It was born in the African clubs of the diaspora. Bling, buffoonery, strutting and vengeance: that’s what the “coupé-décalé” style is about. A lesson in grandeur and a politico-aesthetic perspective by Robyn Orlin and James Carlès on this phenomenal community practice.
CHow do contemporary choreographers adopt and adapt popular practices? A conversation between Robyn Orlin and James Carlès led to the Coupé-décalé project. Act 1, I am not a sub-culture, rather a gallery of self-portraits with a history walking in circles: a solo made-to-measure for James Carlès by the South-African choreographer, Robyn Orlin. Between light farce and a flash portrait of the Franco-Cameroonian dancer, teacher, choreographer and active collector and defender of “Black dances.” Act 2, On va gâter le coin!: now it’s Carlès’s turn to place five perfectly dressed dancers for a round of “coupé-décalé”. The dance and music created in France in African clubs in the early 2000s begins by mocking the disjointed dance movements of the Attié, an ethnic Ivorian group. It then lays the foundations for a culture that is as satirical as it is vital. “Coupé,” meaning to cheat; “décalé,” meaning to flee. Pioneers? Newcomers, precarious workers, students, undocumented immigrants... Find in it a language of protest, a type of revenge. Dress code? Sophisticated silhouettes of dandies and show-offs, where the brand label and bling weigh heavily. Movements? Every week, new “coupé-décalé” DJs, groups, “concepts” (not dance) and, inevitably, new kings are born. But at the heart of it all is a mix of Congolese rumba, hip-hop and Caribbean dances, foot-stamping, hip rolling and miming with a political and/or sexual connotation. All of it with a pronounced taste for the grandiose and the vulgar, spending energy and literally spending: the “Boucantier” (dancer) sometimes hands out wads of money to the audience. In ten years, the movement has returned to its country of origin, !lled stadiums, enthralled black youth, found its gods and even spawned variants in other parts of the world. Is it more rooted in identity than hip-hop? It’s no doubt more political. “Coupé-décalé can be considered a Black identity movement of a new kind,” explains James Carlès. “A focus for recognition amongst our community, but not the isolated type of community I experienced in my youth, where we would get together to dance ‘national’ dances, those of our home community. In “coupé-décalé”, the construction of an identity and feeling of belonging is based on codes taken from daily life – gestures, stories in the news, clothing – and on a hedonist model of celebration.” In short, the dance floor as a staging ground for differentiation.
Solo and piece for 5 dancers — 2014 — Run time 1h30
ACTE 1 : I am not a sub-culture, rather a gallery of self-portraits with a history walking in circles
Chorégraphe : Robyn Orlin
Interprétation : James Carlès — Conseil vidéo : Pierre Sasso — Conseil costumes : Birgit Nepll — Musique : Marin Marais, Alaitz Eta Maider, Ray Lema, Senene Mingui — Lumière et régie : Arnaud Schulz
ACTE 2 : On va gâter le coin ! (40 min)
Chorégraphe : James Carlès
Interprétation : Gahé Bama, Clément Assemian, Stéphane Mbella, Franck Serikpa, Brissy Akezizi — Vidéo : Charles Rostan — Musique : DJ Arafat, Charles Rostand & James Carlès, Abou Nidal 2 Genève, DJ Leo — Lumière et régie : Arnaud Schulz
Accueil : Centre Culturel Charlie Chaplin / Vaulx-en-Velin, Théâtre Théo Argence / Saint-Priest Biennale de la Danse
Coproduction APCA – Cie James Carlès ; CDC Toulouse/Midi-Pyrénées ; Centre national de la danse ; CNDC Angers ; L’Astrada Marciac dans le cadre du dispositif Résidence-association en Midi-Pyrénées – Production déléguée CDC Toulouse/Midi-Pyrénées APCA - Cie James Carlès est soutenue par la DRAC Midi-Pyrénées, la Ville de Toulouse, le Conseil régional Midi-Pyrénées et le Conseil général de la Haute-Garonne.
Photo © Pierre Ricci - Portrait © DR