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Director Mourad Merzouki explains hip-hop fusion with 'Compagnie Kafig'

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Witness a dance spectacle which integrates stunts and sizzling, catchy, hip-hop based dance moves integrating samba and other styles with ‘Compagnie Kafig.’ Assembled by 11 skilled young dancers from Brazil, audiences will not believe their eyes on the level of athleticism coming from this French hip-hop dance troupe.

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Celebrity Series of Boston presents this visually stunning production at the Citi Shubert Theatre, 270 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Friday, February 7 through Sunday, February 9. Click here for a sample of ‘Compagnie Kafig!’

I had the honor of interviewing ‘Compagnie Kafig’s’ director, choreographer, and visionary, Mourad Merzouki about the origins of this fascinating style of dance.

Tell me about your love for dance. Why did you choose to be a dancer and what inspired you to create a show like this?

I first started with the circus. I was an acrobat and had a passion for performing arts. Hip-Hop dance allowed me to bring these skills together. At age fifteen, I discovered hip-hop culture through several French artists. I also experimented with other choreographic styles, particularly French contemporary dance choreographers.

I was introduced to these Brazilian dancers by Guy Darmet, who used to be the Director of the Maison de la Danse in Lyon, and lives between France and Brazil. Guy has been following me for over twenty years and using these dancers, he asked me to create a piece for them.

These young dancers, mostly from the favalas of Rio, were dancing to express themselves, to exist, and to survive. These dancers are full of rhythm and passion. It really fascinated me and I decided to create the piece, Agwa for them.

Compagnie Kafig is a unique, astounding dance experience seeped in catchy, hip-hop tunes. What do you think sets this type of dance apart from other types of performance art? You seem to incorporate many styles of dance.

I try to add circus, martial arts, visual arts, and live music in most of my pieces, but my focus is to bring many different styles and artistic disciplines into hip-hop. My artistic aim is to take risks and make my work evolve. I weave hip-hop movements into a written choreographic story.

There is also what looks like stunts involved in these dance routines. How do these dancers learn such precise moves?

Most of the dancers come from Rio’s favelas, so they used to dance in the streets on an individual level. When I first met these dancers, I took their movements to create the piece. I also gave them “homework” and then connected the pieces and refined the choreography. For them, it is a very special experience because it totally changed their approach to dance. They were initially dancing in the streets and now are real professional dancers. These dancers are very precise and work as high level athletes.

How were these performers chosen and what level of athleticism was expected from these performers?

I meet a lot of people touring around the world, and it is always very inspiring. For the different projects I have, we organize auditions and castings and I always get to meet more and more dancers.

Of course, the technical level is an important criterion such as how each dancer will adapt to the project. However above all, the most important thing is to be open-minded and open to the world. This is really the essence of my approach and the purpose of my work.

‘Compagnie Kafig’ made their first appearance in 2008. How has ‘Compagnie Kafig’ evolved over the years? What plans do you have for the show in the near future?

‘Compagnie Kafig’ has been on tour more than 250 times in over 120 cities and 17 countries! We also have four other shows touring at the same time, in France and around the world. I hope this show will continue touring all over the world. I am amazed to see how such a piece can gather all types of audiences, whatever the culture or the country.

How have your expectations changed from when you started ‘Compagnie Kafig’ and what do you hope to accomplish with this group in terms of expansion?

Agwa has been such a great success, so we decided to carry on the adventure with a second piece, Correria, in 2010 with the same 11 dancers. It is like a fairy tale for all of them! They are now part of a new piece we created last year called Käfig Brasil.

I am always imagining creations with an accent on openness to the world. I keep working on opening and sharing my way of dancing, hip-hop, to other styles and other cultures.

What is the best reason one should attend ‘Compagnie Kafig?

To see how hip-hop dance has evolved and shifted from the streets to the stage, to realize how dance can be universal and bring people together, to bring inspiration, and a willingness to open ourselves up to the rest of the world!

For tickets, dance packages, discount tickets, and a full list of the Celebrity Series of Boston’s upcoming events, visit www.celebrityseries.org.

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