Production 2017, duration 60 min
Anne Nguyen presents the eight breakdancers in Kata as the last remaining representatives of a warrior ideal, a code of honour that appears absurd in the present-day world. Bodies, engaged in martial arts type sequences, reach out towards fictitious opponents, who materialise only to give rise to fights played out in dance steps. Each breakdance movement takes on a new meaning, transforming the dancers into modern-day samurai warriors. As seen in the kata of martial arts, the shapes they create and repeat appear to conceal hidden concepts. Gestures metamorphose into genuine battle reflexes adaptable to many situations. Beyond the search for martial efficiency, the sheer determination firing the dancer’s steps embody a kind of spirituality and moral attitude. By practicing their art, they hope to improve the self, develop their vital energy and reach a harmony with their environment. However, the world in which they move is suffused with a latent, mundane violence, building many barriers in the way of physical interaction between individuals and encouraging passivity. Although they step back from the paradox of their situation, the last remaining representatives of a bygone way disengage themselves from battles that are perceived as increasingly illusory.
For her tenth production, Anne Nguyen continues her deconstruction of hip-hop body language, focusing on her preferred discipline of breakdance. In Kata, a show for eight breakdancers, Anne Nguyen decomposes the movements of breakdance, that she apprehends as “a contemporary form of martial arts, created as a means of coping with a hostile urban environment, one that transforms the body through the violence of its shapes and constraints”. She dismantles the centrifugal components of breakdance into sequences of isolated moves, and allocates a “usefulness” to each one in terms of the fight context and the partner relationship. The eight breakdancers, either individually or in neatly ordered dance formations, execute a series of dance moves directed at imaginary opponents, as they move through the space in a systematic, linear manner. The meaning behind these choreographic phrases gradually becomes apparent as the dancers confront and move closer to another to the point where those very gestures develop into tessellated forms. Amid attacks, blocking, ducking and diving, complex, intricate fight scenes map themselves out according to the ebb and flow of the “fighters” on stage, lending form to the warrior-like energy of breakdance.
“We are not necessarily confronted with combative situations every day, but the fighting spirit that is expressed through breakdance can apply to our oppressive environment and decadent modern lifestyle, which cut us off from our relationship with this Earth and the animal world. Hip-hop dance and breakdance are a form of discipline and ritual, they allow us to reconnect with some of our deepest instincts, such as those rooted in the conquest for physical strength and territory.“
“I am long practiced in the martial arts, especially capoeira and Brazilian jiu jitsu, as well as Viet Vo Dao and Wing Chun. One of the features of these practices is the relationship to the partner, which is one that involves physical contact. However, while contact with the floor is one of the basic principles in breakdance, personal contact with others is very under-exploited by hip hop dancers in general, the latter creating an empty space around them in which to dance within their “vital circle”. The contact with the floor, the relationship with the Earth, is one of the factors that prompted me to practice breakdance rather than any other dance style. Nevertheless, I greatly missed that contact with, and relationship to, a partner when I decided to stop martial arts to concentrate on dance. That’s why I now make it one of my main research goals as a choreographer. I developed a series of technical exercises aimed at introducing contact into the dance moves, that are inspired by martial arts and mechanical principles. I try to bring together, confront arms, legs and bodies in a dynamic, circular fashion within a reduced space. It’s by means of this process that I create combinations of moves for several dancers.
My capoeira teacher one day asked me to choose between capoeira and breakdance: I was improvising by adding weak or pointless moves to my fights. In Kata, I’m seeking to do just the opposite: to take a dance made up of apparently “pointless” moves, breakdance, and to give each movement a usefulness, as if each breakdance sequence were simply a “kata” used in fight training.“
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CastChoreography: Anne Nguyen
Dancers: Yanis Bouregba, Santiago Codon Gras, Fabrice Mahicka, Jean-Baptiste Matondo, Antonio Mvuani Gaston, Valentine Nagata-Ramos, Hugo de Vathaire, Konh-Ming Xiong
Original soundtrack (Composer and Percussionist): Sébastien Lété
Lighting design: Ydir Acef
PartnersWith the support of l’ADAMI. Coproduction: Chaillot – Théâtre national de la Danse; CND Centre national de la danse; Le Prisme – Centre de développement artistique de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines; Espace 1789, Scène conventionnée pour la danse with the support of Département de la Seine-Saint-Denis; Théâtre de Choisy-le-Roi – Scène conventionnée pour la diversité linguistique; Scènes du Golfe, Théâtres Arradon – Vannes, Scène conventionnée. Thanks to AOI Clothings and Jean-Baptiste Matondo for the costumes.
The par Terre Dance Company is funded by l’Aide pluriannuelle du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / DRAC Ile-de-France as “Compagnie à Rayonnement National et International”, la Région Ile-de-France for “Permanence Artistique et Culturelle” and l’Aide au fonctionnement du Département du Val-de-Marne.
Anne Nguyen was awarded the 2013 SACD Nouveau Talent Choréographie prize and appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2015. She has been an associated artist to Chaillot – Théâtre national de la Danse from 2015 to 2018.