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French maestro tells 'West Side Story' - hiphop way

New Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) French dance maestro Mourad Merzouki is in India to tell a story about urban blues in his new choreography 'Wasteland' - with a fusion of flamenco, circus acrobatics and free style hiphop, the street dance of America.

2009-12-19T09:43:00Z

New Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) French dance maestro Mourad Merzouki is in India to tell a story about urban blues in his new choreography 'Wasteland' - with a fusion of flamenco, circus acrobatics and free style hiphop, the street dance of America.

Merzouki, who heads Compagnie Kafig, billed as one of the best hip-hop dance and theatre companies in France, is staging 'Wasteland' at the Siri Fort Auditorium in the capital. The show will be presented by the Embassy of France in India.

'Wasteland has been inspired by the hit 1961 Hollywood musical 'West Side Story' about two youngsters from two rival New York City gangs who fall in love. I saw it as a child and always wanted to do something like it. My show is about two rival gangs, a wizened old woman and a pretty girl, who does not want to live in the wasteland. She manages to broker peace between the gangs,' Merzouki told IANS.

The dance-theatre features nine dancers, two girls, six boys and one circus acrobat-cum-clown.

'When I was young, I loved the circus. While choreographing the show, I realized that since free-style hiphop dance involves acrobatics and aggressive body language, circus acrobatics would blend well. I have also used flamenco. The musical backdrop is a fusion of Andalusian jazz from Spain, Arabic music, French folk music and Gypsy music featuring guitars and accordion,' Merzouki said.

The stage, said Merzouki, was set like a street - almost a playground.

'The idea was to create a wasteland, ravaged by violence and hatred in an urban society. Urban wastelands are like an air bubble breathing outside any external constraints - a location in which life creeps on with its own codes and rules. It's a place where everything is possible,' the director said.

Since 1969, Merzouki has been trying to renew the language of hip-hop so that 'he could bring it to the stage with a definite choreography'.

'Hip-hop or free style acrobatic dance was created on the streets of the US (New York) by the black and Latino Americans in 1970. What sets hip-hop apart from the rest of the dance forms is that it is free style or improvisational and acrobatic with no code. Dancers perform in a cipher (circular space) and often engage in mock fights and competitions on the streets,' Merzouki said, explaining the origin of the dance.

The influence of hip-hop was felt strongly in France, a country known for its cross-cultural funky dance genres, and in South Korea.

'But the problem was that 30 years ago, when we danced hip-hop, there was no music, choreography, stage, lights or story. Over the decades, I have tried to renew hip-hop with music and plots and gave it a place on the mainstream French culture. It got a stage. Earlier, boys sometimes danced alone relying on their hip movements, but now they dance in groups in coordinated movements to new steps. It is more about technique now than body language. Hollywood movies also use hip-hop for its musicals,' the dancer-cum-choreographer said.

Merzouki is working on a new hip-hop musical 'Boxi', which will premiere in France in 2010.

'I have fused boxing with hip-hop dance and have used classical French music as the score. Boxi will feature four musicians on stage. It will be about dancing techniques, without a story,' Merzouki said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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