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Friday night at Le Cotonnier. The evening calm is shattered by distorted bass blaring through blown speakers. The insistent beat sends a message across the village and into the fields beyond:
There is a ball tonight at Le Cotonnier!
Tonight we will pound our feet on the concrete slab where millet was drying in the midday sun only hours ago. Tonight we will be transported by the ecstatic music from Cote d’Ivoire and Niger. Tonight we will drink warm beer and, as if in a trance, we will forget about yesterday. And dance, dance, dance...
Each year I spend the fall in the West African country of Burkina Faso. There I teach digital photography to American college students in a study abroad program through Santa Clara University. My students stay in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital, for the first weeks of instruction and then I take them to live in remote villages without electricity or running water where they photograph, experience traditional village life and do internships in rural libraries.
I live in the village of Bereba. Friday is market day and people from all the neighboring villages gather to shop and socialize. On most Friday nights there is a dance at Le Cotonnier, a small outdoor bar on the edge of Bereba. A noisy gas generator powers an antiquated music system and a local DJ spins African CDs. The dancers range in age from small children to older adults. On the concrete dance floor they perform intricate routines, combining moves by James Brown and Michael Jackson with hip-hop and tribal dance steps. I join them, photographing as we dance. It is dark and everyone is in constant motion. I love the energy, the heat, the movement, and the way my flash captures these moments that otherwise go unseen.
— David Pace