Director: Mourad Merzouki
Choreographer and Artistic Director: Mourad Merzouki
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Avoiding too many boxing metaphors, it is safe to say that anyone going to see the Boxe Boxe show brought to Milton Keynes Theatre this week by French dance company Käfig, is likely to be knocked out! Who would have imagined a mix of dance and boxing accompanied by a string quartet on stage playing music from such diverse talents as Schubert, Ravel, Philip Glass and even Glenn Miller?!
Since Artistic Director and choreographer Mourad Merzouki founded Compagnie Käfig in 1996 it has given nearly 2,500 performances in over 60 countries across the globe to more than a million people. He first came across hip-hop culture aged 15 and through this, he discovered dance. This is a rare visit by Käfig to the UK and is by invitation of the Dance Consortium.
Merzouki’s choreography contains all the contrasting aspects of the harsh world of boxing and, as he puts it, “that great feeling of abandoning yourself”. He explains: “…each aspect of boxing has an equivalent in choreography: the ring and the stage, the gong and the curtain going up, the referee and the eagle-eyed critics – for me there are all kinds of similarities.” His choreography is a melange of the romantic, wacky and oft tres French humour, and of melancholia. So it is that eight incredibly talented dancers, as an ensemble and individually in their quite different ways, succeed in combining martial arts, street and contemporary dance to produce what has been described as “a stunning fusion of hip-hop and fisticuffs.”!
Even more amazing is the way that Boxe Boxe uses the idea of the shiny red gloves as puppets and the dancers so cleverly make them appear effused with emotions. So it is in the opening section of the show as we see four musicians on their high-back art nouveau-style metal chairs then gradually lights fade up to reveal a mini and very ornate boxing ring. The boxing gloves peep over the top and move effortlessly around in time to the beautiful Schubert melodies, whirling and twirling in and out of each other. This continues for some while and momentarily one wonders if the whole 65minutes will be thus, but no….. there are wonderfully synchronised moves working with punch balls suspended both from above and on springs at floor level. We have Steven Valde, the quasi MC, who struts around like a boxing referee with his striped roly-poly tummy and boy does he roll well! His face is really expressive, his dancing very witty, to say nothing of his break dancing a la fin! The one female, Magali Duclos, does a great line in robotics and is certainly equally convincing as a boxer. We not only hear and see the skillful quartet but each person moves across the stage, as he/she plays and is made very much an integral part of the dance. The musicians are even dressed in boxing gear. Lighting is used to excellent effect to mark contrasts both in the music and the choreography, to spotlight detailed movements and to highlight the gloves and other ingenious props. The set is very simple but works well and allows the audience to concentrate on the dance. One brilliant section of dance towards the end sees dancers boxing out front while in slow motion across the back of the stage three figures in training robes glide.
To top all of this each dancer performs their own little piece of street and/or break dance in the finale. Awesome! An enchanting evening that magically whizzed by!
Reviewed on: 26th March and on tour