With Fouad Boussouf, a Franco-Moroccan choreographer and dancer, it is often a question of memories, souvenirs, traces. On stage, he conjures up poems, texts, songs, artists, that have marked his childhood or his career. Each time he delivers a new interpretation of them, confronting them with hip-hop vocabulary, the strength of the group, and electro beats in order to create a new somewhere else. The pieces in his latest triptych Transe (2013), Näss (2018) and Oüm (2020) are all witness to his desire for cultural blending.
1) From Morocco to France, a never-ending dialogue
Born in Morocco between Fes and Meknès, Fouad Boussouf arrived in France in 1983 at the age of 7. Since then he would never cease to maintain the link between these two cultures. He came to dance through hip-hop in the 1990s. At the age of 20, he settled in Paris for his studies. At that time, dance played an ever-increasing role in his life. He met artists, trained, and passed on his knowledge to young people in social and community centres in the Paris region. Alongside this, he completed his master’s dissertation in social sciences entitled: “Hip-hop dance, an identitarian closure or a factor of social integration? The case of North Africans”.
Fouad Boussouf interviewed by Café More
Fouad Boussouf set up his company Massala in 2010 in the Val-de-Marne, where he built up a solid network of cultural partners in France, as well as overseas and particularly in Morocco. He has always wished to create some of his shows in his native land and confront his dancers and his artistic team with the energy of the Maghreb. The residencies in Morocco are “genuine opportunities to create encounters between my homeland and my teams to help them understand the origin of my inspiration and the poetry that flows from it. It is also and always an opportunity for me to be nurtured by that special atmosphere of Morocco, via the language, music, architecture, people”. (Fouad Boussouf)
2) A triptych to recount the memory of the Arab world
After Transe in 2013 and Näss in 2018, Fouad Boussouf rounds off with Oüm in 2020, a trilogy dedicated to the Arab world. The major upheavals over the last few decades in this region resonate with the choreographer’s own memories, tinged with traditional musics and dances. He purses research into physical, tribal dance, where bodies are driven to exhaustion, just like in repetitive, meditative trance, a recurrent theme in his work.
TRANSE, a piece for 7 Transeurs - Fouad Boussouf
I drew my inspiration from North African rites and the contemplative gestures of dervishes. Trance, that altered state that takes us to another place ...
Transe was created in 2013 in the aftermath of the “Arab springs” Revived in April 2016 in Ramallah, the piece combines Mahmoud Darwich’s poetry with a collective organic ritual that verges on ecstasy. The continuous thrust of the initial entity is driven by a powerful music that combines electronics and classic Arab melodies.
“The textual references accompany me in each of my creations and the title Näss — meaning “people” in Arabic — is a direct reference to Nass el Ghiwane."
Näss thus pays choreographic tribute to the musical group Nass el Ghiwane, which, in the 1970s, blended sub-Saharan tradition, gnawa songs, electrical acoustics and Anglo-Saxon pop. Massala has rewritten this recent past, stylising it thanks to the vocabulary and the consummate art of hip-hop. For example, the gestures of invocation and entreaty become here movements of pure dance.
“I composed Näss like a breath, both physical and mystic, which reminds me of the need to be firmly anchored to one’s land to better feel its vibrations."
Oüm pays tribute to the encounter – one thousand years apart – between the Egyptian diva Oum Kalthoum and the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Omnipresent in the soundscape of his childhood, Oum Kalthoum’s songs accompany him wherever he goes. That voice, that poetic and musical emotion, those feelings – from the most inward to the most exacerbated– become familiar to him. By examining later the meaning of her texts, he discovered the Quatrains of Omar Khayyam, an 11th century Persian poet. A genuine ode to the present, this poem draws its strength from the relationship to pleasure, ecstasy, exaltation and love.
Those feelings and states of mind inspired the choreographer to create this piece. On the stage, in particular thanks to the live music, the interpreters’ bodies instil life in a timeless trance where singing, poetry, dance and music join to celebrate the present moment.