Tabanka Dance Ensemble provides audiences with an exclusive experience of expertly produced high-quality, contemporary dance work, which makes full use of the rhythm, vitality, culture and audience engagement practices of Africa and the Diaspora. Tabanka is firmly planted in the intersection between ground-breaking performance, artist development, education, community & youth engagement. Tabanka is internationally known as the seat of the Talawa Technique™, one of few fully codified African and Caribbean dance techniques.
Spearheaded by the professional dance ensemble, Tabanka amplifies the voice of the unheard masses. The ensemble provides platforms that pioneers, promotes and centers an artistic legacy for Black Nordic Personhood.
The company has reached more than 786 000 audiences, have an average of 97% ticket coverage and produces two main stage production per year. The company’s youth work reaches a yearly average of 16000 teens and young adults. Tabanka is visible across multiple platforms with videos seen more than 16 million times on Youtube and a Facebook following of 72 000. Tabanka used Snapchat, Instagram and other digital platforms both to engage with audience and community and to release the potential of these platforms as artistic stages in their own right.
Tabanka designs unique experiences for any audience, high art, business event or community activity. African and Caribbean dance permeates all of society, and we firmly believe dance should not be limited in its application and value. Tabanka consults for and collaborates with a range of organizations to motivate, train and support institutions in their creative thinking, health, and audience development work.
As one of the leading institutions of African Diaspora Dance in Europe and the Nordics, Tabanka seeks to advance the sector through sharing knowledge, practices, and advocating for equity within the European and Nordic art sectors as well as society at large.
African Aesthetic Dance
Tabanka uses the rich aesthetics of Africa and the Caribbean in order to create vibrant contemporary work. The performance technology of deep cultural rituals are given a continuation as it claims new spaces through reverse colonialization. Ancient Future is a central principle of narration in Tabankas art. Audience and dancers are weaved through call and response, as they imagine, forward, and back, together.
The body mediated through perceptions about identity, belonging, ethnicity and colour, is a central theme in our thinking surrounding identity today. In Tabanka we lead a close dialogue with our ancestors´ moveable architecture and our own sensorial perception of the reality and ourselves.
The black body in motion is tainted by strong contrasts of associations: the primitive, urban, animalistic, sensual, forbidden, dangerous, liberal, conservative, political, humorous, free and enslaved. In Tabanka we want to have a fearless approach to this, and seek to challenge the black body’s artistic potential. The black body’s many powerful associations, myths and taboos gives it an unique ability to create temporal displacements, and embody memory-technology in our use of narrative layers. This we explore and use as a strong artistic means.
Tabanka takes upon itself what the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere, in his description of arts ethical-political potential, called “the redistribution of the sensory. The art is political because it can contribute to challenge the existing redistribution of what can be seen and heard, and by whom.
We open up for new sensory fellowships. By representing untold and undertold realities and fiction, in Norway and in the West, we challenge the current distribution of what is real or fictitious, and myths about who, what and how it is physically move in Norway and in the West. Tabanka confronts established stories about the body – especially the black body – and consequently also about the world and our existence.
Africanistic diaspora art has a tradition of focusing on the context of bodies and identities, as part of the danced ritual. Africanistic deep cultural traditions communicate and relay visible and invisible knowledge and experiences through the body. This creates both sympathy and empathy on a muscular level. The audience can sense this through the dancers´ body.
The dancers transfer, through movement, the most immaterial and intangible of these experiences. This is further enhanced through the´ “call and response” tradition, which reformulates the contract between the spectators, audience and the staged subjects.
Tabanka attracts a very heterogeneous audience, that extends beyond and crosses boundaries, be it geographical, cultural, ethnic, experiential, sociocultural, and political, not at least in terms of the question of identity. This is a new and unique audience composition in Norway. Tabanka makes use of African and Caribbean performance methodology in order to break down hierarchical systems and oppositions between the different audience members´ knowledge and experiences. The result is a sensory fellowship in which the audience is enhanced as a norm-breaking and meaning-creating participants, who are woven into the fiction of the art piece. Transforming the audience into bound and participatory witnesses to the identity that is about to manifest itself through the danced
THE TALAWA TECHNIQUE
A Fully Codified System
Talawa Technique is a fully codified and examinable technique for Africanistic kinaesthetic movement.
The Talawa Technique seamlessly merges ancestral movements, culturally contextualized vocabulary and contemporary movement sensibilities. It bridges the gap between “urban freestyling”, traditional and contemporary dance. Thus offering a fused approach to stylized movement for stage and art production.
Talawa Technique uniquely combines rhythmic structures, a specialized approach to grounding, and traditional African Aesthetic movement qualities, such as: trembling, shaking, undulating and pulsating.
The Talawa Technique makes a clear distinction between aesthetical and technical choices. This allows the dancer to develop full ownership of their bodies natural bends and curves. The approach connects them to history and culture in an empowering way. Dancers are guided to skilfully master multiple isolations and polyrhythmic articulations, alongside the work of breaking down mental and cultural barriers, in order to free movement. The technique uses knowledge and culture as a liberating tool to create confident performers, who embrace their own identities, as well as the multiple identities of africanistic movement.
In Tabanka we aspire to draw heavily from the movement elements from danced rituals from Africa and the Caribbean. From deep within the body, the polyrhythm, the hip rotations, and the extreme contrasts of the rituals, vibrations will stem and blend into black bodies in danced rituals made to fit the specific context and diaspora in Norway and the West. Not without causing reactions, ranging from harmony to dissonance. The dancer´s flow, vibrations, transitions and breaks will nevertheless be felt and perceived through our many senses, also those that do not have had traditions to uphold them in the West.
The company talents
The Tabanka dancers are talented pioneers who have dedicated their lives to the to the furtherment of the African Aesthetic arts, as well as the engageing of community. They believe that art has the power to improve the quality of life for all people.
Founder, Artistic Director, Talawa-Technique Developer
Thomas Talawa Prestø
Head of Technique Instructor, Principle Dancer, Solist
Wolman Michelle Luciano
Rehearsal Director, Principle Dancer, Soloist
Founding Member, Principle Dancer, Soloist
Former Dancers. Left 2020
Ekperedinma Clarice Okeke
Shirley Adffo Langhelle
Victor Amel Olivares Pedersen