An ode to hip hop

French choreographer Kader Attou presents ‘The Roots’

Jean-Yves Thibaudet (photo credit: JULIEN CHAUVE)
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
(photo credit: JULIEN CHAUVE)
Anyone who grew up in France in the 1980s may remember a television show called H.I.P. H.O.P. Running for exactly 43 weeks in 1984, the program is credited with laying the groundwork for France’s illustrious hip hop scene. For performer and choreographer Kader Attou, Sunday afternoons turned into TV tutorials, a time for him to soak up all the moves on the screen and then practice endlessly until the next episode aired.
“I was 10 when I discovered H.I.P.H.O.P.,” says Attou, 44, who was born and raised in Lyon, France, to an Algerian family. “In the playground, you didn’t just use a neat turn of phrase to respond to an insult or kick. Coming out of school one day, my mother took me along a path that wasn’t the direct route home. ‘Where are we going, Mum?’ I asked. ‘Just there, to the boxing gym,’ she said. And on this detour, what I found was an American boxing gym. I found a fight, a dance. My first contact with this art was with my fists. As luck would have it, the instructor had a strong penchant for the circus. So the ring went theatrical. That same week, I saw H.I.P.H.O.P. for the first time. Sidney, the host, took kids from the street and put them in the limelight. When the final credits had rolled, I threw a piece of cardboard down on the sidewalk of my neighborhood and started to practice those movements which I needed to master,” he recounts.
Attou spent the rest of his childhood dancing, boxing and dreaming up his future in the arts.
“At one point, it became a life project,” he adds. “I formed a troupe and named it CIE Accrorap. We were a group of friends coming from the same gym, from the rank and file and the same circus training, experiencing the same thrill from dancing. Mourad Merzouki [of Company KAFIG] was one of them.”
In 1994, Accrorap premiered Athina at the Lyon Biennale de la Danse, placing the company on the concert dance map once and for all. Now, almost 25 years later, Accrorap continues to be a relevant and boundary-breaking troupe. In June, Attou will present The Roots, an ode to hip hop performed by 11 male dancers, to Israeli audiences. “
The Roots is a tribute to the hip hop dance, drawing on all that it is: virtuosity, dexterity, inventiveness, poetry, power... I invented through my universe danced paths to show the complexity and richness of this dance. The Roots is a window to hip hop dance, on the people who made this dance, on the DNA of a dancing humanity,” he explains.
His cast is comprised of the field’s best dancers, handpicked for their virtuosity, passion and ability to communicate with the audience. That said, many of them come from different backgrounds. As hip hop dance has endless styles and techniques folded into one genre, not every performer arrives with the same tools. As such, Attou’s goal is to find cohesion among them, to present a united group rather than 11 stars.
“I always look for ways to build bridges among them, to bond them by also appealing to what they are, to their differences and their richness, which also makes the strength of my pieces,” he says.
With The Roots, as well as Attou’s previous works such as Pourquoi Pas and Les Corps Etrangers, he has managed to evade the stigma that hip hop is entertainment rather than art. “I do not create to please, not to entertain the crowds, but I always imagine my pieces with generosity, sincerity with a real artistic concern and a challenge of every moment. Through my choreography, I try to speak to the greatest number of people. The Roots is a piece that can touch children and older people. I never try to please a particular type of audience. I never calculate; I look for a certain universality,” he asserts.
‘The Roots’ will be performed at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on June 13-16 ( and at the Haifa Auditorium on June 18 (