The French art festival Pourquoi Pas? has brought some fantastic music, dance and art to Iceland’s shores in the last couple of months. Pitched as one of the highlights of the festival, world renowned French hip-hop dance group the Pockemon Crew performed two shows in Reykjavík.
The Pockemon Crew began in 1999 when a few young break-dancers who spent their time dancing in front of the National Opera in Lyon decided to form a group. Hoping to reclaim the area outside the building, but hesitant to evict the dancers, the director of the Opera invited them inside to work. Since then, Pockemon have established themselves as one of the world’s foremost hip-hop dance groups by winning the 2003 French and World Championships, the 2004 and 2005 European Championships and the World Championships again last year. With such an impressive portfolio, I was interested to see what sets them apart.
Pockemon are unique in several ways – not only due to their pioneering dance moves, but also because of their adaptability to different genres of stage performance. Blurring the boundaries between high art and street art, the group has performed in traditional theatre productions. This evening’s show combined dance, comedy, music, video footage and dramatic play.
Known as the “Rois du Break” (Kings of Breakdancing), Pockemon have succeeded in making hip-hop dance accessible to a wide audience. My guess is that most of tonight’s punters had only recently caught on to the dance craze. The three-quarters filled theatre was mostly occupied by children – a school group, perhaps.
A dark stage and loud thumping beat provided the scene for Pockemon’s entrance. As the curtains opened, a row of lights on the stage floor were illuminated and the eight dancers, clad in pale blue tracksuits and white trainers, began their powerful routine. With striking news footage displayed on the screen behind them, their intro couldn’t have been more dramatic.
The one hour intense production showcased the group’s energy, creativity, athleticism and sheer perfection of dance moves. It is obvious why these guys have received so much attention, not only within the hip-hop universe, but also from unsuspecting fans, such as the crowd on that night who were perhaps curious to take a look at the City Theatre’s slightly different offering.
The appreciative crowd was responsive and clapped along to the beat. The atmosphere was somewhat different when political footage – mostly associated with the war on terror – was projected onto the screen.
The show closed with the words “C’est la vie!” referring to the earlier footage of them on tour.
Not as many traditional downrock or powermoves, that are associated with break-dancing, were displayed as I had expected. But moves such as the flare, windmill, head spin and various freezes were mixed with French can-can, cartwheels and somersaults.
Although some complained that they had missed out on part of the performance by not understanding the French text on screen, judging by the volume of the crowd’s cheers they enjoyed it nonetheless.