BWW Interview: Yaman Okur Discusses His Breakin' Convention Presents Work 1MM AU DESSUS DU SOL
Breakin' Convention Presents at Sadler's Wells is a continuation of the venue's popular annual festival, offering hip-hop theatre-makers a platform for their full-length work.
Innovative French b-boy Yaman Okur has collaborated with choreographer Sébastien Lefrançois and classical pianist Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven on 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol (1mm Above The Ground).
The piece is about me creating escapes from places where I don't feel comfortable or where I don't belong (school, society).
'1mm above the ground' refers to an earthquake that happened in Turkey, and I was there; 55,000 people died in 45 seconds. Feeling the ground shaking was by far one of the scariest things I've felt, and I told myself that night that I wished I was above the ground to not feel it shaking.
How did your collaboration with Jean-Philippe come about, and what is it about his music that inspires you?
Sebastien Lefrançois (co-choreographer) and I were looking for a pianist. I wanted live music, and Sebastien found him on YouTube and just called him and explained what we wanted to do.
We met, all three of us, and started very naturally. I'm in love with the capacity he has to improvise to create melodies that I always love; we are both the same and understand each other very well when it comes to improvising.
What's your usual starting point when you're creating a new piece? And is it a different process when it's in this more theatrical form, at a venue like Sadler's Wells?
I always start with truth: true stories I've been through or I've been inspired by. Usually, people on stage are allowing themselves to be another character or someone else. Me, I just wanted to be me - not only as a dancer, but also as a comedian. I wanted to go back to little Yaman inspired by Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, and this I want to do whether at hip-hop events or in national theatres.
What part do illusions play in your work?
Illusions are not something that I've worked on - I just started to understand my morphology more and listen to my abilities, without thinking if what I was doing was hip-hop or contemporary. Since I've started dancing, I've always used props or architectural structures, walls, it's been always there. I just had to do it on stage today - I had that need.
What does it mean to you to have the opportunity offered by Breakin' Convention Presents - i.e. creating a longer piece of work than we'd see in the festival itself?
I'm honoured. I remember Jonzi D, after seeing the first version of the piece, which was 25 minutes with no pianist - he didn't say much, but I think he wanted to showcase my work in a way. And then he offered me the chance to perform full length, in a theatre like Sadler's Wells.
Which other hip-hop and breaking artists excite you at the moment?
There are so many dancers who inspire me. I grew up watching actual force with legendary b-boys like Karim and Gabin, then b-boy Remind opened so many doors. Bruce Ykanji is always inspiring. New generations as well like b-boy Tsukki. I'm usually inspired by dancers who have a totally opposite style from mine.
What would you like to see in future, in terms of where this dance form goes?
In the future, I'd like to see full recognition of hip-hop dance, and the same respect that institutions have toward contemporary dance given to hip-hop dance companies and pieces.
I have no special places I want to perform. I always perform where I am welcome, where people want to see the piece or me, and I'm giving 200% of myself no matter where it is. And I will always work with people I feel good with.
Some b-boys or b-girls or hip-hop dancers or poppers will be known as much as Baryshnikov or Nureyev...
Finally, what do you hope audiences take from the piece, and why should people come along to see your show?
I want the audience to travel - to make their own movie with what I offer.
I took risks with the dramaturgy and will do some stuff that people who know me a bit do not expect. I want to show the world who I really am.
Watch a trailer below!
Photo credit: Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven