Inspired by a real-life earthquake experience, French b-boy Yaman Okur presents 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol, a high-energy piece mixing skilful breaking moves with elements of traditional theatre.
Using props such as laundry baskets and clothing, and moving to live music by pianist Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, Yaman Okur‘s 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol intends to give the illusion of moving 1mm above ground. For Okur, this is about escape: not only from an earthquake, but from any unpleasant situation. Even from society.
For those who aren’t already familiar with the style of breaking, Okur’s choreography will come as a wonderful (and long overdue) introduction to this popular dance form. Though breaking became popular in New York City in the 1970s at a time when the DJ and MC concept was developing, if we look closely enough we can trace the origins of that type of movement back to the Hollywood golden age in the early twentieth century with acts such as the Nicholas Brothers. Now it’s come full circle: breaking is back on the stage, telling a story – and is all the better for it.
Full of complex footwork, spins and freezes, 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol is everything you could want from a breaking performance. Displaying incredible body strength, balance and control, Okur leaps over laundry baskets, duets with a body made of nothing but clothes, and top rocks while on the telephone. His use of props is creative, but it’s the simplicity of the complex moves performed in front of a black background which are most striking. And at its core, that’s what we’re really watching here – a skilled dancer and actor right on the cusp of something special.
However – and there is no doubt Okur is an exceptional dancer-choreographer – in a city that’s given birth to Boy Blue’s Pied Piper, ZooNation’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Avant Garde and Body Politic – just the tip of the iceberg – Okur’s object-laden storytelling just doesn’t quite feel enough.
Next to these dance companies, who create hip hop theatre pieces about mental health and gang violence; or, in the case of ZooNation and Boy Blue, bring classic tales to life through hip hop-based movement, Okur’s duet with a laundry basket felt meaningless. The problem here is not a lack of talent; it’s that Okur’s talent is wasted on a concept without a clear message, using elements of different disciplines but not committing to one long enough to establish exactly what it is we’re watching. It’s mildly amusing, but not funny; it’s interesting, but not thought provoking: it’s innovative, not ground-breaking.
What we’re really seeing here is someone at the start of his journey, not the peak of his creativity. To pair breaking with a live pianist is a novel idea, and it was undoubtedly impactful, especially when dancer and pianist interacted. Okur’s facial expressions were so perfectly timed that at some points it felt like comedy theatre. Pairing comedy and breaking could change the landscape of hip hop theatre – Donald O’Connor started it with Make ‘Em Laugh and Okur is the perfect choreographer to pick up where he left off. It just didn’t perfectly hit the spot this time, but I have a feeling we’ll look back on this in a few years as his early work, not yet fully developed, with the best yet to come.
Breakin’ Convention Presents Yaman Okur and Jean-Philippe Collard-Nevens’ 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol was shown at the Lilian Baylis Theatre on 27th & 28th September. Click here for more information.