Jacob's Pillow Festival Presents Compagnie Kafig, 8/15-19

With only two weeks remaining in the 80th Anniversary Festival, Jacob's Pillow presents Compagnie Käfig, a dynamic ensemble of hip-hop dancers from Brazil led by Artistic Director and internationally acclaimed choreographer Mourad Merzouki. Performing August 15–19 in the Ted Shawn Theatre, the company performs a program of two virtuosic works, Correria and Agwa, both packed with athleticism, artistry, and drama.

A major figure on the hip-hop scene since the early 1990s, choreographer Mourad Merzouki works at the junction of many different movement disciplines, fusing circus and martial arts, fine arts, and music with a continuous exploration of all hip-hop styles. He is known for opening up new outlooks in dance, while honoring the hip-hop movement's roots and its social and geographical origins.

Merzouki's training is rooted in the circus school in St. Priest, France, located in Lyon's eastern suburbs, which he attended from the age of seven while also training in karate and boxing. He started learning hip-hop when he was 15; he began dancing in the street before working with choreographer Kader Attou, who would remain his associate from 1990–1994. During that time he was also worked with contemporary choreographers including Jean-François Duroure and Josef Nadj. Merzouki's first fully independent work, KÄFIG, was performed at the Rencontres UrbaInes de la Villette in Paris. Käfig, which means "cage" in Arabic and German, later became the name of the company.

Dancers in Compagnie Käfig vary based on current repertoire. The company made its Jacob's Pillow debut in 2001 with Dix Versions, with dancers mostly of Algerian and North African descent.

Since 1996, 17 of Merzouki's dance works have been performed in more than 600 cities. In the past 16 years, Compagnie Käfig has given over 2,150 performances in 61 countries for more than 1 million people. Merzouki is often invited to collaborate with other artists in France and abroad, contributing to the international reputation of hip-hop dance and his own company.

Merzouki created Agwa in 2008 after meeting a group of young street dancers from Rio de Janeiro. He comments, "I have been introduced to Brazilian dancers by Guy Darmet, who used to be the Director of the Maison de la Danse in Lyon, and lives between France and Brazil. He knew these dancers very well and as he has been following me for more than twenty years, he asked me to create a piece for them. These young dancers, mostly from Rio's favelas, were dancing to express themselves, to exist, to survive… the rhythm and the passion is really present within them. It really fascinated me and I decided to create the piece Agwa for them. The 11 dancers who were part of the two first pieces are still [performing] today, we didn't change the cast."

In addition to virtuosic hip-hop choreography, acrobatics, and samba- and capoeria-influenced dance, Agwa also addresses the ecological and political connections of water. Dancers use hundreds of small cups in each performance to employ and transfer water onstage.

Following the success of Agwa, Merzouki worked with the same group of dancers from Brazil to create Correria in 2010. Athletic and acrobatic, Correria is a stylized endurance piece that lunges into a whirlwind of the frenzied modern world. Merzouki again worked with the lighting designer and musical arranger from Agwa, Yoann Tivoli, and French hip-hop music artist AS'N. A video projection by Charles Carcopino mirrors bodies running on stage vs. screen, and humor and wit are interlaced with flips, spins, and joyous choreography.

Born in Lyon, France, in 1973, Merzouki started learning martial arts and circus skills at age seven. At 15, he discovered hip-hop and began exploring the world of dance, orienting his hip-hop style towards more professional horizons and testing himself in other dance styles, notably with Maryse Delente, Jean-François Duroure, and Josef Nadj. With this experience came the urge to undertake his own artistic projects, mixing hip-hop with what he had learned about the performing arts.

He created the Accrorap company, with other dancers, in 1989. In 1994 the company performed ATHINA, at the Lyon Biennale de la Danse and was acclaimed for taking hip-hop from the street to the stage without losing of its true identity. The troupe's first international performance took them to refugee camps in Croatia, where they learned that dance can be a potent means of communication in extreme situations.<

In 1996, Merzouki created his own company, Käfig. In May 2004, he received the award for Best Young Choreographer at the International Dance Festival in Wolfsburg, Germany. Other winners included Maurice Béjart, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Tero Saarinen. In July that same year, Merzouki was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters) by the Minister of Culture and Communications. In 2006, Merzouki received the SACD's New Dance Talent Award. In 2008, he received the Créateurs sans Frontières Award (Creators without Borders) from Bernard Kouchner, France's Minister for Foreign and European Affairs; the award singles out artists and cultural personalities who have had an impact on the international arts scene. In 2008, Merzouki joined the Board of Directors of the Centre National de la Danse in Pantin, France, for a three-year term and in 2009 he was appointed as Director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Créteil/Val-de-Marne.

Compagnie Käfig plays the Ted Shawn Theatre, Wednesday, August 15 through Saturday August 18 at 8pm and Saturday August 18 and Sunday August 19 at 2pm.

Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob's Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered in Blake's Barn 30 minutes before every performance. A Post-Show Talk with Compagnie Käfig and a Pillow Scholar will take place onstage on Friday, August 17.

Tickets $39-64. $35 Under 35 Tickets are available for all Käfig performances (ages 18–35), two per person, must show I.D. when picking up tickets. $10 Youth Tickets, sponsored by ALEX, are available for Friday, August 17 at 8pm and Saturday August 18 at 2pm (must be accompanied by an adult ticket).Now on sale online at jacobspillow.org, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob's Pillow Box Office. $35 Under 35 and Youth Tickets are not available online, phone and in person only. Box Office hours: Monday and Tuesday, 10am–6pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am–8pm, and Sunday 11am–5pm.

Jacob's Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, MA, 01223 (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob's Pillow campus and theatres are handicapped-accessible.

Jacob's Pillow, celebrating its 80th Anniversary Festival in 2012, is a National Historic Landmark, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and home to America's longest running international dance festival. The Festival includes more than 50 national and international dance companies and 300 free and ticketed performances, talks, tours, classes, exhibits, and events. The School at Jacob's Pillow, one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S., encompasses the diverse disciplines of Ballet, Cultural Traditions, Contemporary, and Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance, as well as an Intern Program in various departments of arts administration and production. The Pillow's extensive Archives, open year-round to the public, chronicle more than 80 years of dance in photographs, programs, books, costumes, audiotapes, and video. Year-round Community Programs enrich the lives of children and adults through public classes, residencies in area schools, and more than 200 free public events. Through Jacob's Pillow Curriculum in Motion®, a nationally-recognized program, artist-educators work with Berkshire County teachers and students grades K-12, transforming existing curricula such as biology, literature, and history into kinesthetic and creative learning experiences. Creative Development Residencies, in which dance companies are invited to live and work at the Pillow and enjoy unlimited studio time; choreography commissions; and the annual $25,000 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award all support visionary dance artists and choreographers. Virtual Pillow is aimed at expanding global audiences for dance and offers the opportunity to experience dance and Jacob's Pillow from anywhere in the world via online interactive exhibits, global video networks, and mobile social media. As part of the Virtual Pillow initiative, Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive, is a curated online video collection of dance highlights from 1936 to today. On March 2, 2011, President Obama honored Jacob's Pillow with a National Medal of Arts, the highest arts award given by the United States Government. Jacob's Pillow is the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious award.