TRACES - 2025 Ouidah - January 3rd to 19th

TRACES 2025 - the axis syllabus© in BENIN

 

Interweaving Wisdom XI Edition

Dance Training / Creative Enquiry / Final Performance

Ouidah:  January 3rd to 19th

Direction: SONAGNON In collaboration with:

La Radice dei Viandanti ETS

Axis Syllabus Research Meshwork

Le Grenier du Corps

With the support of:

the City Council of Ouidah

the Collectif des Acteurs Culturels de Ouidah (CACO)

 

Artistic and educational direction: 

Eric ACAKPO and Francesca PEDULLÀ

Production Assistance: Nuria BOWART, Kerwin BARRINGTON

Logistic Team: Barbara KPOLMALEGNI

Teachers: Eric ACAKPO, Francesca PEDULLÀ, Frey FAUST, Richard ADOSSOU, Kerwin BARRINGTON

Musicians: Eric ACAKPO, Aliou GUESSERE and invited musicians

Photographer: Barbara CALI

 

Info and registration:
tracesformation@gmail.com

 


TRACES BEGAN

TRACES began in 2012 as an annual movement education program based in Ouidah (Benin) involving mainly local traditional, contemporary, hip hop and breakdancers, as well as dance artists and musicians from all over the world.

Traces is the fruit of the twenty years that dancer, choreographer and pedagogue Francesca Pedullà and musician, pedagogue and Vodun priest Eric Acakpo have spent creating contexts where ancient and current practices can communicate with and enrich each other.

The premise of TRACES is rooted in the work that Eric and Francesca began in 2005, to create the possibility to examine and eventually mitigate the impact of prejudice and stereotypes, to favor artistic endeavor as an expression of the power of collective reflection and elaboration, and to enable the recognition of dialogue” as the indispensable instrument of survival for navigating a realistic relationship between different cultures.

Originally addressing Beninese and Togolese artists, TRACES focuses on the transmission of the knowledge  collected in The Axis Syllabus© for the analysis and re-elaboration of the traditional dances of Benin. Since 2017, TRACES has woven an ever stronger link between the Axis Syllabus Research Meshwork (ASRM) and Benin's and Togo’s traditional and contemporary dance circles, by periodically organizing residencies in the historic city of Ouidah which are open to international experts and participants. Ouidah, the cradle of the Vodoun culture and one of the historical centers of the transatlantic slave trade, is an important current crossroads for several cultures. Inspired by this history, TRACES offers an open-research context of intercultural dialogue and artistic exchange.

TRACES LANDMARKS

In TRACES we confront ourselves with a variety of culturally articulated organizational and knowledge-gathering modalities, and we view these differences as a value.

 

TRACES revolves around some fundamental points:

- the desire to perpetuate and grant access to Fon and Yoruba cultural heritage

- the desire to give keys to musicians and dance artists that further the embodiment, transformation and application of the  
   underlying principles of these cultures to their creative and/or pedagogical practices.

- to maintain the roles that dance and music have in conveying wisdom and social value.

- the awareness that in this process there is a risk of losing sophistication or specificity. 

- the recognition that cultural diversity, the effects of historical, political and economic vicissitudes make this path perilous, but not unattainable.

TRACES 2025

After ten editions this 11th edition of Traces open a new chapter with two novelties:

 

THIS YEAR TRACES  offers 2 Modular Formats :

Dancing Bodies / Open to Everyone 

- Dance Training  (3 hours a day)

-  Field Visits

 

Leaving Traces / open to a limited number of people - by invitation only   

  •  Dance Training  (3 hours a day)
  •  Field Visits
  •  Creative Enquiry  (3 hours a day) 
  •  Performative Evening

TRACES recently entered into partnership with Le Grenier Du Corps Training Center (Marseille). 

Le Grenier du Corps has obtained the QUALIOPI quality label, and is therefore State-approved. Financial support will therefore be available for intermittent French entertainment workers through AFDAS.

 



SCHEDULE

 

Arrival Date:   JANUARY 2nd or 3rd   /   Departure Date:  JANUARY 19th or 20th January

Classes will happen in different venues in Ouidah, some in an open-air space on sand.

Meals will be served from the evening of the 3rd to the evening of the 18th.  

On Sundays no meals will be served.

