Mourad Merzouki’s ‘Pixel’.
(photo credit: PR)
Mourad Merzouki is not the first artist to combine dance and video art. In fact, he is one of thousands who have attempted to integrate these two forms. However, none have so perfectly or seamlessly managed to marry the screen and the moving body as Merzouki has in his 2014 opus Pixel.
The Lyon-born performer and choreographer is a master of fusion.
Over the past 20 years, he made a name for himself with his unusual combinations of theater, circus, pyrotechnics and different dance styles, namely hip hop and contemporary. Pixel, which will be presented at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center, is by far the most ambitious and refined of Merzouki’s works to date.
“Pixel was born in Lyon,” explains Merzouki, 43.
Perhaps because the work was born in the same city as Merzouki, it contains key elements from Merzouki’s entry into the dance world. As a child, Merzouki studied circus and martial arts. At 15, he encountered hip hop and quickly fell in love. His passion for movement propelled him to continue exploring different styles, coming to modern and contemporary dance and finally theater, all of which are woven together in Pixel.
In 1996, when Merzouki formed Compagnie Kafig, he did it in Lyon.
Ten years later, the troupe relocated to Bron, France. Then, in 2009, Merzouki was appointed artistic director of the National Choreography Center in Creteil et du Val de Marne outside of Paris.
“In the beginning I wanted to mix hip hop with new technologies. I like to mix hip hop with another artistic element; in Pixel, the goal was to find a dialogue of dance and technology,” he explains.
To make his vision of a truly blended video and dance production come to life, Merzouki teamed up with seasoned screen experts Adrien M and Claire B. Together, they worked to find exactly how and in what ways their two fields could meet up.
“The challenge is not to forget the dance and the choreography. When you work with this system, you want to make a lot of things on the stage, and you can forget the movement and the dancers,” he says.
The first days in the studio involved a lot of experimentation.
“I tried to understand what I could do with this technology. We played around a lot, I and my collaborators.
We tried to find a way for the video not to be decoration but an essential part of the show. The audience comes to see a dance show not a video show; I tried not to forget that when I worked.”
Throughout the process, Merzouki welcomed input from his dancers, a cast of eight. Hailing from vastly different backgrounds and experts in various techniques such as roller skating, cyr wheel, hip hop and contemporary dance, the performers contributed mucvh of the movement material.
“When I work with the dancers, I like all the dancers to cook the movement. I choose the dancers because of the techniques they have, and those techniques become my ingredients,” he adds.
Having thoroughly tested the boundaries and possibilities of video and dance, Merzouki feels that he found what he was looking for.
“The video brings so much to the dance. It allows us to change the stage very quickly, to alter the set. For the audience, I think Pixel creates a very unique experience. After all the work, I can’t imagine what this piece would have been were it not for the video.”
The demand for Pixel has been so overwhelming that the company was asked to add another show to the tour.Pixel will run at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on June 14 to 18.
For tickets, visit www.hoh-herzliya.co.il.