Picture courtesy of RoemFilm.nl |

On February 5th Paradiso opened it’s doors and welcomed back Juste Debout (!) accompanied in the same weekend by House Dance Forever. However the madness started with a Theatre Night that was almost sold out. I had the pleasure of presenting a short introduction with organizer John Agesilas for students from “De Dansopleiding” (The Dance Education). This was the first time Forever programmed Theatre shows in their winter edition. After asking him why his team decided to put Enfant Prodiges and Phorm on the program, John said:

“What motived to us to invite Phorm back is because there is this thing that is happening: Urban Contemporary. It’s like Hip Hop with the contemporary way of making Theatre. People don’t really know what that is and I thought that represents what people are looking for when they look at Phorm. It’s a different way. Of course you have the French way of making Theatre which is totally different from Holland, England and the States. The thing with Phorm is; what it used to be and what it is now. There is bboying, there is tutting, there is waving. Almost everything that people want to be doing, but in Theatre. It’s top of the bill! So , when you put the best on stage, people copy or learn from the best and do their own thing in the best way.”

He continued:

“Enfant prodiges, it’s a mix of France’s -I could say the world’s best- stand up dancers. It is NOW. It’s fresh, it’s community, the best of different crews put together to make one show.  I always say you cannot have a forest with one tree. The fact that they put all the ego on the side and decided to be together as a middle generation; took that knowledge of the old and the new to make their own thing. That is for me what is happening now. It’s everything you guys want to learn, from (all) styles in the Hip Hop as an umbrella. This is not your typical night of Theatre, you want to scream? Scream your heart out! This is why we are doing this, Summer Dance is a festival for dancers by dancers. That whole tradition  and cultural way of supporting each other, as an inner circle is also in the Theatre. You’re supporting your people. You connect.”

Sometimes a bit of constructive criticism is nonetheless a form of support as I’m a big admirer of all the members that form Enfant Prodiges. The opening of their show is truly amazing.  However having seen many theater shows these past few years (and this one twice), it  must be said that the lighting is not as tight during the entire show. That is unfortunate because it takes away from their powerful presence, which they certainly all posses! Hopefully they will consult some advice outside of their circle. There is enough talent and experience walking around in this scene to assist when it comes to this important aspect of theatre.

Phorm consisting of Santiago and David Colas, left many people speechless once again. As unusual as it may seem and despite the big age difference they had an instant connection years ago. David expressed  he only experienced this maybe 3 times before with people during his dance career. They don’t even consider the physical contact. Although many audience members do. They find themselves confused but fascinated at what kind of bond they are witnessing on stage. Is it a love connection? No, it feels more like twins, or one spirit in two men. The way they close their eyes at some point and keep dancing is just unearthly. Cie Phorm just finished hosting auditions for a new piece that  without a shadow of a doubt is going to be a must see!

On saturday night February 6th, House Dance Forever, also welcomed ladies since like Juste Debout, they too invited an ALL female panel of judges. This included Alesya, Amy Secada and the woman that stole my heart at the 2015 SDF edition: Marie Kaae. None of the ladies managed to enter the finals of Forever. Veusty faced Candyman and the latter had some really smooth and raw rounds. Naturally, this Badness member did not come to play but entered with the intend to leave the floor smoking with that undeniable African fire! Veusty however was the man of the evening even though both these men seemed evenly matched that day. Veusty’s fire proofed even strong enough to take the title at Juste Debout the next day as well! He will be representing the House category with the gentle giant Niako.

Rochka | Criminalz

Rochka | Criminalz

During a year of silence for this competition, the Arena Palais Omnisport in Bercy Paris was being renovated and is now carrying the name AccorHotels Arena. It’s probably exactly what founder Bruce Ykanji and his team needed to recharge after 14 years (!) of nearly non stop organizing, touring and building. Back on the team and touring with him this year is Priska, founder of Locking4Life and Creative designer for Juste Debout. He is responsible for many of the campaigns you’ve surely adored in the past!

One of the most iconic being the one with Larry from Les Twins (Criminalz) in 2012. Who knew his younger crew member would be featured on the same campaign material for 2016! Rochka killed the stage with Waydi in 2014, the year everybody learned there would be no Juste Debout the next season. It’s the right kind of nostalgia to be confronted with in the Paris metro. This is how you kick off a returning edition! Add that to the fact that Priska is producing a recap of all the qualifiers on the new website he designed himself.  Those videos are a great way to get a feel of what’s been happening on the rest of the tour.  His presence would also indicate the livestream images promise to be as flawless as they were in 2013.

Amsterdam nights | By Priska

Amsterdam nights | By Priska

The JD qualifier Amsterdam had an enormous amount of inscriptions, especially in the experimental category. Having attended Juste Debout going on the 5th year now, both in Amterdam AND Paris , it must be said how much respect the judges deserve.

Granted, it is an amazing gig for an artist, that gives them the change to tour the world and see the scene in all it’s many beautiful facets but it is a very demanding and responsible position. We give the organization props for that. As well as inviting solely females on the judging panel!

Much respect to Dey Dey (France), Niki (Sweden), Cio (Japan) and Toyin (USA). When Dey Dey performed her judge solo you feel like you are catapulted into a time where  the music literally makes you move your feet without your control. When miss Toyin took the floor…  shiffers down your spine. She surrenders to the music. What a powerful yet controlled and representation of what House truly is!

