African Dance: Sand, Drum, and Shostakovich (70min, BETA SP, 2002)

A documentary by Ken Glazebrook and Alla Kovgan that explores contemporary dance in Africa. The film introduces eight modern dance companies from Africa, Europe, and Canada that participated in the Festival International de Nouvelle Danse in Montreal, Canada in 1999. Through insightful interviews and outstanding performances, the film depicts a fascinating diversity of themes in contemporary African dance – interactions between tradition and modernism, consequences of colonization and urbanization, women’s self-expression, masculinity, and family relationships. The film is a unique source of inspiration for audiences of all ages and specifically dancers, choreographers, dance historians, critics, and all those interested in African culture.


The hundreds of performances organized by the Festival international de nouvelle danse form a marvellous history of contemporary dance, featuring almost every leading artist in the field. The event has become an absolute must for all those interested in the latest developments in dance. The history of the Festival itself, however, begins well before its first edition in 1985.

In the early 1970s, Chantal Pontbriand organized events in the visual arts, dance and music, bringing to Montreal a number of artists who would leave their mark on the decades to come, in particular Philip Glass, Steve Reich and their colleagues from the New York avant-garde, Trisha Brown and Simone Forti. Many Quebec choreographers, now world-famous, remember these soul-stirring times. It was during this period that Chantal Pontbriand met her future associates, Diane Boucher and Dena Davida. Individually or together, the three were producing various American, Japanese and European dance companies at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Tangente, and other alternative events. Fifteen years of independent activities thus led to the creation of FIND in the mid-eighties.

The Festival international de nouvelle danse was founded in a period of renewal within the dance world, in a wave of creative energy that began in the late seventies in Canada and abroad. Dance was beginning to forge links with other disciplines, especially theatre, film, the visual arts and music, which may explain its appeal to larger and more diversified audiences. In fact, the term "new dance" reflects this new openness, and embraces all the innovative currents that have appeared over the last two decades. Channelling this new energy required several organizational initiatives. In Montreal, the number of dance companies rose dramatically, schools and cultural institutions set up special programs, cultural institutions produced more and more shows, and links with foreign countries were strengthened.

In 1982, during this whirlwind of activity, the Festival international de nouvelle danse was created by Chantal Pontbriand, the President and Director of the Festival, together with Diane Boucher, Vice-President and Associate Director, and Dena Davida, Vice-President and Head of Special Projects. To achieve their goal of making Montreal a world capital of dance through this major international event, the founding members have relied on a number of special collaborators from both here and abroad.

How can one remain inspired by tradition but break free of its clichés as a creative artist? That is the question that several modern-dance choreographers from Africa have answered impressively and sometimes brilliantly at the International New Dance festival - Anna Kisselgoff, NY Times

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