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 VII Edition

Interweaving Wisdom

Ouidah: From January 30 to February 16 2020

Directed by: SONAGNON Cultural Association (Benin)

In collaboration with:
The International Research Network Axis Syllabus
Posidonia Green Project

With the support of:
the Ouidah City Council
the Collectif des Acteurs Culturels de Ouidah (CACO)

Artistic and educational direction: 
Eric ACAKPO and Francesca PEDULLÀ

Assistante with artistic and educational direction: Sara PARISI

Coordination: Barbara KPOMALEGNI, Edoardo BRODASCA, Baris MIHCI

Teachers: Eric ACAKPO, Francesca PEDULLÀ, FAUST Frey, Baris MIHCI, Sara PARISI, and invited dancers
Musicians: Eric ACAKPO, Aliou GUESSERE and invited musicians
Photographer: Barbara CALI

Info and registration:

 Watch TRACES 2019

Initiated in 2012, TRACES is a multidisciplinary study in dance, music and choreographic creation structured by several modules. Originally addressing Beninese artists, TRACES focuses on the transmission of the knowledge collected in the Axis Syllabus for the analysis and re-elaboration of the traditional dances of Benin.
Since 2017 TRACES has woven an ever stronger link between the Axis Syllabus International Research Network and Benin's  and Togo’s traditional and contemporary dance circles, by periodically organizing a residence in the historic city of Ouidah that is open to international experts and participants.
Ouidah, which is the cradle of the Vodoun culture and center of the transatlantic slave trade, is an important crossroads of the meeting of several cultures. Inspired by this history, TRACES offers a context of open research on dialogue and artistic exchange. Our intention is to transmit movement and choreographic skill and share experience without imposing an aesthetic style. 
By inviting participants from all over the world, TRACES aspires to confront them with different culturally articulated ways of organizing or accessing knowledge.

Our main objectives are:
Provide inter-disciplinary tools, structure them to stimulate individual creativity
Make the cultural treasures of Beninese accessible by sharing them with a respectful approach using the tools offered by the Axis Syllabus.
To test the impact that the encounter between different forms of art and different cultures can have on each of us.

Reassured by the experiences of the past years, TRACES 2020 will host a new residence by expanding its activities on other dimensions such as: Carnival, photo exhibitions of past editions, the creation of a show to be presented at the end of the training ... all this open to the public for active involvement in the historic city, Ouidah.

We are convinced that each individual, each culture in its own specificity, contributes to enriching a "universal" CULTURE


Arrival Date: Thursday 30th or Friday 31st of January
Departure Date: Sunday 16th or Monday 17th of February 

The Classes will happen in different venues in Ouidah / Some in an open air space on sand
Meals will be served from the evening of Friday 31st to Sunday 16th noon at the Oriki Bar, Quartier Zomai . Lunch at 13.30 / dinner at 20.30

Friday 31st 
16.00  Welcoming and orientation circle
Saturday 1st 
from 9.00 to 13.00 Opening - Carnival in the street of Ouidah
14.00 Lunch
17.00  Field Research visit in Ouidah
Sunday the 2nd
13.00 Lunch
17.00 to 20.00  Class

From Monday 3rd to Friday 7th
9.00 to 13.00  and 17.00 to 20.00 Class with alternating teachers 
Saturday 8th   
9.00 to 19.00 Field Research visit in a closer village
Sunday 9th FREE

From Monday 10th to Friday 14th
9.00 to 13.00 Class with alternating teachers
17.00 to 20.00 Creative Lab
Saturday 15th 
9.00 to 13.00 Field Research visit in Ouidah
18.00 to 21.00  Leaving Traces Performative evening
Sunday 16th
10.00 to 17.00 field visit in Ouidah

* Local conditions might require us to alter the schedule.
* Classes will be taught in French. An English translation will be provided if needed

Fee for non-African resident: 1200€

the participation fee includes:
field visits 
housing: single room hotel  (from Thursday January 30th to Sunday February 16th)
lunch and dinner (participants will provide for their own breakfast)
local transport is not included

Participant Conditions:
Confirm your registration before the 30th of November 2019
Non residents must send 600€ before the 15th of December 2019  
Non residents must reserve their flight and submit a copy of their plane ticket before the 15th of December 2019 
Every participant is responsible to inform themselves about local visa and vaccination regulations
The organization can provide invitation letters if required by visa regulations or if the participants need to apply for funding.

