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A Rhythmical Journey: [ZØGMA] shares folklore through contemporary dance

Sokalo Remix no. 5 with Irish guests performers. Photo credit: Vitor Munhoz.

[ZØGMA] supports the creativity of choreographers who propose a contemporary approach and a new aesthetic of Québec’s folklore, merging dance, music and song into powerful, rhythmic works. You can see [ZØGMA] perform here in Vancouver at the Talking Stick Festival. 


We chatted recently with co-founding artistic director of [ZØGMA], Mario Boucher, as he answered a few of our burning questions about his extraordinary professional percussive dance company.

What work that [ZØGMA] will be performing at this year’s Talking Stick Festival?

Mario Boucher: The work is called Sokalo and it was created in 2012. The inspiration for this production came from memories of our tours: the cities we visited over the years, the people we met, and the funny moments we lived together. Our creative team captured the essence of all these beautiful memories and that became Sokalo. As you may know, a Zocalo (which is pronounced “Sokalo”) in Mexico is a gathering place where people meet and get news from one another. Our Sokalo is a gathering place where we wish to share our memories with the audience.

During all of the years this production has been touring, we’ve had opportunities to work with several dance groups. Whether it was in Yellowknife, in Winnipeg, in several cities in Québec, in Ireland, or now in Vancouver, each time, we invite the groups to include some of their work in the production and we create a short work together. The production has became Sokalo Remix and incorporates repertoires from both companies. While in Vancouver, we will be working with dancers from V’ni Dansi – The Louis Riel Métis Dancers to what will be Sokalo Remix n° 7.
For those who are unfamiliar with this incredible genre, what exactly is percussive dance?
MB: One could define it as a highly rhythmic and musical form of dance that relies on the execution of foot-based dance sequences.  Step dance, or tap dance for example, would be considered percussive dance. At [ZØGMA], we consider any kind of dance to be percussive dance where rhythms are created, either with foot-based or hand-based rhythmical patterns or both at the same time. Such a form of dance would include Hungarian Legényes, South-African gumboot, Argentinian malambo, Spanish flamenco, and so on. Most cultures have one or several forms of percussive dance.

Sokalo Remix no. 5 with Irish guests performers. Photo credit: Vitor Munhoz.

With a contemporary approach to sharing folklore through dance, [ZØGMA]’s style is very unique. What meaning does this approach have for you, personally?

MB: I think that most people tend to associate folklore with the “good old days” as opposed to a living form of arts, craft or knowledge. And most of the time, at least in French, we use the word in a pejorative way. We forget that the word itself is the contraction of the words “folk” (people) and “lore” (knowledge). So, folklore is a knowledge that is transmitted from one generation to another, usually orally. I think that we all carry a little piece of folklore within ourselves, whether it’s a dance, a musical tune, a song, a way of making something, or a way of saying something, etc.

This being said, when we created this company, we decided to call it ZEUGMA ([ZØGMA] in phonetic alphabet). A zeugma is a figure of speech where a word applies to two other words in different senses. And this is what we are trying to do with folklore: to give a whole different sense to it. When we decided to create our first production, we weren’t trying to reproduce on stage the way people used to dance with the general feeling usually associated with that type of dance. We use a more contemporary approach, which allows us to use the powerful percussive expression of Quebec’s Gigue mixed with the fluidity of contemporary movements to address topics that are more relevant to us. We express feelings to which traditional dance is not usually associated. Of course, all this is being done in the greatest respect of the people who have transmitted this knowledge to us.

What are you most looking forward to about your tour to the west coast?
MB: I would say the few hours we will spend with V’ni Dansi – The Louis Riel Métis Dancers. For us, every moment we spend with a dancer who works with a technique that is different from ours is a moment of learning and discovering new ways to express ourselves. This meeting will also allow us to learn more about the Métis culture/traditions and, at the same time, see how their artistic director, Yvonne Chartrand (who is also a contemporary dancer and choreographer), is inspired by her traditional background and how that reflects in her work.
Can you describe Sokalo in just three words?
MB: A rhythmical journey. Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.17.41 AM

[ZØGMA]‘s Sokalo will be presented on February 16 &18, 2018 as part of the 2018 Talking Stick Festival. Get your tickets here.


Mario Boucher started dancing at the age of 15 with several Quebec folk ensembles. At 19, he took an internship with Bulgaria’s State Folklore Ensemble Pirin where he studied under the artistic direction of Kiril Stefanov. In 2001, with Dominic Desrochers, Frédérique-Annie Robitaille and Sylvie Mercier, he founded Zeugma, Collectif de folklore urbain. Since 2003, he’s devoted himself exclusively to the artistic direction of Zeugma, which has became one of Quebec leading dance companies, presenting over 500 representations of their creations on four continents.