Press review UNDERDOGS

“The evening started as by enchantment with the par Terre / Anne Nguyen Dance Company and its totally mind-blowing dance trio, on the backdrop of a series of eloquent melodies and songs. Magically orchestrated, the music sublimated the choreography and gave it a lively vibration, turning it into a giant protest-song of finely carved bodies – between hip-hop, soul, jazz and love songs paying tribute to the Afro-American heritage, with the added flavor of some original percussion scores by Sébastien Lété. The performance’s sole scenery of finely chiseled swarms of light flocked the atmosphere of the vitally pure scenography. Hats off to the author of this Underdogs, which was presented as the opening of the festival, and to the masterful performance of artists Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim, Pascal Luce and Arnaud Duprat.”

Le Journal de la Réunion – 28 Octobre 2021

“Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim packs a petite package of grace and light. Yet her urban warrior language expresses itself through resolute gestures and truncated movements. She confidently enters into battle, wild and flailing, against her two equally demonstrative hip-hop stage partners, Arnaud Duprat and Pascal Luce. Confronting them nose-to-nose, she slices the air with powerful arm movements in the guise of nimble, witty retorts. The 14-plus audience in the room, although fewer in number for the premiere, can be sure they’ll take away something from the performance. For example, the importance of expressing an opinion.

The room is filled with the sound of rap and soul. The music’s tense, socio-political commentary, the harder the message the more aggressive the beat, appears to fire every limb of the hip trio of dancers as they move together in perfect union. Ideally, we’d love to be able to understand the French and American lyrics in their entirety rather than piecemeal, but Anne Nguyen’s choreography knocks the breath out of the audience, adults included. Packed with powerful moments, its content speaks to all generations, sparking lively debate well beyond the end of the performance.” – Vesna Mlakar – 8 July 2022 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

“For her latest dance production Underdogs, French choreographer and urban dances specialist, Anne Nguyen dove deep into black music of the 60s and 70s and dispatched Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim, Arnaud Duprat and Pascal Luce on stage for a three-way battle to the rhythm of funk, blues and soul music, with offerings from the spoken word poet Gil Scott-Heron through to soul legends like The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. In fifty tense minutes, the trio switch from somewhat classic hip-hop dance movements, to some popping, rapidly followed by a succession of frozen tableaus culminating in a series of studied fight poses in which the dancers throw imaginary stones and perform choreographed fight scenes and jealous outbursts in slow-mo. The three march to the beat of the music and fire imaginary weapons in a performance that covers a lot of ground from the history of black street fighting to different urban dance cultures. […] At any rate, the seamless choreography from the dance trio managed to dispel the rain clouds over Berlin and spread some good vibes.”

Kultura Extra – 9 August 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

« DANCE: The rebellious essence of hip-hop.

Interview with Anne Nguyen in the TV5 Monde international news program of January 22, 2024. Focus on shows Matières(s) première(s) and Underdogs, with video images of the shows. A look back at the choreographer’s career, the roots of urban social dances and her vision of hip-hop today, from its gentrification to the quantification of breaking for the 2024 Olympic Games. Presented by Patrice Férus.

TV5 Monde – Patrice Férus – 22 January 2024

Anne Nguyen’s interview and an exclusive video extract of Underdogs on TV news brodcast France 3 Paris IDF, for the performance of the show at Théâtre et cinéma de Choisy-le-Roi (94).

TV news broadcast – France 3 Paris IDF – 8 November 2022
Online broadcast

“On Saturday evening, the performance shifted to the great out-of-doors, and the weather took a starring role. It would be an unforgettable evening, both for the audience and the three incredible dancers from Paris. Weißensee’s open-air theatre: a canvas roof spanning an open stage with the sky stretched out like a canopy over the long rows of benches. By the first song, it began to drizzle, two songs later the heavens had opened. Plastic capes were handed out in the twinkling of an eye and everyone remained glued to their seats – not one person got up to leave. And the three performers danced on, not once stopping.

Underdogs, the new play by Anne Nguyen, is not exactly a play. The Paris-based choreographer, who has been bringing urban dance to the stage for years, puts together a song list, a mix of rap and old hits from the Motown era. She stages each song with elements taken from the wider hip-hop repertory, as if directing a short film about love, violence, fighting.

