Dance Preview: The subject of debate

By Janice Tran

What do a politician, Socrates and Zab Maboungou have in common? The answer is they all like to debate–how they choose to do it, on the other hand, is a bit different. Politicians and Socrates choose to convey their arguments through words, whereas dancer Maboungou chooses a different approach to debating. Maboungo’s latest work Nsamu–which translates to “The Subject of Debate” in Kikongo–is an attempt to explain the concept of debate through contemporary African dance and live percussion music.

Nsamu is a serious debate that may not be resolved,” Maboungo the choreographer and dancer in the project explains. “We are debating about things that are hard to fix, so while we are in this discussion, we are not sure when it is going to end. Nevertheless, we are certain that it needs to be discussed.”

Nsamu, and many other Maboungou pieces, share a foundation built around African culture. Raised in Congo-Brazzaville, Maboungou was immersed in the cultures of Africa and its many dance forms since she was a child.

“I learned to dance before I really knew it was dancing,” she says. “In Africa you just enter into the circle because people are dancing around you . Whether it was a marriage or a child being born, there would be a dance. You would find everybody in your family dancing and you would just join in and dance with them. So I really learned to dance at a very early age but it was around 13 years old I decided that to me, dance was going to be important. This was a serious moment of awareness that has never left me since.”

Currently living in Montreal, Maboungou is a well respected expert in the field of contemporary African dance, both in Canada and the rest of the world. Her in-depth knowledge of the African dance forms has brought her prestige and acceptance from universities and dance institutions around the world.

“I had to research and dig into the culture to come up with a vocabulary that would allow me to express my personal experiences and issues,” recalls Maboungou of how she developed her unique approach towards African dance. “When you talk about African dance you are talking about a melting pot; an intercultural exchange of different rhythms and forms of dances in Africa. I got part of my basic knowledge from [Congo]. After I left to live in France, I met other Africans with their own dance forms, which gave me exposure to other kinds of rhythms and techniques.”

With Maboungou’s vast African dance experience and knowledge, Nsamu will be an accurate and captivating performance worth debating.

Leave a comment