Germaine Acogny

I'm proud to be black, to be a woman. And I teach young people to be proud of who they are.

Dancer and choreographer, founder of the prestigious École des Sables, Germaine Acogny mixes traditional African dances and contemporary dance for works that endeavour to question the ties between Africa and the West.

Updated on 05/06/2020

2 min

Born in Benin in 1944, Germaine Acogny grew up in Senegal before moving to France as a teenager. She entered the world of professional dance through her teaching, opening her small African dance studio in Dakar in 1968. Thirty years later, she created the École des Sables, the only professional dance school on the African continent, a training centre, research laboratory and meeting place.

It was with her solo work, Sahel, that she produced her first choreographic work, in 1987. One year later, YE’OU would take her around the world. 

Germaine Acogny has continued to choreograph and dance ever since. Now 75 years old, she has not given up on climbing the charts, and in 2020 will stage the duo Common Ground[s] with Pina Bausch's iconic dancer Malou Airaudo. 

Whether at the École des Sables or in her choreography, Germaine Acogny develops her own dance technique, called the « Germaine Acogny technique » or « modern African dance ». From her childhood memories, she has kept the distinctive movements of her grandmother Yoruba, a priestess, blending them with contemporary Western dances to create a unique form of self-expression, a powerful, telluric dance that blends influences from around the world.

Through her dances, Germaine Acogny questions African history and its relationship with the West. Bintou Wéré, the opera she choreographed in 2006, recounts the painful journey of African migrants on the road to Europe. 

Germaine Acogny had opened the Mudra Africa School, the precursor to École des Sables, with the great help of Maurice Béjart. In 2004, she collaborated with Japanese choreographer Kota Yamazaki to merge Buô, a traditional dance from the land of the rising sun, with contemporary African dance in Fagaala, a piece inspired by the Rwandan genocide. She has also worked together with African (Sophiatou Kossosko) and American (Jawole Zollar) artists. 

In 2020, Germaine Acognywill be working on an ambitious project with Tanztheater Wuppertal by Pina Bausch, the emblematic dance-theatre troupe, to stage the famed German choreographer’s heart-stopping Rite of Spring with 32 African artists. 

  • 1977


    Germaine Acogny opens the Mudra Africa school with Maurice Béjart.

  • 1991


    Her solo work, YE’OU, premièred in 1988, wins the London Contemporary Dance and Performance Award and takes her to international renown.

  • 1998


    Germaine Acogny opens École des Sables in Senegal and develops modern African dancing there.

  • 2004


    Her play Fagaala, about the Rwandan genocide, tours the world, winning a Bessie Award in 2007.

  • 2020


    Germaine Acogny works with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, premièring in particular Common Ground(s).

The Institut français and the artist

In the context of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Institut Français wishes to continue offeringyou portraits, meetings with creators fromall walks of life, works and portfolios. We hope these few pages will bring some breathing space back into an everyday shaped by lockdown.


Germaine Acogny will be a key figure of the Africa2020 Season, having contributed to numerous projects : creation Common Grounds at the Théâtre de la Ville, partner of the HQ L'Échangeur and godmother of the Génération A festival.


Initiated by Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, the Africa2020 Season will take place throughout France (mainland and overseas territories) from December 2020 to mi-July 2021. It will be dedicated to the 54 states of the African continent. Find out more about the Africa2020 Season


Visit the Africa2020 Season website


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