Interview with Bouchra Ouizguen by Dance Critic Mari Takeda (Part One)
©Compagnie O Mylène Gaillon
An interview with Bouchra Ouizguen, a dancer and choreographer taking part in Kyoto Experiment 2019. Ouizguen held a workshop in July where participants from Kyoto could experience music and dance from her country of Morocco.
—Was the dancing you practiced at the workshop at Kyoto Art Center traditional Moroccan dancing?
Ouizguen It is traditional dancing that people still dance to this day. It is danced for celebration such as at weddings and for birth, and in rural areas also to celebrate harvest and for seasonal festivals. I wish to emphasise that it is not the popular type of dancing that you learn at dance school. In Morocco from the 1980’s until 2000’s, the education for theatre and dance was mainly derived from Russia and France; this, is something completely different.
I have never been to dance school, and my training was made according to autodidacte and to artists I met. “What does performance mean to Morocco?” – this is something I have always been questioning, by incorporating the strongly unique Berber culture with the Arabian culture, music and costume.
—When did you start dancing?
Ouizguen When I was 15 years old. First, I started off solo. In 2001 when I was 21, I formed a collective of three choreographers, and in 2007, my own company “Company O”. The people coming with me to Kyoto are members of this company.
—In your background, it says that you have worked with Mathilde Monnier (*1) and Boris Charmatz (*2). How did you meet them? Did you study in France?
Ouizguen No. Mathilde heard from a friend that there is an interesting person, so she came to see my performance in Morocco. I did not know of Mathilde at the time, but after the performance, she approached me and offered to make a new performance together. I decided to accept the offer as the piece would tour around Morocco. She also asked if I would be interested to come to France to study, but I declined. If it were Africa or Asia, I would go, but not Europe. After that, I was told about a program in which I could stay in Montpellier for 6 months; I took part in this as it had scholarships for creative artists in visual arts and performance.
—And how did you meet Boris Charmatz?
Ouizguen I met him during my stay in Montpellier, but I did not know of him until then. The good thing about going into a new world, is that you don’t know who is who, so you can meet even famous people as simply another human. Kyoto is the same for me. Boris offered if I would like to do something for a year after the project in Montpellier, and although I was grateful for this, there was already a project undergoing in Morocco, and as it was something that nobody has ever done before in Morocco, I wanted to do more research in the rural areas. I told Boris that if conditions meet, and it could be linked with what I was doing in Morocco, I would like to accept his offer. I already knew that Morocco had great possibilities though my research, so even if I was to leave the country, it would have to be for a reason that would bring a positive change upon myself and my country.
—There are many non-western artists who travel to Europe and America during their career to learn the western methods. However, you decided to set your axis in Morocco from the very beginning, without holding a western influence.
Ouizguen Until not long ago, more often than not, Moroccan artists would not come back once they left Morocco. There are difficulties to do with visas, the opportunities gained while travelling the world are not found in Morocco, and to go overseas is also an effort to make people’s dreams of a “better life” come true. In the 2000’s, all of our artists left to go to the West, and it was only the three of us in our collective that remained in the country. After that, we created opportunities for festivals and education, and slowly, the number of choreographers who came back started to increase. The next generation have taken this over, and are working to start up festivals of various themes and sizes in Tangier and Casablanca. This scene is in their hands also; we are creating a history together.
(*1) French choreographer b. Born in 1959. One of the standard-bearers of Nouvelle danse.
(*2) Born in 1973. French choreographer, prompting revolution to the contemporary dance. Official participant of Kyoto Experiment Spring 2016.
Interviewed and organised by Mari Takeda (Dance critic)
At HOTEL ANTEROOM KYOTO on July 11th 2019