Clenched fists raised to the sky, fingers clasped to form the barrel of a gun, a slow-mo brawl, but no acrobatic leaps or pirouettes. The trio, two men, one woman, illustrates the playlist by locking, popping and posing. It was a virtuoso performance.”

Die Tageszeitung – 9 August 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

“In Underdogs by Anne Nguyen we follow three dancers who navigate their intuitions as individuals and as a group in an imagined urban landscape. They transition through expressive postures, gestures and explosive energies that we know from hip-hop. Throughout the performance there is a beautiful contrast between their fast and fragmented movements, and their action in slow motion. Between waiting and slowing down, and being tossed back and forth between different directions. At times, their movement is oppressive, causing others to be “underdogs”, but who is in control is changing quickly. Set on a backdrop of soul music evocative of the political climate in 1970s United States, it reminds of the rebelliousness of popular movements fighting for the rights of other underdogs, other outcasts of society. The performers move with determination and in unity, while each dancer brings their own personality, and expressions of assertion or refusal.”

Frascati Theater – November 2021 – The Netherlands

“Choreographer Anne Nguyen and the dancers from the par Terre Dance Company offer a magnificent hip-hop dance show for three dancers, one woman and two men: Underdogs. […]

With Underdogs, Anne Nguyen’s work on movements and ensembles is precise. Scenes are dissected and carved, sequences are broken down as if in slow motion, but it is not, despite appearances, cinema. The dancers are expressing themselves with their bodies as well as their facial expressions, which are remarkable – the impression is striking!

Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim, Arnaud Duprat et Pascal Luce offer in this piece an amazing performance, in which every last muscle of their bodies is engaged – it’s very beautiful!”

La Provence – Patrick Denis – 16 July 2022 (Festival d’Avignon 2022)

Anne Nguyen’s interview in “Affaire à suivre” by Arnaud Laporte (France Culture). “Two shows to explore the body and soul: Underdogs and Hip-Hop Nakupenda.”

“Affaire à suivre” by Arnaud Laporte – France culture – Radio France – 12 October 2022
Podcast replay

Underdogs is a virtuoso, narrative choreography that provides a glimpse into the lives of a group of people at the bottom of the social ladder. On the basis of a series of musical scores from the 1970s, we are taken into real-life scenes. Survival it is, with the body as a weapon.

The choreography, inspired by hip-hop gestures, starts off as fairly abstract, then progressively acquires a narrative line when the dancers’ arms show recognizable weapons in a mimetic movement language. The violence in the lives of the three dancers becomes apparent and seems to be irreversible. Street violence, mutual violence and domestic violence; they all pass by. The climax of Underdogs is a long slow-motion fight between the three, in which every movement is worked out in minute detail. It is a excellently timed piece of traditional modelling.

Anne Nguyen is one of the female pioneers of hip-hop dance. Her work is sober and sometimes a study of styles, as in Kata (2018). This time, she starts from a different angle and links virtuoso movement to emotions from soul music, a perfect basis for her story about the underclass.
She tries to archive the body of that group of people by means of the songs that are played in full, like an old LP from that time. On a handout, which is handed out by the dancers at the beginning of the performance, the music list is provided with context.

The narrative aspect of the piece doesn’t allow the observer to stay neutral. The body has to put up with a lot, and at the same time it is also its greatest pride: dancing as a means of survival. […] The dance may have developed, but the poverty has stayed. In this sense, the theme of Underdogs is and remains urgent, and the repetitions that fill the choreography are also reality.

[…] This piece commands respect. Especially in its virtuosity; what a performance, what dancers! And as for the subject matter, you would wish that the hall was full of audience members who recognize themselves in the story.”

Theaterkrant – 13 November 2021 – Moos van den Broek – The Netherlands

“Anne Nguyen’s production intoxicates the audience to the point of collectively fascinating them.

In this sense, Anne Nguyen’s Underdogs on the secluded open-air stage in Weißensee proved to be a perfect festival launch. All around, meadow grass and lush trees proliferated wildly, in the middle a playground with a tent roof – an idyll that the French Underdogs countered with powerful hip-hop movements. For fifty minutes, two men and a woman balance above the abyss of everyday ghetto life. Nguyen connects hip-hop to the milieu of its origins, to the black subculture of the metropolis. Soul and funk heat up the whole thing before the choreography goes into slow motion to translate murders and manslaughters, rapes and shootings into sequences of anguished body images: a comic strip of flesh and blood.

