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Nelisiwe Xaba and Kettly Noel in Correspondences. Photo by Eric Boudet.^495

Voices of Strength: A Mini-festival of Contemporary Dance & Theater by Women from Africa

Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali) and Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa)

They met through a friend in Johannesburg. A year later, they decided to create a piece together. They met again briefly in Port Elisabeth (South Africa) and got to know each other better. Another meeting in Bamako, then in Bern. After that started a series of correspondences...

Correspondances is a lively and sophisticated duet that is part theater, part dance and part storytelling. Noël and Xaba come together for a raucous conversation on diverse subjects - ranging from the superficial to the profound - that address the intimate fabric of friendship while exploring themes of race, culture and gender.


Kettly Noël
Originally from Port au Prince, Haiti, choreographer and dancer Kettly Noël has created a body of dance work over the past 15 years, seen widely in Africa and Europe, that deals with identity, and the fight for position of African artists and women, and includes Ti'chelbé, Errance, L'Autre, Zones Humides Imaginaires and Bonjour Madame Noël. She began dancing at the age of 17 with the Haitian-American Dance Theatre (now World Dance Theatre), and relocated to Paris in the early 1990's, where she trained as a dancer and actress and founded her first company. In 1996, she moved to Benin, where she continued to develop her choreographic technique while starting a program to train youth in contemporary dance. Ms. Noël relocated to Mali in 1999, and founded Donko Seko, an organization with a space for dance workshops and choreographic research (with the first dance floor in Bamako); established the Bamako Dance Festival (the first international festival of contemporary dance in Mali); and expanded her dance training program for youth and adults. In 2010, Donko Seko hosted the biennial Danse L'Afrique danse festival.

Nelisiwe Xaba
Nelisiwe Xaba was born and raised in Soweto (South Africa), and received a scholarship to study at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation. After studying dance in London (with a 1996 Ballet Rambert Scholarship), she returned home to join Pact Dance Company, where she was a company member for several years, and with whom she toured to Europe and the Mideast. She worked with a variety of choreographers, visual and theater artists, particularly Robyn Orlin, with whom she created works such as Keep the Home Fires Burning, Down Scaling down, Life after the credits roll, and Daddy I've seen this piece six times before and I still don't know why they're hurting each other, which toured for several years in Europe and Asia, winning the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. In 2001, Ms. Xaba began to focus on her own choreographic voice, creating solo and group dance works that have been performed in Africa and Europe, including Dazed and confused, No Strings Attached 1, No Strings Attached 2, Be My Wife (BMW)(commissioned by the Soweto Dance Project), Black!.. White and Plasticization. Her most recent work, Uncles and Angels, is an interactive dance/video collaboration with Mocke J van Veuren. Ms. Xaba has also collaborated as choreographer and dancer with fashion designers, opera productions, music videos, television productions, and multimedia performance projects.