Responsibilities :
All participants must guarantee their participation in the entire curriculum
All participants are encouraged to help with basic community tasks.

Transport, Housing and Meals:
The organization will undertake to reserve housing, transport from and to the airport in Cotonou, and provide lunch and dinner.
Traces will only take care of transport from and to Cotonou, housing and collateral logistics from the 30th to the 17th of February

Please let us know your food allergies, intolerances, or other personal needs in advance.


The Axis Syllabus - Somatological Alignment
Teacher:  Frey Faust
Somatological alignment implies respect for the inherent design of the body in the practice of postural "Neutrality". Practically speaking, postural neutrality is evident in the disciplined habit of joint contiguity or articular congruity while moving or when still. In this workshop, Frey will look intently at the body's reoccurring fractal paradigms, and consider how we enter into relationship with our body, with the environment, and with others as we dance.

Ancient Kinetic Wisdom  
Analysis and re elaboration of traditional dances

Teacher: Francesca Pedullà & Eric Acakpo and invited traditional dancers 
Live Music: Eric Acakpo; Aliou Guessere and invited musicians

During the work, we will discover the universal bio-mechanic and the subtle, rhythmic principles on which some traditional motifs are built. We will look at the tools that the Axis Syllabus can offer us to read, analyze and embody the traditional dances from Benin. (spinal mechanics, alignment review, basic physic, elastic recoil…).
We will step further by learning some traditional dances and relating them to their context (content, meaning, spatial relation and dialogue with the rhythm)
With the help of our musicians we will discover the fundamental architecture on which the rhythms that we are dancing are built. We will analyze the relationship between the main rhythms and we will start to recognize the voice of the soloist drum.
Moreover we will use the gathered experience to move towards creative collective and personal re-elaboration. 

Timeless language 
Ancient bodies seen with current science
Teachers: Baris Mihci and Frey Faust 

Our current physiology is a common heritage, a mix of biological, chemical and cultural bodies, unified and selected by nature over million of years.
We carry knowledge of intuitive experiences, results or processes of anatomical and biomechanical studies, an accumulated understanding of physics, functionality and efficiency combined with a rich sensory network. 
This gives us the possibility to reflect on commonalities in almost anything we do, for example when dancing traditional or contemporary styles. We can analyse traditional approaches, discover variations on pattern combinations, beliefs, practices and attitudes towards the body, and sort out what is useful for our current context. Using recent biomechanical studies, we can consider all these layers of life in ourselves in order to find more sincerity and meaning while dancing. 

Hip Hop over Borders
Teacher: Sara Parisi

Although Hip Hop began in the USA, its rapid international expansion and the social empowerment the burgeoning community has provided to its adepts through the years, benefits from a solid philosophy of individual innovation and cultural porosity. This inclusive philosophy allows individuals to excel in their own expression, yet find solidarity and support. The principal values of Hip Hop are: to gather people, accessibility for all social groups, space to share creatively.
In this session, we will explore the possible gestural meaning and rhythmic sophistication of a few of the traditional HH styles formally as well as biomechanically, while drawing parallels and integrating some fundamentals from occidental, eastern and eastern traditional dances.

Leaving Traces
Creation lab
Facilitators: Francesca Pedullà, Eric acakpo, Baris Mihci, Frey Faust, Sara Parisi

Leaving Traces  is a moment for all participants to find an avenue to express or extrapolate something of their own experience. The facilitators will suggest manifestation and editing methodology, but are mainly there to support a personal process. There will be an informal performance at the end, as a means of sharing the result of the process in the form of a coherent, abstract and compact trace.

Fa – The art of Divination
Teacher Eric Acakpo 
“The Fa”, a cultural archive of Indo-European, middle eastern, and African influences, is a compendium of fables, legends,  songs, metaphors and symbolic references, as well as a divination or scrying method. A critical key to understanding the mores and world views of many modern African cultures, “The Fa” links story, song and sophisticated moral instruction to a mathematical structure that stimulates memory and provokes reflection and self discovery. With a life-long, passionate dedication to the study and practice of this system, Eric is a humorous, methodical, patient and competent master of “The Fa”.

