Our art and entertainment editor Zela Gayle looks into the life of Alesandra Seutin, a Zimbabwean born choreographer and artistic director known for her distinctly theatrical choreographic and movement vocabulary which combines physical theatre, innovative scenography, text and dance
Alesandra Seutin was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1980, the year her country got its independence, to a family where dance was a tradition. So when the family moved to Brussels, she began learning Hip-Hop dance from her older brother who danced in groups, and who trained Alesandra constantly since she was eight. Four years later Alesandra was introduced to the formal world of Ballet.
In an exclusive interview with this magazine, she revealed the bitter truth about how her ethnicity was viewed with far more interest than her abilities to perform was a challenge she needed to overcome. She was made aware in many occasions that her physical abilities would be hampered by her “flat feet, arched back, or rounded behind,” which was regularly mentioned by her ballet teacher.
It didn’t stop her. Widening her experiences, Alesandra kept the fire in her burning with her discovery of Jazz dance taught by Isabelle Becquet who inspired her own natural talents with the very masterful dancer Alvin Ailey and dance company which beamed lights of hope when Alesandra was introduced to the fact that “black dancers were capable of mastering the classical aesthetics, which my Ballet teachers never made me believe,” she said.
The path for her career in expressive dance was cleared. Alesandra moved to London when she turned 18, with the intention of “training more, to further my dance experience [and] focusing on my aspirations to become a Dance Artist.”
While studying her BA in Dance, Alesandra participated with friends in a community event which brought her routine into the limelight. Then in came the birth of her dance company: the ‘Vocab Dance Company’ and with it her visions of fusing African traditional dance with contemporary and urban dance form, which has become her platform for expressions. “Dance for me is a way of expression and through my work I intend to speak volumes.”
As a winner of Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD) Trailblazer Fellowship 2009/10, Alesandra has achieved many tributes for her profession as Choreographer and Artistic Director. Since its inception, Vocab Dance Company (VDC) has gained international recognition, emerging as a strong and distinct element within the Dance scene. It has become a leader in Afropean Dance too, a rich blend of African and European dance forms. Alesandra combines her brand with distinctly feminine themes and was rewarded with training and residency at the prestigious Ecole des Sables Centre for African Traditional and Contemporary Dance in Senegal, where she was acknowledged as a leading Dancer and representative of the company by artistic director Germaine Acogny, who is known as the “Mother of Contemporary African Dance”.
Renowned for her distinctly theatrical choreographic and movement vocabulary which combines physical theatre, innovative scenography, text and dance, Alesandra’s repertoire of work is focused on the exploration of subjects which influence our society, and captivates her audience in a journey of compelling and outspoken dance theatre. Her works have been performed widely through the theatres of national and international stages.
Her dance company VDC works with diverse collaborators and artists to create multidisciplinary performances accessible to a global audience. The choreography is inspired and created from the inside out producing raw and engaging works, driven by Alesandra’s energy. She has invented a style called Afro-Eclectic, which sums up the energies expressed in VDC. Combining Afro-Electric with the Acogny technique from Ecole des Sables Centre, she is ready to reveal new skills in her abundant calendar of performances slated for 2014. As she prepares to be a part of a prestigious performance at London’s Sadlers Wells theatre this September, Alesandra prides herself on her research methods for dancers who are given tasks that ensure clarity in their interpretations of her concepts, Afropean dance.
Alesandra’s repertoires of venues include, among others, some of the top theatre and dance venues in England such as The Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Riley Theatre. The Purcell Room, The Place, The Arcola, Stratford Circus and The Yorkshire Playhouse. The audience of Sadler’s Wells Theatre can be proud to be the first to see the solo premiere by Alesandra Seutin of “Ceci n’est pas Noire” (This is not Black), part of Wild Card, a mixed bill of innovative female choreographers performing a variety of dance theatre, songs, spoken word and music.
Ceci n’est pas Noire is a reflective journey of an Afropean woman delving into her personal memories whilst unfolding subjects and opening themes about the experience of identity.
Audiences in Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Cameroon will have to wait until 2014 to express their joy in the Solo wonders of Alesandra Seutin.
Photo – Luke Das