Lunch at 13.00 / Dinner at 20.30

 

Friday 3rd

16.00                Welcoming and orientation circle

17.00 to 20.00  Dancing Bodies  - dance training

 

SATURDAY 4th

9.00 to 12.00    Dancing Bodies - dance training

17.00 to 20.00  Leaving Traces- lab

 

SUNDAY  5th    Rest Day

 

MONDAY 6th  to THURSDAY 9th

9.00 to 12.00    Dancing Bodies - dance training

17.00 to 20.00  Leaving Traces - lab

 

FRIDAY10th 

Field Visit- Vodoun National Celebration

 

SATURDAY 11th -

9.00 to 12.00   Dancing Bodies - dance training + Field visit

17.00 to 20.00  Leaving Traces - lab + Field Visit

 

SUNDAY  12th    Rest Day - Possible field visit in the afternoon

 

FROM MONDAY 13th to FRIDAY 17th

9.00 to 12.00   Dancing Bodies - dance training

17.00 to 20.00 Leaving Traces -lab

 

SATURDAY 18th

9.00 to  12:00  Rehearsal

18.00 to 21.00  Leaving Traces Performative evening

 

SUNDAY 19th

Closure

 

* see CURRICULUM for Classes  & Lab Description

* Local conditions might require us to alter the schedule. Classes will be taught in French. An English translation will be provided if necessary

 

DANCING BODIES / Dance training + Field Visits

Class Descriptions & Teachers


The Axis Syllabus 
Somatological Alignment - Cues to transmitting information about the body in motion
Teachers:  Frey Faust, Francesca Pedullà
Our current physiology is a common heritage, a mix of biological, chemical and cultural bodies, unified and selected by nature over million of years. We carry knowledge of intuitive experiences, results or processes of anatomical and biomechanical studies, an accumulated understanding of physics, functionality and efficiency combined with a rich sensory network. This gives us the possibility to reflect on commonalities in almost anything we do, for example when dancing traditional or contemporary styles. We can analyze traditional approaches, discover variations on pattern combinations, beliefs, practices and attitudes towards the body, and sort out what is useful for our current context. Using recent biomechanical studies, we can consider all these layers of life in ourselves in order to find more sincerity and meaning while dancing. 

 

Ancient Kinetic Wisdom  Analysis and reelaboration of traditional dances

Teachers: Francesca Pedullà, Eric Acakpo, Richard Adossou

Live Music: Eric Acakpo; Aliou Guessere and invited musicians

During the work, we will discover the universal bio-mechanic and the subtle, rhythmic principles on which some of the traditional motifs are built. We will look at the tools that the Axis Syllabus can offer us to read, analyze and embody the traditional dances from Benin. (spinal mechanics, alignment review, basic physic, elastic recoil…). We will step further by learning some traditional dances and relating them to their context (content, meaning, spatial relation and dialogue with the rhythm). With the help of our musicians we will discover the fundamental architecture on which the rhythms that we are dancing are built. We will analyze the relationship between the main rhythms and we will start to recognize the voice of the soloist drum. Moreover we will use the gathered experience to move towards creative collective and personal re-elaboration. 

 

Music Analysis

Teacher: Eric Acakpo, Aliou Guessere and invited musicians
In the tradition, dance and music are inextricably linked and in continuous dialogue. Mirroring each other they come together in a single language that is in continuous metamorphosis. During this workshop we will discover the fundamental architecture on which the rhythms that we are dancing are built. We will analyze the relationship between the main rhythms and we will start to recognize the voice of the soloist drum.

 

Field Visits -  Observing ritual as a practice for transmutation  -  a collective experience

Facilitators: Eric Acakpo , Francesca Pedullà

As an essential part of the program we will visit a few Vodoun ceremonies, in order to contextualize our research and be exposed to the social and spiritual roles with which the dance and music are vested. This is an invitation to experience and re- elaborate collectively their powerful potential for expression. The inquiry revolves around these fundamental questions: How do ancient values and practices adapt to and manifest in contemporary society? Is it possible that ancient and current performative practices could enrich each other?

  

LEAVING TRACES / Creative Enquiry & Final Performance 

Facilitators: Francesca Pedullà, Eric Acakpo, Frey Faust 

Invited Expert: Kerwin Barrington - Photograph, video testimonial: Barbara Calì

Leaving Traces represents a return to the origins of our project, which sought to unravel and manifest the potential for dance and music to become a bridge-builder and a means for social, political and cultural inquiry, as well as the desire to make the most of years of collective experience, and leave tangible testimonies on which to continue building.

 

Art is admittedly not an instrument for changing the world. Art, as it entertains us, creates a bridge to an imaginary world beyond the quotidian, stimulating the senses and the mind of the observer. Although art might not be able to dissolve or resolve social issues, it can serve to inspire and galvanize collective energies for that task.

