Based in Paris after working for a decade in New York, Gwen Rakotovao is an award-winning dancer and choreographer, and a TEDx speaker. She won the first prize (gold medal) at the 2012 Biarritz International Contemporary Dance Competition. Additionally, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Performing Arts (Licence Arts du Spectacle - Danse) from the University Paris 8 and a Master of Arts degree in Performance Studies from New York University. Her dance creation and research focus on topics such as rituals, black studies and movements of resistance.
Gwen's first encounter with dance was through the malagasy movements and rhythms. She then received her early training in Ballet and first performed in Normandy in major venues and festivals such as the Viva Cité and the Transeuropéenne. She then expanded her dance training in Jazz, Modern, and contemporary techniques. In Paris, while training at the Institut de Formation Professionnel Rick Odums, she became a prominent member of the Jeune ballet Jazz led by Rick Odums. In New York, after graduating from the Alvin Ailey School, Gwen joined BodyStories/Teresa Fellion Dance and became a soloist and Associate Artistic Director. Furthermore, Gwen worked with Regina Nejman, H.T.Chen, Whitney V. Hunter and Brian Carey Chung. Her performances history includes the Fringe festival in Edimburgh, the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Skirball Center For the Performing Arts, Dixon Place and the Chen Dance Center Theater. Back to Paris, she worked and toured with Qudus Onikeku’s creation We Almost Forgot. She performed in the Installation for dance DO NOT ENTER choreographed by Medhi Farajpour at the Institut du monde arabe and accompanied by video and photo installation of Cedric Matet and sound installation of Cassandre Martinez “Les Passagers”).
The Gwen Rakotovao Company was founded in 2011. Gwen was commissioned the same year by the QAS Festival (Quaterly Arts Soiree) to create a dance piece on award-winning composer Yasuhiko Fukuoka’s music, Longing Hurled Into The River Piedra. The dance piece was a tribute to Japan following the devastating earthquake of March 2011. Since then, the Gwen Rakotovao and her Company toured its repertory in New York at Dixon Place, John Ryan Theater, Triskellion Arts, Movement Research, the Secret Theater, the Green building. And around the world at the Théâtre Charles Dullin in Rouen, The Riley Theatre in Leeds, National Conservatory of Oujda, Alliance française in Bangkok, I’Institut Français in Agadir, Sala Galileo in Madrid, Afrik Urbanarts in Abidjan, International Chopin festival Urodzinowe in Warsaw, Festival Souar Souar in N’Djamena to name a few.
Gwen Rakotovao is also the founder of the dance program Masimihanta, an outreach dance program in Madagascar which aims to help them build self-confidence. As an educator, Gwen was invited to teach Masterclass and dance workshops in prestigious institutions and cultural centers. She taught at the Conservatory of Rouen, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, the Juste Debout School in Paris, the ENDCC - National School of Classical and Contemporary Dance in Mexico City. Additionally, Gwen Rakotovao received the esteemed Rick Odums Fellowship, The Region Haute Normandie French Government Grant, The Rosella Hightower Summer Fellowship and the LCU Fund for Women's Education.
Her latest dance and research project MITSANGANA was recently presented as a “Danced Conference” at La Maison Rouge in Martinique.