La danse aux poings de Mourad Merzouki
From the age of 5 to 18, alongside martial arts, circus and then hip hop, the choreographer Mourad Merzouki practised boxing, a school of rigour and discipline that, in his words “greatly helped me as a dancer”. Some 20 years later, he remembers… and to highlight the poetry of the “noble art” and its many similarities with choreographic art, he created Boxe Boxe in September 2010 at the Maison de la Danse, Lyon.
Physically confronting boxing again, taking it on stage with the sole help of dancers, i.e. based on their hip hop and contemporary vocabulary, treating it in a light-hearted, quirky manner and, to do this, calling on the Quatuor Debussy, also present on stage, with musics ranging from Verdi and Schubert to Phil Glass, from Gorecki to Glen Miller: these are some of the challenges that Merzouki set himself for Boxe Boxe. The creation of the work in Lyon, followed by its performances at the Théâtre National de Chaillot provided an opportunity to paint this portrait and to trace an exemplary career. Effectively, since he started in 1994, the founder of the Käfig company, the initiator and director of the Pôle Pik center in Bron, and the director since June 2009 of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne, has created some fifteen shows performed the world over, thereby contributing to the passage of hip hop from the street to the stage.
"Boxing's a form of dance anyway. I realized that as a teenager, when I got into hip-hop after years of doing martial arts. While one is identified with brutality and violence and the other with grace and pleasure, I found a touch of all these ingredients in each of them.
I'll be putting these contrasts to work in this new piece, because each aspect of boxing has an equivalent in choreography: the ring and the stage, the gong and the curtain going up, the referee and the eagle-eyed critics – for me there are all kinds of similarities.
Like martial arts, dance demands hard work, sweat, no effort spared; in both the «performer» commits himself and suffers the same encounter with the void in the form of his opponent or the audience. No weaknesses or flaws allowed – he has to satisfy the public. The further I go down my path as a choreographer, the clearer it is that you really have to show your mettle. When fame and recognition are no longer enough, only risk-taking – the face-off, the leap into the unknown, and ultimately your battle with yourself – will keep you going.So there's a mix – the excitement of combat and fear of the spectators: the gut fear of getting badly knocked about, of taking a licking, together with that great feeling of abandoning yourself, of achieving absolute fulfillment in that magic moment on stage or in the ring."
A major figure on the hip-hop scene since the early 1990s, Merzouki works at the crossroads of many different disciplines: he adds circus, martial arts, fine arts, video and live music to his exploration of hip-hop dance. Without losing sight of the roots of hip-hop movement – of its social and geographical origins – this multidisciplinary approach opens new horizons and reveals original outlooks. Since 1996, 30 creations have been performed in 700 cities and 65 countries, with more than 3,000 performances given for 1.7 million people. Since 2009, Merzouki is director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne, where he created the festival Kalypso, a Parisian twin of his festival Karavel in the region of Lyon. In 2016, he is also appointed artistic director of Pôle en Scènes in Bron.
More information : http://ccncreteil.com/
Centre chorégraphique national de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig
Supported by the State and local authorities, the Centres chorégraphiques nationaux (CCN) promote the development of dance, both through the creative impulse of their directors-choreographers, but also by supporting choreographic artists of various styles, by presenting works and by raising public awareness of the art of dance.
Today there are 19 Centres chorégraphiques nationaux. The CCN de Créteil is one of the first to have been created, by Maguy Marin. Three of them are now run by hip-hop choreographers, in Créteil (Mourad Merzouki), La Rochelle (Kader Attou) and Rennes (FAIR-E collective).
Mourad Merzouki has been at the head of the Centre chorégraphique national de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig since 2009. He is developing an artistic project that is both open to the world and rooted in the territory, transcending aesthetic, cultural and social boundaries. Tours, workshops, residencies, the Kalypso festival : there are many opportunities to discover and celebrate hip-hop dance, an art form that has become, in over 30 years, a strong marker of the cultural identity of our heritage.
La danse aux poings de Mourad Merzouki
Artistic direction / Conception
Production / Coproduction of the video work
YN Productions, TRACE, NOOVIZ, ERP. Participation : CNC, Acsé (Images de la diversité)