Hip hop, martial arts and circus merge

Dance review: Kafig Brasil-Agwa, a choreographically complex product, filled with original creativity.

Kafig Brasil (photo credit: Courtesy)
Kafig Brasil
(photo credit: Courtesy)
French Choreographer Mourad Merzouki is one of the prominent figures who have made hip hop for stage a raging success in France. The genre, originally a street dance emerging from the underprivileged neighborhoods of American mega-cities, has become a legitimate form of dance expression on stage. This is due to Merzouki and others, such as his former partner Kader Attou, who have integrated hip hop vocabulary and movement with other disciplines into contemporary dance definitions.
Traces of Merzouki’s own training in martial arts and the circus flavor his dances and combine with the virtuosity of his dancers to add elements of self control. The power of understatement, dramatic buildups and respect for visual and audio silence, enhanced by intervals of slow rhythm, enrich the work’s dimensions.
The evening opened with Kafig Brasil, first introduced in Montpelier last summer, performed by a new troupe of male dancers from the favelas (slums) of Rio, Brazil – second to his original company Kafig, based in Lyon, France. Eleven dancers conquered the stage with unlimited energy, flowing moves, kamikaze virtuosity and personal expression.
During the second half of the evening, the troupe presented its rendition of Agwa (water), one of Merzouki’s biggest past hits.
The stage, covered with over 100 transparent plastic cups half-filled with water, is probably one of the most challenging the dancers have had to deal with. The brittle image with its vulnerability and the brilliant lighting that turns plastic into cut glass, set a beautiful scenario.
Agwa is a choreographically complex product, filled with original creativity and fine understanding of contemporary expressions. “Kafig” means prison in Arabic.
Merzouki proves that art can release you and set you free.Kafig Brasil-Agwa,Herzliya Performing Arts Center,February 26