Josephine Baker

Mirror and Shadow

A series of interdisciplinary live performances combining physical theater, contemporary dance, poetry, chanson, film, and photography. 

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

a symbolic connection

©SOURCE-internet

The series of performances explores a symbolic connection between Josephine Baker (1906-1975) and Etoile Chaville (1982-). Both artists are afro descendant, dancer-singers and have the French citizenship. Both inherit the history of slavery and the European colonialist past. However seventy-six years separate them and their lives unfold in very different socio-economic contexts. 

©Klaus Lehman

 Baker was the first Black female to become a star and a world-famous entertainer. She was also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and for assisting the French Resistance during World War II.

A dialogue between past
and present

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

Built as a dialogue between past and present, the performance series explores the imprint left by colonial societies on subsequent generations and questions their influence on our vision of the world and of the Other. Etoile Chaville explores how her own body is the vehicle for this collective heritage and seeks to resolve the following questions:  Where do our images around the black female body come from ? How have these images been created and why ? How do these images live in the collective unconscious and define – without us noticing – part of our beliefs and opinions ?  Is it possible to transform those images and thus decolonize collective consciousness ? 

creating new
visually striking representations

The performance series is based on the iconography shaping Baker’s artistic identity. Chaville starts by working from drawings, posters, songs, objects and movements which define Baker`s artistic identity. But instead of reproducing them identically, Chaville modifies their elements to subvert their codes, creating new visually striking representations, breaking audience expectations and generating thought. 

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

 The point is not to reproduce Baker’s work, but to use it as a focus, to understand, in which extent Baker – as a black, female, artist – was trapped in colonial perspective, in which extent she was able to thwart or manipulate it, and in which extent our own way of seeing and thinking is still very much impregnated by the colonialist past.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild, author of "The black dancing Body" and "Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance" gives her permission to use audio material from interviews she gave about about Josephine Baker, a.o. for the BBC-Programm "Black Music in Europe".

Choreography

This series of performance merges contemporary dance, chansons, physical theatre, humour and poetry. Etoile Chaville creates an intriguing world in which past, present and future are constantly interacting. Like a surrealist painting, characters and historical, political or musical references are juxtaposed in a non-linear way.

One of the particularities of Chaville’s choreographic writing is to integrate the sung or spoken voice with an abstract movement vocabulary. However the emotional content strongly influences the form of her dance, bringing out its powerfully expressive character. In the performances, she develops a hybrid choreographic language, integrating characteristics from african-american dances like charleston and the idiosyncratic moves of Josephine Baker.

Music

The banjo is the instrument in african-american musical history most closely connected with african traditions, among others because slave- owners prohibited the use of african drums in the United States. In the 1920s, the banjo was the only instrument used in a typical jazz-band that was not also used in styles of purely european origin.

©Photomusix/Cristina Marx
© Marie-Hélène pic'art

 Etoile Chaville works in close collaboration with composer and guitarist Julian Datta.

The basic material consists of songs interpreted by Baker on the one hand – which made her a famous singer in France – and on the other hand songs of the african-american tradition in which race relations and racial conflicts were mirrored and commented on. 

The interpretation is partly inspired by the methods of free jazz, drawing a connection to the civil-rights-movement of the 1950s and -60s, the historical context in which this style developed. In addition, textures from the field of contemporary improvisation are made use of.

About The Performances

For each performance, improvisation is at the center of the choreographic process and is based on one or several topic chosen in advance. 

For instance, the performance’s imagery could refer to the following themes : 

  • European colonial and slavery past,
  • body image, 
  • female violence, 
  • the perception of feminity and masculinity,
  • the « Rainbow tribe » and the ability of young children to live together, 
  • Baker’s activism in France, Germany and the USA. 

Each performance of the series may happen in a theatre or site specific (for instance in an art gallery, a museum, a cinema, a school,  university conference, etc.)

Previous Art Residency

©SOURCE-internet

a symbolic connection

The series of performances explores a symbolic connection between Josephine Baker (1906-1975) and Etoile Chaville (1982-). Both artists are afro descendant, dancer-singers and have the French citizenship. Both inherit the history of slavery and the European colonialist past.

 However seventy-six years separate them and their lives unfold in very different socio-economic contexts. Baker was the first Black female to become a star and a world-famous entertainer. 

She was also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and for assisting the French Resistance during World War II.

