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[Eng] Bliss - Scenes at a Nightclub in Hip-hop

In the past few years, the annual Le French May Arts Festival has featured Hip-hop. Last year, Compagnie Accrorap presented the extraordinary hip-hop ballet, The Root, a rare poetic piece with an all-male cast; while this year, Compagnie Rêvolution based in Bordeaux, brought Bliss, an electro hip-hop work, to the festival, showing how hip-hop can be combined with clubbing culture.

1. Bliss, Choreographer: Anthony Egéa Photo Credit: Pierre Planchenault

Choreographed by Anthony Égéa, Bliss is a piece for ten male and female dancers. It opens with all of the dancers on a large platform set at center stage wearing headphones and donning black coats. The headphones are attached to cords that meet at a central point above the lowered lighting grid. The dancers’ unison stomping and moving give a powerful and intriguing opening for the show.

Taking off their big dark coats, the dancers become individual visitors to a nightclub. The platform at the center becomes the main dance floor, while a closed transparent room at the back serves as the club’s special room and sofas and low tables at center stage left and down stage right together with a center stage right DJ booth, convey a typical nightclub setting. There is no clear plot or extended storyline in Bliss, instead, fragments of relationships and deep emotions are simply presented with movement and dance. All ten dancers have their own distinct characters, each portrays a different type of club goer including a cross-dresser, a show off, a party animal, a wonderful singer, and a quiet shy guy. Because Égéa doesn’t try to impose any through stories for the show’s characters, he is able to let each of them sparkle on stage in turns, each coming and going like those brief encounters one has at a club.

According to the house program, six of the ten dancers in Bliss, have benefited from the program Talents Adami Danse. These six, under age 25 talented young artists were chosen by Égéa though audition organized by the Adami Artistic Association. With these young dancers, the whole performance is full of energy and I am really impressed by some of their amazing skills.

Besides the experience of hearing the remarkable voice of Lydie Alberto, which provides another layer to the piece on top of the electronic music, the most striking performance is in the solo dance by one of the Talents Adami Danse, Romain Guillermic. He plays a quiet boy in the first half of the piece, leaning on a lone pole set on the platform. While other people dance, he just stands and looks around, until at one point, he takes his clothes off to perform a solo on a low red table set down stage. Guillermic has super flexible shoulder joints that allow him to bend and extend his arms to the opposite side, behind his back. With such an amazing ability, he is able to do some weird but impressive arm movements. Guillermic performs a contorted pose that is impossible for most of us, yet he accompanies it with smooth palm and finger gestures thoughout, giving it a strange yet powerful and poetic feeling!

The music for Bliss is also remarkable. Musical director Yvan Talbot and composer Philippe Pham Van Tham have not only created intriguing music for the dance, but also do the live mix with computers as well as play the bass and electronic guitar on stage, joining the club scene as DJs and musicians with the dancers. During the finale, both musicians also take charge of the drum sets, leading the group to perform the powerful climax at the finale.

Although Bliss might not be a revolutionary or innovative hip-hop piece, it is a good showcase for young dancing talents from France, and it also shows how hip-hop can blend with clubbing culture. It was a pleasure to witness the exploration by Anthony Égéa and his young dancers.

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William Chan is a Hong Kong based performing arts critic, theatre director, and a media producer. He has recently completed a joint MA in International Performance Research at the University of Warwick (UK) and University of Arts in Belgrade (Serbia), and currently works as the Project Manager at the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong).

Date: 13 May 2016

Time: 8pm Venue: Drama Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

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