A Wild Mix of Movement in ODC's Walking Distance Dance Festival

Nafi Thompson, Afia Thompson, Byb Bibene and Sevan Kelle Boult in Nkisi Nkondi coming to ODC's Walking Distance Dance Festival (Jen Phillip/ODC)

ODC's Walking Distance Dance Festival looks to be anything but bland. Among the highlights is Congolese-born, Bay Area choreographer Byb Chanel Bibene's new evening-long piece, Nkisi Nkondi. Bibene says the dance was inspired by a visit he made to a Paris museum where he first saw the statue of Nkisi Nkondi, the god of medicine and justice for the Kongo people in Central Africa.

“The sculpture of Nkisi Nkondi, everything was powerful," he told me in a phone interview. "You could almost see the statue moving behind the glass.”

The statue got Bibene thinking about colonialism, and the looting of African culture by Europeans and Americans, and what Central Africa would be like politically and culturally, if the region had never colonized. (As it happens, that's a theme in the recent Marvel film, Black Panther.)

The Walking Distance Dance Festival also features Yara Travieso's musical re-imagining of the Greek tragedy Medea, in the style of a Latin-disco variety show, and former Merce Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, improvising to the music of Philip Greenlief and the poetry of Claudia La Rocco and more.

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