Nguyen, who has a background in martial arts and founded the par Terre Dance Company in 2005, belongs to the avant-garde of the field. Her sensual and sensitive productions intoxicate the audience to the point of collectively fascinating them.
The choreography is based on iconic leitmotifs, such as the gun in a child’s hand or the Statue of Liberty, which stands in the bay of New York and on the Seine in Paris. Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim aka Miss Liberty bravely stands her ground, her torch of illumination raised to the sky, while Arnaud Duprat and Pascal Luce almost bang their heads beside her.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung – 17 August 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

“This piece by French hip-hop choreographer Anne Nguyen was awaited impatiently by the audience: in 2029, Kata at Radialsystem had been the highlight of the festival. […] The par Terre Dance Company’s new production, which premiered in Paris only in June, deep dives into soul music from the 60s and 70s. The troupe’s dancers strike street fight poses, clench fists Black Panther-style and deliver image after iconic image. […] The ultra-precise choreography of the individual movements in Underdogs is undeniable. The trio celebrates the unhurriedness of the movements, executing their moves in slow motion.”

Das Kulturblog – 7 August 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

Interview with Anne Nguyen in “L’invité 20 Minutes TV” on January 20, 2024. A look back at her career, her creative process and her shows Matières(s) première(s) and Underdogs, with video images of the shows.

L’invité 20 minutes TV – 20 minutes TV – Renaud Parquet – 20 January 2024

“With Underdogs, Anne Nguyen goes back to the roots of hip-hop which “draws its inspiration from the postures, gestures and energies of characters found in the clubs and in the working-class neighborhoods of 1970s America”. Because hip-hop dancers are fueled by everything that challenges the norms, and keen on detecting any sign of a transgression and to transform it into creative gestures, what do the movements adopted by the three performers reveal of their own identities? And beyond that, “how deeply is the explosive energy of their bodies rooted in the rebelliousness nature of popular movements fighting for the underdogs, for the outcasts of our society”?”

La Terrasse – Delphine Baffour – 26 June 2022 (Festival of Avignon 2022)

Underdogs is pure dance.

At the evocative setting of the Freilichtbühne Weißensee (open-air White Lake), from their entrance to the final applause, the members of the par Terre Dance Company performed, non-stop, in an intense and energetic representation.

To the rhythm of rap and soul, the protagonists of this piece, recalling the protest atmosphere in 1970s USA, interpret the “losers”, the social outcasts, who fight for themselves and for their ideals.

Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim, Arnaud Duprat and Pascal Luce are very talented performers. They move their body ranging from various genres of hip hop, funk, even swing to moments of pantomime, in which the narrating voice is that of the musical pieces, linked by organic percussion bits by Sébastien Lété.

Engaging show with a fast pace. The dancers offered a great performance.”

Campadidanza – 9 August 2021 – Italy (Tanz im August 2021)

“Anne Nguyen has choreographed her latest piece Underdogs to American soul music from the 1970s, with songs by Gil Scott-Heron, Sam Cooke or The Four Tops. The choreographer pares down the usual hip-hop vocabulary; in several variations we recognize the robot-like movements of popping, combined with sometimes quick, sometimes casual step sequences.

Movements intertwine.

Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim, Arnaud Duprat and Pascal Luce mostly come together in a group; their movements cleverly interlaced. They then synchronize their movements in brief passages of dance. Pure dance steps contrast with gestures indicative of riot and rebellion. The performers raise clenched fists; flinging their arms, as if threatening to hurl stones at an invisible opponent. Sometimes, seemingly aiming a rifle at the enemy.

This is no battle.

No, this is not a battle in which the dancers demonstrate their skills. The two men soon come to blows; Anne Nguyen has choreographed the duel in slow motion, to powerful effect. Then the woman joins the fray and manages to land a punch. They all fall to the ground, only to rise up again.”

Der Tagesspiegel – Sandra Luzina – 7 août 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)

“How to get by with nothing is the story told by the trio in Anne Nguyen’s Underdogs. To the rhythm of fourteen songs, with tracks ranging from Wu-Tang Clan to Marvin Gaye, two men fight over a woman in a socially critical hip-hop ode, beating each other up. All three then launch into a street fight, interspersed with moments of tender intimacy. Urban dance has finally made it to the big stage in recent years and Anne Nguyen is one of the pioneers of this development.”

Berliner Zeitung – 8 August 2021 – Germany (Tanz im August 2021)