Compagnie Kafig (old notes writeup)

November 2, 2018 – 3:26 pm

Found an old essay I wrote for dance class at Purdue some years back, and thought – why not? I’ve been trying to remember my love of dance and movement more and more lately, so I figured I’d share.

Last Friday, I went to see Compagnie Kafig’s Convocations performance of their works “Correria” (Running) and Agwa (“Water”).  Compagnie Kafig is hard to characterize; they’re a sort of all-male hip-hop street dance crew, but their range of expression goes beyond the stereotypical b-boy moves, costuming, and music. The dancers all had gorgeous isolation technique – crisp, clear, and used in fascinating ways to great visual effect – and instead of trying to conform them into an identical corps, the phrases built on their individuality.

As its name implies, “Correria” was about running – it started with two men on their backs with white-sneakered feet pedaling in the air, swiftly joined by more chanting men running around them in circles. A series of solos punctuated the piece; one solo, the first of the evening, was a gorgeous extended sequence of isolated movements that made me want to copy whatever the dancer was doing for his mobility routine. Another notable solo in “Correria” was done by a lanky-limbed dancer in a white shirt and long striped socks. The piece took advantage of his individual body – long and almost gawky in the costume, but articulate and clearly comical as he dropped into a series of hip-hop poses while lip-syncing opera music. It ended with a tongue-in-cheek reference, with fingers “running” in the air.

“Agwa,” on the other hand, was danced with, around, and between plastic cups of water. One extended phrase repetition involved two men, one standing and dragging the other through their legs and feet on the floor; you could see the difference between a short, stocky dancer (the evening’s first soloist) and a long, lanky dancer (the opera hip-hop soloist) as they crawled and slid around two other people. It also featured isolations of body parts in a way that changed the scale of the dance; after backflipping, hand-standing, and whole-body-shaking their way across the stage, the dancers flopped on their bellies and used their fingers as running “legs” to dance around the now-huge plastic cups that had seemed so tiny next to their gigantic bodies a few moments ago. I would be remiss not to mention the amazing precision backflips between all the cups – although when I saw the piece excerpts played silently in the dance division hallway, I would never have expected baroque-ish music to be the auditory setting for that phrase.

In terms of choreographic elements, we saw pretty much everything; there was some unison, a lot of beautiful soloing, and moments of canon – for instance, when the troupe went into push-up position, one by one, with each dancer’s feet on the previous dancer’s solos. Yes, you have amazing abs and core strength, guys. Yes, you may show them off. As each dancer whirled his way through moves and inversions, I couldn’t spot a single instance of head-tail disconnection or core collapse. These guys have abs.

My overall experience was one of inspiration and envy. These guys have such fine-grained articulation and control over their entire bodies; they play jazz with their muscles, showing off their individual personalities. The use of unexpected costumes (knee-high striped socks), props (dixie cups and truncated stilts with shoes at the end), and music (seriously, opera?) was a genre-defying comical poke I very much enjoyed. I could have done with brighter lighting, though; the dimness often obscured the clarity of the movements.

As a female dancer, I also wonder – what would this sort of dance look like with women’s bodies? I’ve seen videos of b-girls, but they’re all “standard” hip-hop videos, none of this genre-bending, socially-satirical choreography exhibited by Compagnie Kafig. I’d love to see more things in this vein, set on an even wider variety of bodies, and for a range of skill levels. When Streb visited last year, they showed us the “beginner” versions of their hardcore circus-style dancing so that we could slowly work our way into their sorts of moves if we wanted. What’s the equivalent for this?

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