Interview: Bawren Tavaziva

Thursday 1 March 2012 by Carmel Smith

Bawren Tavaziva was born in a rural village near Masvingo in Zimbabwe. He danced for five years with Tumbuka Dance Company in Harare, touring across Africa and Europe, before coming to the UK to join Phoenix Dance Theatre. He formed his own company in 2004 and is based in London, at Bernie Grant Arts Centre – but the inspirations for his work are world wide. He tells us more…

Your latest work, which premieres at The Place on 13 March, came out of a recent trip to Malawi – what took you there?
I have always been fascinated by Malawi and its culture and last year I had the most amazing opportunity to take a trip there to do some research and development. I found the trip truly inspiring and learnt so much about the Malawian people and their way of life. What also struck and intrigued me from the beginning was how untouched and unaffected Malawi is by the UK and America, the rawness and roots of the country is so rich.

Why ‘Sensual Africa’?
The word sensual has so many different meanings particularly here in the UK. The male and female initiations in Africa are sensual as they are each boy and girl’s rite of passage to adulthood, despite the fact that they are sometimes harsh and brutal it is seen as a process that you have to go though to become a man or a woman therefore being sensual.

What was it about the Tumbuka & Chewa tribes which grabbed your imagination/inspired you?
I am totally fascinated by the Tumbuka Tribe’s movement patterns and their style of dancing ‘muganda’ – the style is very unpredictable and cannot be taught, it is just inbred. They don’t work from counts they use their eyes and instinct and the percussion and power of the drum.
With the Chewa Tribe I was more interested in their style of male and female initiations, they are vicious and painful and young boys are taken off into the bushes and beaten many times and the girls are taken off into the bushes by the elder women and taught how to be a good wife and how to look after their husbands. These ceremonies are always done in private and rarely spoken about, however every young boy and girl has to go through the initiation in order to achieve adulthood.

What first sparked your interest in dance?
My Mum and Dad

You grew up in Zimbabwe – what brought you to the UK?
Phoenix Dance Theatre – I used to watch the videos over and over again and I knew I wanted to dance for the company. At the time Neville Campbell was the Artistic Director and was a big inspiration to me.

You must have had experience of many different dance forms – how do you describe/think of your own dance style?
The vocabulary is always growing and developing, but the at the heart my dance style is a fusion of African and Contemporary dance.

Who/what have been big influences on you?
Neville Campbell, Netherlands Dance Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre

Was being a finalist in the 2004 Place Prize life changing?
Being a Finalist of the Place Prize made my dreams come true! I’ve always wanted the opportunity to choreograph and make work and grow a company, so being a finalist combined with the funding from the Arts Council I have been able to set up Tavaziva Dance, create work, compose music, work with amazing dancers, choreographers & musicians as well as touring and being able to share my own Shona culture with audiences.

And what’s next?
To continue growing and developing and feeding myself with rich experiences that I can explore through dance and music. I want to work with known and unknown choreographers from all over the world to showcase their work with Tavaziva Dance.

Tavaziva Dance present Sensual Africa at The Place 13-14 March, 8pm Online booking

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