The audience in Ace Morgan Theatre last Friday (April 26) watched as dancer Olivier Tarpaga moved around a sparse set performing his work, “Not Because You’re African.” At the end of the piece, as he bowed with the musicians who had accompanied him, his young daughter, who had been lying on her stomach watching from the edge of the stage, stood up to greet him. It was a special moment after his emotional performance, which was inspired by real events in his life as an immigrant and explored complex themes, like Franc-Afrique alliances.
Tarpaga, who also is a choreographer and musician, was performing in “Africa Moves!” — a program presented by the Department of Dance in collaboration with three unique African dance companies.
Tarpaga’s work was one of several pieces performed in “Africa Moves!,” which included traditional works by the Thiossane West African Dance Institute; contemporary pieces by Stafford Berry, assistant professor of dance; and explorations of violence and racism that were created by artists from the Berry and Nance Dance Project, which was founded by Stafford Berry and C. Kemal Nance, associate professor of dance performance at Swarthmore College.
By evening’s end, the audience had been treated to a wide array of African dance, and the offering was extended the following morning, as the artists gathered again for a master class in Doane Dance Studio, and then again during another performance Saturday evening.