Choreographer and dancer, Salim Mzé Hamadi Moissi offers a mix of female and male Comorian dances, between spirituality and extreme joy.
Strips of red and white fabric form a triangle on the stage. This fabric is Chiromani, a two-tone cotton canvas popular with women in the Comoros. He gave the name to the new show by Salim Mzé Hamadi Moissi, which was one of the highlights of the 31st edition of Suresnes Cités Danse.
Salim Mzé Hamadi Moissi is a self-taught dancer who learns to dance in the street. At the head of the Tcheza company, he supports the development of dance in the Comoros where he is from. In 2021, he created the first dance school in the Comoros, the Tcheza School.
Unbreakable masculine/feminine bond
With this new show, Salim has a clear intention: “I wanted a real conversation between men and women. Whenever we talk about women in the Comoros or even in Africa on TV shows, it’s always in their absence. I have a problem with this image and I wanted to create this dialogue with this show“, he explains.
Salim does it from the opening scene. Two women and a man stand at each corner of the fabric triangle. The man grabs the end and tests its solidity. “I wanted to talk about what binds us and we are bound by women. Even killers or criminals are attached to their mother. It sends them back to a form of vulnerability, even if they have committed the worst atrocities in the world. We will always have an unbreakable bond with the woman“, thinks Salim.
In a spectacular duel scene, two dancers confront or seek each other. One is tied at the ankle by the Chiromani and tries desperately to run away, while his opponent holds him back by pulling on the fabric. The dancers fly and fall in a struggle punctuated by moments of silence where their eyes meet, full of love and compassion. The bodies are flexible, the movements precise. Many of them come from hip-hop and breakdance.
Salim makes fun of virility with a lot of humor. One of the dancers grabs a lipstick and puts on makeup, his hand in front of his face like a fictional mirror. His comrades, in single file, take it in turns. “I wanted to talk about the difficulty for men to talk about our feminine side which exists no matter what people say, as women have a masculine side. I wanted to address all these taboos”, says Salem.
The five male dancers, including Salim himself on stage, alternate between intense moments of communion, where everyone sings and encourages each other during their comrade’s solo, and moments of dementia close to a fight. The men seem in complete contradiction with their emotions which they hardly manage to control. The irruption of the two female dancers completely reverses the situation: “We find this link with our feminine side, and especially when the woman is no longer there we immediately feel completely lost.“, explains Salim.
Traditional Comorian dances and songs, originally reserved for women, are practiced here by men: “Normally, it’s the women who set the mood by clapping and singing, and the men who dance. Here I did the opposite.“
Connection to spirits
The identity of the Comorian woman was built around the Bantu and Muslim African cultures that appeared in the 16th century. Spirituality is fundamental in the Comoros. The dancers often raise their eyes and arms to the sky: “The mdiridji is a religious and spiritual dance. It is connected to the spirits that we try to chase away through dance. They are ancient and protective dances to defend ourselves from the evil that surrounds us“, says the choreographer.
The moments when the troupe dances together are out of time. The synchronization is remarkable, the gestures are assertive and powerful. Each dancer surpasses himself, transcends himself, at the limit of possession. For Salim these joyful and strong dances are a form of ritual: “I incorporated these dances by taking up the symbolism. The leader is like the imam who leads others to try to get the evil out of the possessed dancer. I shoot these traditional hip-hop style dances.“
Chiromani to discover for a last performance, Tuesday February 7 at 8 p.m. at the Espace Paul Eluard in Stains.