Field Research / collective experience
As an essential part of the program we will visit a few Vodoun ceremonies, in order to contextualize our research and be exposed to the social and spiritual roles with which the dance and music are vested. This is an invitation to experience their powerful potential for expression.


Dance-artist Francesca Pedullà and musician Eric Acakpo work together since more than 10 years, teaching, creating contexts for cultural and artistic exchange and performing in Benin and abroad. They founded the Beninese Cultural Association Sonagnon in 2006 with the aim to protect and share the richness of Beninese culture and provide an exchange platform for artists from all over the world. From 2008 to 2012 they co-directed the international project Dialogues Inévitables realized in collaboration with various cultural association and with the support of several international institutions. Since 2012 they co-direct TRACES, an annual professional educational platform for dance and choreographic practice based in Cotonou and Ouidah with the collaboration of the Axis Syllabus International Research Network.

Their artistic and pedagogic collaboration focuses on the fundamental spiritual and social roles in which dance and music are vested in Benin’s culture. Their attention is captured by the structure and phasing of ritual as a performative act where the body, the rhythm, the voice, the gesture and repetition become instruments of evocation, portals for connection and access to collective memory. These processes translate from the persona to the collective and although structured, leave space for improvisation.

Links to our previous projects: 

Francesca Pedullà – dance artist, independent curator and a dance teacher. Holds a Masters in History of Theatre and Performing Arts, a diploma as professor of African Dance Expression - FEIDA Bordeaux. Certified to teach the Axis Syllabus. Since 1998 she spends several months a year living in Benin, who's culture has been a profound influence. Since 2005, she develops artistic works and cultural projects in Europe and Benin. Based in Berlin, she choreographs, performs and teaches throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, Israel, Brazil and Benin. Her focus looks at how structurally supported action or expressive gesture is the result of continuous adaptation. Her objective as a teacher is to stimulate a critical appraisal of the circumstances in and around us through a gradual building of a common store of technical references (biomechanics, musicality, spatial relationships) and through creative games and discussions for channeling the potential of the individual and collective body.

Eric Acakpo 
was steeped in the traditional rhythms, songs and dances of Benin since early childhood. 
Besides membership in several folkloric ensembles, he toured African and European Festivals as a dancer/musician with the Voodoo Brass Band in the early 2000’s.  
Important early dance teachers were the Italian choreographer Anouska Brodaks, and the great pedagog, choreographer, dancer and countryman Koffi Koko. He toured Europe, Central and South America as a dancer in Mr. Koko’s “Les fueilles qui resiste au vent”, a full length dance work. He then worked for Mr. Koko as a musician and assistant for several years around Europe.
In 2006 he was the only musician selected to represent Benin in the creation of the show “Africa, mais pas seulement” 
Created and curated by the Association “Melody for Dialogue among Civilizations”. The performance was presented to the then President of the Republic of Nigeria. 
In 2006 he co-founded the cultural Association “Sonagnon” with the dancer choreographer Francesca Pedullà. The objective of the Association is to highlight the art and culture of Benin and create opportunities for exchange and research contexts for artists. The Sonagnon Association receives support from the French Institute of Cotonou and from various international organizations, produces training workshops, creative residencies and performance opportunities for local and internationally based artists. The collaboration with F. Pedullà also included two co-directed performance projects: “Dialogues Inevitables” and “The Myth of the God Money”. This last work toured to Cotonou, Brussels, Genoa, Bielefeld and Berlin. 
He and Ms. Pedullá also co-direct the pedagogical initiative “Traces” Since 2012 which proposes movement, anatomy, physics and choreographic study for professional dancers. Traces is a collaboration with the Axis Syllabus International Research Network and IRSP of Ouidah. 
In 2014 and 2015, he taught at the Nomadic College Gamboa, Brazil, at the Rio Centro Centroção, Rio de Janeiro, at the Federal University of Salvador de Bahia, and at the Cultural Center Petzhold of Porto Alegre. Most recently he founded and led the musical project “Les Tambours du Benin”, with the intention to preserve and transmit traditional Benin rhythms.

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