©Klaus Lehman

A dialogue between past and present

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

Built as a dialogue between past and present, the performance series explores the imprint left by colonial societies on subsequent generations and questions their influence on our vision of the world and of the Other. Etoile Chaville explores how her own body is the vehicle for this collective heritage and seeks to resolve the following questions:  Where do our images around the black female body come from ? How have these images been created and why ? How do these images live in the collective unconscious and define – without us noticing – part of our beliefs and opinions ?  Is it possible to transform those images and thus decolonize collective consciousness ? 

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

A dialogue between past and present

Built as a dialogue between past and present, the performance series explores the imprint left by colonial societies on subsequent generations and questions their influence on our vision of the world and of the Other. Etoile Chaville explores how her own body is the vehicle for this collective heritage and seeks to resolve the following questions:  Where do our images around the black female body come from ? How have these images been created and why? How do these images live in the collective unconscious and define – without us noticing – part of our beliefs and opinions ?  Is it possible to transform those images and thus decolonize collective consciousness ?

creating new visually striking representations

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

The performance series is based on the iconography shaping Baker’s artistic identity. Chaville starts by working from drawings, posters, songs, objects and movements which define Baker`s artistic identity. But instead of reproducing them identically, Chaville modifies their elements to subvert their codes, creating new visually striking representations, breaking audience expectations and generating thought. 

© Marie-Hélène pic'art

creating new visually striking representations

The performance series is based on the iconography shaping Baker’s artistic identity. Chaville starts by working from drawings, posters, songs, objects and movements which define Baker`s artistic identity. But instead of reproducing them identically, Chaville modifies their elements to subvert their codes, creating new visually striking representations, breaking audience expectations and generating thought. 

 The point is not to reproduce Baker’s work, but to use it as a focus, to understand, in which extent Baker – as a black, female, artist – was trapped in colonial perspective, in which extent she was able to thwart or manipulate it, and in which extent our own way of seeing and thinking is still very much impregnated by the colonialist past.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild, author of "The black dancing Body" and "Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance" gives her permission to use audio material from interviews she gave about about Josephine Baker, a.o. for the BBC-Programm "Black Music in Europe".

Choreography

The series of performances merges contemporary dance, chansons, physical theatre, humour and poetry. Etoile Chaville creates an intriguing world in which past, present and future are constantly interacting. Like a surrealist painting, characters and historical, political or musical references are juxtaposed in a non-linear way.

One of the particularities of Chaville’s choreographic writing is to integrate the sung or spoken voice with an abstract movement vocabulary. However the emotional content strongly influences the form of her dance, bringing out its powerfully expressive character.

In the performances, she develops a hybrid choreographic language, integrating characteristics from african-american dances like charleston and the idiosyncratic moves of Josephine Baker.

Music

©Photomusix/Cristina Marx

The banjo is the instrument in african-american musical history most closely connected with african traditions, among others because slave- owners prohibited the use of african drums in the United States. In the 1920s, the banjo was the only instrument used in a typical jazz-band that was not also used in styles of purely european origin.

Music

The banjo is the instrument in african-american musical history most closely connected with african traditions, among others because slave- owners prohibited the use of african drums in the United States. In the 1920s, the banjo was the only instrument used in a typical jazz-band that was not also used in styles of purely european origin.

©Photomusix/Cristina Marx
© Marie-Hélène pic'art

 Etoile Chaville works in close collaboration with composer and guitarist Julian Datta. The basic material consists of songs interpreted by Baker on the one hand – which made her a famous singer in France – and on the other hand songs of the african-american tradition in which race relations and racial conflicts were mirrored and commented on. The interpretation is partly inspired by the methods of free jazz, drawing a connection to the civil-rights-movement of the 1950s and -60s, the historical context in which this style developed. In addition, textures from the field of contemporary improvisation are made use of.

About The Performances

For each performance, improvisation is at the center of the choreographic process and is based on one or several topic chosen in advance. 

For instance, the performance’s imagery could refer to the following themes : 

  • European colonial and slavery past,
  • body image, 
  • female violence, 
  • the perception of feminity and masculinity,
  • the « Rainbow tribe » and the ability of young children to live together, 
  • Baker’s activism in France, Germany and the USA. 

Each performance of the series may happen in a theatre or site specific (for instance in an art gallery, a museum, a cinema, a school,  university conference, etc.)

Previous Art Residency

Josephine Baker - Mirror and Shadow

A series of  interdisciplinary live performances combining physical theater, contemporary dance, poetry, chanson, film, and photography. 

CONTACT

E-mail: info(@)etoilechaville.com
Mobile:+49 (0)176 992 880 30

CONTACT

E-mail: info(@)etoilechaville.com
Mobile:+49 (0)176 992 880 30