 

In the first part of the Lab we will mostly train to observe our ideas a priori, our behaviors and our projections. We will interweave different human sciences (ancient and contemporary)  with the art of movement, in order to refine the relationship between sensing, acting and thinking. Through games, practices, improvisations and discussions, we will practice how to listen, watch, receive and exchange.

We will  focus on two fundamental questions:

  • How do we perceive contemporary Benin? Can we put these perceptions in relationship with other contemporaneities? 
  • What defines individuality or collectivity? What are the benefits and limits of either?

In the second part of the lab we will work collectively to create a methodology, a series of intuitive associations  to see how, as artists, we can look at these complexities while letting them pass through our bodies to manifest vividly.

Kerwin Barrington's  intervention will open up a possible perspective on which we can build new things together.

Finally, we will build a performative structure which we will present at a local venue at the end of the investigative period.


WORDS FROM KERWIN BARRINGTON
As a participant in TRACES in 2019, I experienced a profound personal and artistic transformation. I was deeply touched by the deep cultural access allowed by the communal embodiment of these ancestral, timeless dances that are inextricable from live music, singing, rhythm and story telling. The experience provoked me to ask: What are the dance traditions of my culture? How were/are these dances transmitted? 

Since then, I learned about my Scottish, Irish, English and French descent. My ancestors lived in the Chateauguay Valley, Quebec, Canada since the late 1700s. I found, contacted and studied with local bearers of these traditions, my “dancestors”: Janice Barr, Bruce Barr, Angela Neal and Pierre-Paul Savaria. They taught me the regional Square Dances during community gatherings which also included live music, song and storytelling. 

For me, teaching in Benin as a part of TRACES 2025 is about completing the cycle that began in 2019 and nourishing the beginning of a new one. 

 

I am extremely curious about the following:
How will the Beninise climate, landscape, socio-political reality and ways of being with rhythm inform/change these dances?
How might other cultural backgrounds from the diverse participants influence the interpretation of these dances?
As we learn from the differences, might unity be revealed as well?  


During the labs, I will facilitate dance experiences which prompt different interpretations of Quebecois dance and stimulate reflections around these questions. To do so, I plan to tell the story of my time in Benin in 2019 which led to this research. I will give a brief overview of Quebecois culture around the dances and music, and teach two dances taught to me by my teachers. 

The dance experiences will include:

The dissection of the movement, spatial and rhythmic patterns of the dances. 

A 30 minute improvisational practice, as to encourage integration through experience. 

Time for individual reflection and group discussion 

 

PARTICIPATION CONDITIONS

 

Dancing Bodies  is open to 35 people (20 residents in Africa, 15 from abroad)

 

The Fee For non African Residents is:  950€

 

The participation fee includes:

Dance training ( 3 hours each morning)

field visits 

housing: 

For participants from abroad: a single room hotel  (from the 2nd to the 19th of January)

lunch and dinner 

- Does not include breakfast

- Does not include local transport

 

Leaving Traces is open to 14 people (8 residents in Africa, 6 from abroad) by invitation only.

If you are interested in participating send a short bio and motivation letter to tracesformation@gmail.com -

We will contact you to set a zoom meeting to knows us better.

 

The Fee For non African Residents is:  1.050€

 

The participation fee includes:

Dance training ( 3 hours each morning)

field visits 

Creative Enquiry lab ( 3 hours each afternoon)

Housing: 

For participants from abroad: single room hotel  (from the 2nd to the 19th of January)

lunch and dinner 

- Does not include breakfast

- Does not include local transport

REGISTRATION and CANCELATION POLICY

Confirm your registration by the 10th September 2025

Non residents must send 450€ registration fee by the 1st of  October 2025

Non residents must reserve their flight and submit a copy of their plane ticket before the  10th November 2025

Every participant is responsible to inform themselves about local visa, vaccination regulations.

The organization can provide invitation letters if required by visa regulations or if the participants need to apply for funding.

Traces is a high risk undertaking. 

The  registration fee is non-refundable. However In case of illness, serious family problems or canceled flight, TRACES will return 50% of the deposit (225€)

 

Responsibilities :

All participants must guarantee their participation in the entire curriculum

All participants are encouraged to help with basic community tasks.

 

Transport, Housing and Meals:
The organization will undertake to reserve housing, transport from and to the airport in Cotonou, and provide lunch and dinner.

Traces will only take care of transport from and to Cotonou, housing and collateral logistics from the 2nd to the 19th or 20th  of January.  Please let us know your food allergies, intolerances, or other personal needs in advance.

 

 

To know more about us : SONAGNON.ORG