French rhythms: Dyptik dance performance in Strider

“I think if you are a girl, or if you are a boy, or if you are white or if you are black, if you are very tall or very small, if you are very supre, flexe…you can be a good dancer. You just have to find your way. You just have to find how you are in your life and how you are on the stage, and if you do it like this, you can do something very nice, very emphatic.” 

That was the director of the French hip hop dance group Dyptik, Medhi Meghari. On Tues., Oct. 8, Dyptik performed their 2017 piece, Dans l’Engrenage for a packed Strider Theater full of both students and non-students.

The piece was a powerful display of raw human emotion and the physical talent of the dancers. The dancers performed skillfully, clones of one another at times, and breaking away individually at others. Each dancer had their own “solo” dance, and their emotive, almost possessed movements hypnotized the audience. The piece was intricately nuanced with dancers’ individual personalities, something which Meghari said was intentional. 

“We are very lucky in hip hop…because you can have a unique style of dance, I have mine, she have hers, and we don’t have to be exactly the same… When I research some dancer for a piece or for working, I don’t want to work with the same dancer. It’s good to have [her] dance, and to have you dance, and they are not the same so when they work together they can do something very strong and very beautiful.”

Several dancers also spoke about what the dancing world is like as a woman. One woman said, through a translator, “If you’re a woman in this world, you have to prove that you can do it too.” 

Another said, “You can’t forget that you’re a woman, and maybe you bring some certain quality to your dancing in that way.”

The dancers had all been dancing for most of their lives, and many of them were self-taught. Medhari described the beginnings of their hip hop careers: “To begin to be a hip hop dancer, you begin with your friend. You learn hip hop in sharing with other dancer, and when you have a little ‘level,’ you can start to take some match up with a choreographer or anything else… But the beginning is in you.” Several dancers came from dance-battling backgrounds as well. 

One man said of battles, “It’s completely different than the stage here because in battles you just have to be yourself… whatever you are gonna do, it’s gonna be you, and so it’s gonna be great or bad, but you just have to be you.” Another added, “When you battle, you have less time to develop something. You battle now against someone, so you have to push it to a high level now. Onstage it’s different: you have time to develop the subject, and this is important: it’s another stage.”

The previous day, Felicia McCarren, a Tulane professor of French, hosted an informational session on French hip hop dance. In France, the government pays some skilled artists in order to support them while they perfect their craft, and subsidizes many arts-related programs. This, McCarren says, stimulates the artistic productivity of the French people. It also highlights the differences between France and the US in terms of artistic attitudes. In France, dance and other forms of art are treated like respectable professional pursuits just like any other, while in the US, they are sometimes overlooked or dismissed as a lesser pursuit. There is a lot we as a country can learn from French attitudes toward art.