Speaking of emotion, let’s talk Nobunaga. Besides the ear soothing tunes he spins, there are not many things in life that give you the satisfaction of watching this creature do what he does best.

If you’re not feeling the dancers at any point during the pre-selections, simply turn your eyes to the DJ. You will not be disappointed as he is in a world of joy on his own. Make no mistake you will undoubtedly be drawn in and and forget what you came to Paradiso for in the first place.

His music kind of takes the competition aspect out of the equation and hands you the tools to feel your way through it. The Dutch scene is blessed with two of these professionals, as we cannot forget about his brother Lucas Benjamin who is invited to spin at this year’s worldfinal of Juste Debout in Paris! Big shout out to all the DJ’s working their magic.

Roche Apinsa |By Sasha Box

Roche Apinsa |By Sasha Box

Ruben Chi and Roche Apinsa killing the floor was almost too much. Roche is one of the people that changed the way I received this style when seeing him perform at Trans Europe Express in 2015. I always had a hard time warming up to Locking (in competitions). Not the music naturally, or the dance per se, but the bells and whistles that can come with it. Let’s be clear; bells and whistles that often times do NOT make the dancing any better. That’s my honest experience and thanks to FunkStylers TV it got clear as to why. Not to long ago they released an interview with Toni Basil (The Lockers) and she said so many things that resonated. What’s stricking, was when she expressed that “Locking was never Clownish (or negative)”. Something that is seen in competition a lot. Until witnessing Roche and Henry in a theatre preview during the Spin Off 2015, it suddenly changed my perspective. It instantly got rid of all pre-conceptions. These former Dutch Soul Supply members are just different from a lot of cats in the game in the way they express funk.

They displayed an earnest and bare performance that day at Melkweg. It was very sensual with the a certain type of aggression, almost similar to that of a war dance. Until then, it seemed in impossible I would ever see any of these things through locking.

If you look at the footage from Juste Debout Amsterdam you will agree, that you don’t need to wear matching striped socks or execute the craziest power moves to carry the true essence of Locking. Judging by the level shown by Chi and Roche, that should be the least of any opponents worries in Paris…

24648731823_e9aa9c9c9f_b

Shay, Luciano and Kenzo | Photo by Sasha Box

A really peculiar situation occurred when Shay and Kenzo who made their way to Bercy a few years ago, faced their students James and Lil Blade in the finals and the youngsters won! Reminds of that Michael Jackson quote: “The greatest education is watching the(ir) masters at work.” Make no mistake about it we have a lot of Masters in the making in my homeland. A place that can be easily overlooked on the worldmap but rest assured, our dancers will not be in Bercy.

For more stunning images by miss Sasha Box visit Flickr
Results Juste Debout:
Experimental: SkyChief
Popping: Timo & Jing
Locking: Chi & Roche
Hiphop: James & Lil Blade
House: Steve & Niako

In other news: Both Juste Debout School and Studio Albatros are hosting their own workshop week with battles, parties and discussion panels included. JD organized Hip Hop Dance Week that has a discussion that questions:

“Is the average level of the dancers worldwide is he increasing or decreasing? If yes, why? What kind of solutions can we provide for the future”

Albatros created the True School event that features BUDDHA STRETCH, PHYSS, LINK,
FABREEZY, MEECH, SUPERDAVE. Their round table will question:

What is Hip Hop Dance: the origines, the history, the evolution?

Don’t forget to soak up the knowledge made available to you and most importantly, do not forget we are not only celebrating dance in Paris, we are also celebrating ourselves, as humans. We’re coming together in what is now, a symbolic place for another reason. So, make your days count.

Summer Dance Forever will return August 16, 2016.  But first I will travel to Paris to reconnect with friends, talk projects and report on the climax that is Juste Debout on March 6th! In case this is your first time, prepare for a world of amazement hosted by the talented Vicelow and ADL. There is nothing quite like seeing tens of thousands of people cheer for dance. Get ready.  See you there or follow the LIVESTREAM here!

LIVE STREAM

______________________________________

-More information  on Juste Debout

“Judges
Popping (2 vs 2): DeYDeY OffiCiaL (France)
Hip hop (2 vs 2): Niki Awandee – Soul Sweat (Sweden)
House Dance (2 vs 2): Toyin Sogunro – Assassins DC/Urban Artistry (USA)
Locking (2 vs 2): CIO – Roaddoggz (Japan).
Experimental (solo)
DJs
KC the Funkaholic, Rob Manga, DJ Nobunaga, Yugson Hawks & Chocolate Brown
Host
John Agesilas

Juste Debout is an international dance competition with preliminary rounds in various world cities, including Amsterdam, and a grand finale in Paris for an audience of over 20,000 fans. In French Juste Debout means ‘just upright’ and was born in 2001 from the need for a competition for ‘upright’ urban forms of dance such as popping, locking, house dance and hip hop new style. More than ten years later, Juste Debout has become the largest dance event in the world and will be broadcast live, at least in France.

You can expect to see dancers from all over the world, who want to qualify for the finals. The winners of the Juste Debout preliminary in Amsterdam go on to the final in Paris on 4-5-6 March 2016.” Hosted by Vicelow (FR).