DANS LA RUE: Paris Urban Youth Culture
Finally, something uniquely French.  It's electro dance, a style of street dance born from the same country that gave the world Daft Punk.  It obviously draws from vogueing, raving, wacking, and hip hop, but there's no doubt electro dance is in a world of it's own.  And unlike its ancestors, it stresses routines in every round just as much as solos.  Here's an inside look at a recent competition called Vertifight with insights from organizer Youval.

October's winners will represent France atthis main event in 2011
According to this blog, techtonik (but is it the same as electro dance?) originated mainly from the dance clubs in Southeast Paris, particularly Metropolis.  But what's interesting is that in the context of Vertifight, all the dancers probably can't get into these clubs since they're still struggling with high school pre-calc.  Youval mentioned that many youth took to electro dance via YouTube clips, which is probably also how Vertifight and the dance itself have successfully been exported all over the world (except the US).

Also interesting to note is that Youval considers electro dance the little brother of voguing.  He can lay that claim as he is indeed one of the original and only voguers in Paris from the 1980's.  But he maintains that his culture is none other than hip hop, as he's also from the first generation of b-boys and poppers.   When he speaks about electro dance's misrepresentation in the mainstream media as "techtonik," I sense that he's linking it with the history of breakin' which outsiders termed "breakdancing" during its era of exploitation.  But like breakin, electro dance has endured in the underground.

Below is a little recap I made of the this past weekend's over-sized Paris street dance competition Who Iz Who:

A few interesting things to point out about this particular competition:
  • The 2-day event hosted contests in the so-called traditional Hip Hop dances of Popping, Locking, Breaking as well as contests in Hip Hop, a separate category for Krumping, House dance, and Vogue.
  • Each contest averaged about 70 entrants each, and more than 100 for Popping and about 200 for Hip Hop!
  • Dancers came from all over France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and maybe a handful from the US (do I count as US or France?).
  • There were judges for each particular style of dance, of whom the majority were from the US.  Clearly the cultural imperial power still making its presence felt and deciding what's considered good.
  • Rumor has it that the original Krumping judge scheduled to come Tight Eyez, Krump pioneer made famous by the documentary Rize, bailed because he thought Who Iz Who was too commercial!
  • Indeed, many at the event grumbled that the event costway too much to attend and was merely put on to make dollar$$$...woops, I mean euros.  For this reason, some people didn't bother to show up for Day 2 which cost 25 euros a ticket.
  • Another rumor circulated after the event was over that a bag full of thousands of euros in cash payment for the DJ's and judges went mysteriously "missing."
  • EDIT: Also note that the final battles took place at Palais des Sports which is a concert venue for the likes of Elton John, Boyz II Men, and the Blue Man Group.  Could you imagine anything e
And what's the deal with all the Krumping here in Paris?  Why do I have to cross the Atlantic to see this American-made dance?  In NYC, I've only seen this LA street dance performed mockingly (east coast, west coast bias? perhaps).  It's surprising that out of all the newer street dances in the US, from Get Lite and Flexing from New York to Turfing in Oakland to Jooking in Memphis, the ones that have really taken hold here, Krumping and Jerking, are both from LA.  Something tells me it has a little something to do with that Hollywood magic.  Then again, maybe in my ignorance, I simply haven't seen the rest.

I do however appreciate that the hyper agressive Krumping battles at this event were always followed by deliberately effeminate Vogue dancing (see the incredible Javier Ninja at the end of the vid for an example). 


    Brian is a writer, dancer, activist, and general hip hop head from New York City. He is currently working towards his Master's in Global Communications in Paris.  


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