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Hip Hop Choreographer Kader Attou

Photo: Kader Attou ©ccnlarochelle

Kader Attou's renowned hip hop Compagnie Accrorap will tour the United States in January with The Roots, a 2013 choreographic piece for 11 dancers. 

While Kader Attou's work has been seen in New York (with petites histoires.com in 2008, the commemoration of the arrival of the French frigate L'Hermione that carried Marquis de Lafayette to America in 2015, and at Fall For Dance in 2016), it will be the first time the company has such a large touring commitment including a week at The Joyce Theater in New York (Jan 23-28) and then stops at Boch Center Shubert Theatre presented by Celebrity Series, Boston, MA (Feb 2 & 3) and at U.C., Santa Barbara, CA (Feb 6).

In addition to running his company, Kader Attou is the director of the Centre Choregraphique National (CCN) in La Rochelle, France

Before leaving for the United States, Kader Attou shared some time with us

Nicole: The performance The Roots is based on memories and also on the different dance techniques that inspired you all along your 30 years of movement practice. Could you tell us more specifically what attracted you to Kathak dance, for ex.; who are the major choreographers of the 20th century or personalities who inspired you for The Roots, or in general, and why? 

Kader: The Roots is before all a dance performance. It is nurtured and inspired by 20 years of travels, encounters and creations. Foreign trips, such as the one I made to India, allowed me to come across many styles and aesthetics. Over the years, in a very natural way, I questioned my own dance form: hip hop. The performance The Roots shows the groundwork of this dance that is both extremely physical and poetic, the poetry of the body. If The Roots doesn’t narrate my own story, it could, perhaps in an indirect way, be autobiographical. In any case, the show is an open window onto the world of hip hop, it is about the people who created hip hop, about a world, dancing.  It is a musical journey, poetic and abstract, an homage to hip hop, to dance and to the virtuosity in general. This is what The Roots is.

I haven’t been influenced by the work of other choreographers for The Roots. However I have to mention two great women from the contemporary dance in France who have been essential to my artistic and human growth.

Both Maryse Delente and Odile Duboc, at different periods, opened my eyes. Maryse Delente helped me discover contemporary dance at the time Compagnie Accrorap was an emerging hip hop ensemble. A few years later, while Accrorap was in Besancon, Odile Duboc opened with great generosity, attention, and care the doors of the Centre Choreographic National (CCN) in Belfort that she was leading at that time.

Nicole: Could you describe how the dancers who developed The Roots with you were involved in the process? How did you meet them? 

Kader: My work is developed based on the dancers, their individuality and virtuosity, and their stories. Each performer started to work in solo, duo, trio, or group forms with the directions I suggested. We developed sequences, some of which are kept and reshaped; others are put aside. Then I built the choreography from this material. This is also how relations and bonds are created between my dancers; everything is based on who they are, their differences and creativity and this is also the strength of my choreographic work.

The dancers I work with are most of the time are interpreters, performers I have met over the years, during the creation of new work or during workshops and master classes we give when the company tours (like here in New York) or at the Centre Choregraphique in La Rochelle. They remained loyal to my work. Maybe I will meet some performers during this upcoming tour in the United States.

Nicole: You have been in frequent contact with the American hip hop communities. Could you speak more in detail about your relation with The Bronx - the birthplace of hip hop, New York, and the Unites states in general 

Kader: New York is for me “the place”. I cannot dissociate New York from hip hop.

From Block Party to the emergence of Graf, Rap, and my dance, a part of myself belongs to this city. I remember in 2008 when I came to New York for the first time as choreographer of Compagnie Accrorap, we visited students from a Bronx school. The meeting was so rich and moving that it remains one of my best memories from the United States.  New York is full of stories and even as time passes by, I remain deeply moved every year on September 11. I admire the strength of the New Yorkers.

Nicole: Are you planning some exchange between New York and the Centre choreographic national of La Rochelle? 

Kader: I hope my stay in New York, this beautiful city I admire and where everything seems possible, will trigger new artistic encounters.

New York is a city, the Queen of the Diversity, that fascinates and inspires me, a city where history – and stories – are being revealed at each corner. Yes, why not imagine and create paths between New York and La Rochelle, like the one in 2016, for the celebration of the arrival of the French frigate L’Hermione in New York. I’m looking forward to it.

Nicole: Thank you Kader. See you at The Joyce!

Interview made in January 2018 by Nicole Birmann Bloom, Program Officer, Performing Arts