of dance is considered "creative activity"—and it is that—it is also research.

choreographed by

Irène Tassèmbédo

performed by

Kehinde Ishangi


…explores safe models of merging classical ballet pointe vocabulary and African- contemporary movement vocabularies, incorporating movement science, and multiple dance forms within a performative context.

The project investigated biomechanics, anatomical awareness, strength, and other related skills required to transpose classical pointe vocabulary into West African dance masquerade practices.

African masquerades are represented by communal societies within the various ethnic groups. Their aim is to elevate the spirit of the departed through dance.

Ballet in its early history placed women on pointe to appear more supernatural and many romantic ballets address the ballerina on pointe as a spirit.


The fusion of West African dance masquerades (often danced on stilts) and the ballerina on pointe offers an interesting intersection of grounded earth driven movement with that of the light, ethereal nature of ballet.

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In keeping with tradition, this project is meant to honor my beloved teacher and mentor
BaBa Kwame Ishangi who was a dancer and reknowned masquerade culture bearer

Through a collaboration with Burkina Faso dance artist Irène Tassembédo, I designed a conditioning program specific to the needs of Tassembédo’s choreographic creation. By utilizing Katherine Dunham's barre in pointe shoes I was able to address the relational change to gravity between the bounded verticality of ballet and the horizontal, grounded internalized experience of west African ritual dance forms.


Irène Tassèmbédo is a formidable artist with 31 years as a choreographer working internationally throughout Europe and North America. She established Ballet National du Burkina in Ouagadougou in 1998 and went on to create Compaigne Ebené and Fusion dance companies in Paris, France. Tassèmbédo now directs École Internationale de Danse in Burkina Faso. Through her choreography, she seeks to ripen the language of dance and align multiple dance voices into a cohesive thread.

The creative activity that Tassèmbédo and I agreed to undertake dares to continue expanding the conversation of traditional African dance forms and contemporary ballet by delving into the complexities of both forms of dance coupled with the specificity needed in training dancers to have the required dexterity in both.

A significant portion of my career has been devoted to classical ballet, modern, and African-contemporary dance. It is at these professional intersections that I now seek to integrate my research in functional anatomy and somatic practices. 


Incorporating pointe technique with West African stilt masquerade dances opens the door to exploring un-limited possi-bilities for innovative pointe work.

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