Coupé décalé [2e partie] - James Carlès

Author : Carles, James
Creation date : 2014

The second part, On va gâter le coin ! is dedicated to a stage performance of coupé-décalé performed by James Carlès and his five dancers.


Coupé décalé

Choreography Robyn Orlin, James Carlès

About coupé-décalé...
The project Coupé-décalé is a piece of choreography in two acts.

In the first part, entitled I Am Not a Sub-culture, Rather A Gallery of Self-Portraits with A History Walking in Circles, Robyn Orlin creates a solo with and for James Carlès, a choreographer and dancer and the initiator of this project based on coupé-décalé.

The second part, On va gâter le coin ! is dedicated to a stage performance of coupé-décalé performed by James Carlès and his five dancers.

[The term coupé-décalé comes from a form of traditional dance from the Ivory Coast, the Akoupé, from the Attié ethnic group. Combining Congolese rumba, hip hop, Caribbean music and French folk songs, coupé-décalé appeared at the start of the 2000s in Paris in Ivorian communities.]

Programme extract

“Since the origins of the project I had wanted an artistic collaboration with a very experienced choreographer/director and one interested in ideas of otherness. I only came up with this project through dialogue, discussion and shared views. I really wanted to take as big a step back as possible from this societal issues that I know well and in which I feel very involved. It was only natural that Robyn Orlin was contacted and equally so that she agreed to throw herself into this project.

Act 1: Making the invisible visible...

For Act 1, after numerous discussions and workshops, Robyn Orlin chose to draw inspiration from my personal history (familial and cultural) to 'construct' the solo. The images are real, but the stories and characters are fictitious. The solo examines otherness in Europe (France), intercultural relations and issues of territorial legitimacy. What do we really know about 'Afro-Europeans'? (Afro-French?) How do we read them and their expressions? Do we find connections in our common (hi)stories, etc? These are just some of the questions that led us, with a great deal of humour and love, to this first act... The act is built around the SAPE (Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant Persons), and the character of the SAPEUR, as this is one of the fundamental points of coupé-décalé.

Act 2: 'Textepublic'/'Textecaché' (public text/hidden text) and polysemy...
In act 2, I wanted to put some real coupé-décalé dancers on stage, using their own codes of movement, dress, language etc. My travels and research into the social dances of African descendants caused me to discover the eminently political meaning of all these dances. They are born, develop and flourish in well-defined social and (geo-)political contexts. Our reading of their movements shows us the extent to which these dances are real traces or markers of our societal history (dissent/assent).

When I first encountered coupé-décalé, I didn't understand it.  In fact, I was rather hostile towards it. It wasn't until several years later, after a discussion with young pre-teens from a school in Nantes, that I realised that something real was happening. I carried out some 'research trips' to French cities such as Marseille and Paris, followed by some time in the Ivory Coast.  I discovered the 'dual language' of coupé-décalé performers. What is said in public or shown to most people is not at all the same as what is shown to the initiated. This process reminded me of the resistance dances observed in slave-owning or colonial societies.

On the other hand, I also noticed that the semantic field of coupé-décalé dancers is – entirely voluntarily – contradictory. Indeed, a single movement or gesture can have several different meanings.

It was this reality that inspired me to compose the quintet. The video images are real. Charles Rostand and I filmed them ourselves in Abidjan. Theywere then 'recreated' abstractly and applied to choreographic scenes. These images evoke the urban world, the maquis (a type of restaurant), the 'glo glo' (shanty town), women and the numerous projections made onto them, colonial history, and many other hidden readings to be discovered in coupé-décalé which the video image metaphorically evokes.

Acts 1 and 2 constitute the two sides of the same one card.


James Carlès


Act 1: I Am Not A Sub-culture, Rather A Gallery of Self-Portraits with A History Walking in Circles

Choreography: Robyn ORLIN
Performance: James Carlès
Video: Pierre SASSO
Lighting and stage management: Arnaud SCHULZ

Act 2: On va gâter le coin !

Choreography: James CARLÈS
Performance: Brissy AKEZIZI, Clément ASSÉMIAN, Gahé BAMA, Franck SERIKPA, Stéphane MBELLA
Vidéo : Charles ROSTAN
Music: James CARLÈS, 
Charles ROSTAN
Lighting and stage management: Arnaud SCHULZ

production Centre National de la Danse

duration 35 + 45 minutes

Latest update: September 2014

carles, James

James Carles is a choreographer, researcher and lecturer. He received initial training in dance and music of Africa and its Diaspora and then trained with the great names of modern dance in New York and London mainly. Since 1992, he hired an artistic and analytical approach that explores the “places junctions” between the dances, rhythms and philosophies of Africa and its Diaspora with technical and western thoughts frames. To date, his company’s directory contains more than fifty pieces of his own creation and authors like Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Talley Beatty, Asadata Dafora, Geraldine Armstrong, Rick Odums, Wayne Barbaste, Carolyn Carlson, Robyn Orlin, etc.

Dancer soloist and outstanding performer, James Carles was performer and artistic collaborator for not only numerous “all music” ranging from Baroque to contemporary music, through jazz; but also choreographers such as Carolyn Carlson, Robyn Orlin, Rui Horta, Myriam Naisy, etc.

Artist associated with Astrada- Jazz In Marciac 2012-2014, research associate in the laboratory of the University LLA Créatis Jean Jaures Toulouse, James Carles is particularly invests in heritage projects for diversity and diffusion of choreographic culture. He is also founder and artistic director of the festival “Dances and Black Continents”.

This video is also available on


Centre national de la danse

Centre national de la danse

Founded in 1998, the Centre national de la danse (CND) has advantages which make it a unique centre dedicated to dance. Its strengths come from its assets: the skills of its staff and the diversity of specialisation offered; a renovated and comfortable building in Pantin (Paris), twelve studios, three of which are open to the public for shows or performances, a multimedia library, a projection room, collections and a whole range of training courses, resources and services for professionals and companies. The Lyon/Rhône-Alpes CND provides continuity for all the projects in its region.

See collection