Moving beyond hip-hop

Art November 01, 2012 00:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to

In France, hip-hop is far away from street culture

Staged as part of the 15th Biennale de la danse a Lyon, Compagnie Malka’s “Murmures” (“Murmurs”), was one of the shows the Institut Francaise included in the “Focus danse” programme for international producers, presenters, cultural officers and journalists. The programme’s main purpose is “to promote connections between professionals from France and abroad” while a secondary objective is “to encourage new synergies that drive the production and dissemination of French works”.

Compagnie Malka’s artistic director and choreographer Bouba Landrille Tchouda succeeded on both counts, showing us the result of his research with prisoners in his pas de deux with Nicolas Majou, who was a good match for him throughout the 55-minute performance. Based on, but not restricted to hip hop, the dance movements of “Murmures” reflected the physical confinement as well as internal incarceration of inmates confined to a cell and demonstrated their agony as well as their failed attempts at freedom. Staged at the Centre Culturel Charlie Chaplin, in Vaulx-en-Velin, a suburb of Lyon, the work also showed that the French choreographer, a self-taught hip-hop dancer, was more interested in the dramaturgy of the piece than technical skills. While the props – bunk, wash basin, toilet and a dominant grey wall upstage, which the two dancers occasionally tried to overcome – were realistic, I would have preferred Rodrigue Glombard’s set design to have provided a greater feeling of claustrophobia.

A highlight of the Biennale at the Maison de la Danse, “Yo Gee Ti”, meaning “organic” in Mandarin, was a unique collaboration between Compagnie Kafig – led by Mourad Merzouki, the artistic director of the national choreographic centre of Cr