Hip hop choreographer Pierre Rigal on the special relation between dance and music in Scandale

Scandale Rigal© Pierre Grosbois

Pierre Rigal’s Scandale will take place at Sadler’s Wells on 5 & 6 September as part of Breakin’ Convention: Presents… – a new initiative that showcases full-length works from innovative street dance talents.

Scandale will explore the very beginnings of choreography by combining music and movement in a sort of shamanic ritual. We asked the trailblazer French choreographer Pierre Rigal about his dance company and what to expect from the show.

Why did you start dancing and what inspired you to start choreographing?
When I was young I practiced a lot of sports, especially athletics (400m and 400 hurdles), football, skiing and so on. One day I tried an African dance class, almost by coincidence (or I should say by instinct!) and I loved it. I didn’t know anything about it, but it was really a kind of shock that I enjoyed it so much! After that, dance became a full passion. My life turned definitely to another dimension.

Could you tell us more about how Compagnie Dernière Minute was established?
When I made my first solo in 2003, I had to create also a production structure. As I was in a kind of emergency, both in terms of administration but also in terms of artistic and physical vision, I decided to use the name Compagnie Dernière Minute which means “company last minute”, as ’emergency’ is an essential part of my life!

The UK premiere of Scandale will take place at Sadler’s Wells on 5 & 6 September as part of Breakin’ Convention: Presents… . What should the audience expect from this performance?
Scandale is a mix between the virtuosity of excellent hip hop dancers, live music with a crazy and superb percussionist, and a contemporary direction in a designed set of scenography.

Scandale Rigal © Pierre Grosbois
Scandale Rigal © Pierre Grosbois

In this show you are going to investigate what inspired the birth of choreography. What made you choose the title Scandale?
The piece tries to study what could be the first sign of a primitive choreography. That tackles the question of the ritual, and of course in this piece, the movement behaviour during an imaginary ritual is emphasized. I choose the term Scandale because if we look at its etymology, it comes from the Latin word scandare which means “fall over”, “stumble”, “change of the normal way of walking” or later “change the way of the normality”.

Music and movement are strongly connected in your show, how did you manage to establish this connection and make it clear throughout the performance?
Scandale and scansion also have the same etymology, so I use this common origin in the piece. The percussionist is a sort of magical and crazy shaman who ‘steals’ the sounds emitted by the dancers themselves. That means that their breaths, sighs, whistles, onomatopoeia, shouts and their laughs are captured by the shaman, who uses them directly as raw material to compose his own music, his own trance, in order to manipulate and bewitch these dancing spirits. The music therefore has a kind of magical attraction.

You are considered one of the most cutting-edge talents in the hip hop scene. How would you define your dance language?
My choreographic research has many influences coming from traditional hip hop but also from contemporary dance, circus, acrobatic techniques and my sporting background. Movement is not the only influence, I am also inspired by atmospheres in movies, visual arts and contemporary art. The combination of these gives me a kind of vision that I can share with the dancers and invite them to participate in the process of creation. Their talent is another source of inspiration.

Scandale Rigal © Pierre Grosbois
Scandale Rigal © Pierre Grosbois

What do you aim for when creating dance?
When I start to create a piece, I have some intuitions and some wishes. In the case of Scandale I wanted to create a special relation between dance and music. I had this idea of using the lively sound of dancers to compose a trance music. The second goal was to give a reflection of what could be the birth of the notion of choreography, which is why I was interested in rituals and shamanism. Hip hop dance was a great language to study these relationships that developed during the creative process and in rehearsals when a lot of surprises occurred, which I tried to catch in the choreography.

What’s next for you?
I have a number of different projects – mainly I am working on a dance conference for the Paris Opera, where I will collaborate with lyrical singers. I like to work with artists coming from various backgrounds and with different skills, which I think is important to have new surprises. Moreover I would love to have a future project in the UK again!

What advice would you give to young aspiring dancers?
Of course work is important, but curiosity is essential.