The dancers of Compagnie Käfig jumped, leapt, krumped, flipped, spun on their heads and never once seemed out of breath. (Michel Cavalca)
Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center has always had a diverse lineup, ranging from ballet and contemporary to Japanese drumming. This year, however, the Music Center is branching out further with “Four Days of Hip-Hop Dance,” an entire schedule of programming from June 16 through 19 that uniquely focuses on all things hip hop.
The residency at the Music Center featured free dance lessons, an all–night rollerskating jam at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the headlining dance company Compagnie Käfig, performing three shows at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Mourad Merzouki, Artistic Director and Choreographer of Compagnie Käfig, began dancing as a young boy in Lyon, France. Drawn to hip-hop, Merzouki created his own dance company in 1996 called Compagnie Käfig. The Käfig, which means “cage” in German, expressed his desire to break free from the restraint of cages with his dance. As a French-Algerian man, he knew he wanted to incorporate all forms of dance into his hip-hop style, such as samba and freestyle breakdancing with contemporary movement. The company consists of all-male Brazilian dancers.
Their performance was such a visual treat. The opening dance featured a 40-minute piece entitled “Käfig Brasil” that incorporated different genres of music from jazz to electronic. The underlying foundation was the infusion of hip-hop movements within the dance. Seeing the men jump into krumping only to flow into a house music type of movement then drop into capoeira was wondrous. All of these movements were refined, definitive and in sync.
After a 20-minute intermission, the second piece performed was entitled “Agwa,” which was a statement to the importance of water globally and how it is becoming a precious commodity. The men performed the entire second half shirtless, using actual plastic cups as props which heightened the experience of the theme. Samba music played at the start of the piece with two men dancing next to each other – one very tall, and one pretty small. The juxtaposition of the two men was interesting, and the movements varied between physical statures, which was cool to see.
These men jumped, leapt, krumped, flipped, spun on their heads and never once seemed out of breath. It was as much of an acrobatic show at points as a dance show. The company even performed an encore dance that had the audience up on their feet clapping and dancing along. All ages were visible in the audience, which was so nice to see. Dance companies like Compagnie Käfig can truly encourage young people to develop an interest in dance. Seeing an audience of young teens appreciating the arts is always a joy.
There are so many preconceived ideas that one might have involving hip hop and its ability to take center stage where ballet is typically performed. However, Compagnie Käfig did not disappoint and could go against “The Nutcracker” performances as a multi-generational event any day of the week. This was such an exciting performance to bring to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which was so well received that the hope is they continue to incorporate programs like this annually.