Presented by Compagnie Par Terre
Reviewed 17th October 2019
World famous choreographer Anne Nguyen is highly revered in France for her ability to transform the recalcitrant reputation of hip-hop dance into something mysterious, raw and pure. The loss of essence that many hip hop dancers feel when performing on stage is the disconnect she seeks to conquer and she does this by drawing on many disciplines including physics, maths, linguistics, martial arts, break dance, acrobatics and hip hop.
In watching Kata there is no doubt that martial arts have strongly influenced Nguyen’s style. Nguyen’s martial arts influences include capoeira, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Viet Vo dao and Wing Chun.
In Japanese, the word Kata means ‘form’ and a Kata is a sequence of specific movements practised solo or with a partner. Katas were designed to pass on the principles of Karate in an era when martial arts were highly discouraged or in some places completely banned and as such appear to be dance drills. Using mnemonic techniques, physical repetitions including stances, footwork, dodges, holds, throws, punches, attacks, kicks, blocks – all skills required in combat – become automatic sequences.
The dancers express themselves with discipline and ritual, they stand as the last remaining combatants in an urban environment that they instinctively desire to dominate. One notable scene that succinctly depicts this is a sole warrior standing still with people continually gliding past, ignorant of their surroundings. It reminded me of the morning commute.
In each scene the dancers as warriors face their imaginary opponents and what starts as small movements rapidly becomes fierce high energy battles as choreographer Anne Nguyen strongly pursues the depiction of the human desire to reconnect with our animal instincts in the contemporary urban setting.
Praise must be given to the composition of Sébastien Lété’s percussion for creating such ambience and with it the skill of the dancers’ synchrony. It is truly a show that merges break dance and martial arts into a theatrical combative form of dance, in her words this type of dance isa contemporary martial art.
Kata features many of Anne’s key dancers such as Valentine Nagata-Ramos who is one of Anne’s long time colleagues. Having originally been breakdance rivals in the early 2000s, both felt the need to change the image of hip hop dance into something virtuous. The par Terre Dance Company was founded in 2005 and Kata was first produced in 2017.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Space Theatre
Season: 17th-18th October 2019