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Choreographies of African Identities

Negritude, Dance, and the National Ballet of Senegal

Francesca Castaldi

Publication Year: 2006

Choreographies of African Identities traces interconnected interpretative frameworks around and about the National Ballet of Senegal. Using the metaphor of a dancing circle Castaldi's arguments cover the full spectrum of performance, from production to circulation and reception. Castaldi first situates the reader in a North American theater, focusing on the relationship between dancers and audiences as that between black performers and white spectators. She then examines the work of the National Ballet in relation to Leopold Sedar Senghor's Negritude ideology and cultural politics. Finally, the author addresses the circulation of dances in the streets, discotheques, and courtyards of Dakar, drawing attention to women dancers' occupation of the urban landscape.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

Many experiences and people have made this writing possible. I wish I could thank you in a circle, in a merry-go-round. Please forgive the linearity of the page and the impression of beginning and ending that it imposes upon us. Read this not as...

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Introduction: Positionality and the Choreography of Theory

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pp. 1-16

Dance and Africans have a long-standing association that has been nurtured through the last two centuries by colonial histories and anticolonial struggles. On the colonial side of history, the coloring of the African body with the heavy tones of racist discourse and the devaluation of dance as a prediscursive form of expression concurred...

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1. The National Ballet of Senegal at a Theater in California

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pp. 17-33

Irvine, California,March 1995. This is the land of highways, malls, and parking lots: Southern California, the “Inland Empire.” My car is my most precious asset in this empire, where the lack of adequate public transportation and a staunch belief...

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2. African Dance, Africanist Discourse, and Negritude

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pp. 34-59

This chapter applies the genealogical method ofMichel Foucault and its appropriation by V. Y.Mudimbe to interrogate the constitution of “African Dance” as an object of study and a discursive field.Mudimbe, in The Invention of Africa (1988) and...

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3. The Naional Ballet of Senegal at the National Theater in Dakar

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pp. 60-69

Dakar, February 1996. I sit in a crowded courtyard, the neighbors’ giant speakers blasting hip-hop through the air, the vibrations bouncing over the concrete wall that separates the two households. The music thunders loudly once a week, as the neighbors...

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4. Sabar Dances and a Women's Public Sphere

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pp. 70-101

Dakar, Dakar, Dakaaaru! Yeggal, bu gaw [Get on, quickly]!” The apprenti— the boy who collects fares and taps on the roof of the van to signal the driver when to stop and when to move again—pushes me into the vehicle, helping the woman behind me load...

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5. Tales of Betrayal

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pp. 102-123

The first cup is sweet, even aromatic at times, with a mint leaf added to the brew. Bintu and I smile at each other.Usually the men like to prepare attaya, and to serve it via a young boy to all the members of the family and the guests, letting the slow...

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6. The Circulation of Dances on and off the Stage

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pp. 124-149

In chapters 1 and 3 I have analyzed the performances of the National Ballet of Senegal as a product consumed by white foreign audiences comfortably seated at the theaters in California and Senegal. In chapter 2 I have looked at the narratives and historical...

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7. Urban Ballets and the Professionalization of Dance

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pp. 150-173

Ballet troupes animate most of the popular neighborhoods of Dakar, rehearsing in schoolyards, classrooms, youth centers, football fields, and other open spaces. Every late afternoon,when the heat of the day is more bearable, a fluctuating membership...

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8. Exploiting Teranga

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pp. 174-196

The hospitality of this country, this is how we’re praised. The singer’s singing the hospitality of Senegal, the rapper is telling about the hospitality of Senegal, the writer is writing about...

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Conclusion: Negritude Reconsidered

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pp. 197-204

In this final chapter I will reexamine the relationship between the interpretation of ethnicity offered by the National Ballet of Senegal on the stage of the theater and the interpretation of ethnicity offered by Négritude ideology on the stage of national politics.To do so we need to interrogate the ways in which Négritude, as the ideology...


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pp. 205-222


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pp. 223-236


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pp. 237-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090783
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030277

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Dance -- Anthropological aspects -- Senegal.
  • Blacks -- Race identity -- Senegal.
  • National Ballet of Senegal.
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