About Boxe Boxe…

Mourad Merzouki and the Debussy String Quartet talks about Boxe Boxe


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Photo: Michel Cavalca

Mourad Merzouki

Boxing’s a form of dance anyway. I realized that as a teenager, when I got into hip hop after years of doing martial arts. While one is identified with brutality and violence and the other with grace and pleasure, I found a touch of all these ingredients in each of them. I put these contrasts to work in BOXE BOXE, because each aspect of boxing has an equivalent in choreography: the ring and the stage, the gong and the curtain going up, the referee and the eagle eyed critics – for me there are all kinds of similarities. Like martial arts, dance demands hard work, sweat, no effort spared; in both the performer commits himself and suffers the same encounter with the void in the form of his opponent or the audience. No weaknesses or flaws allowed – he has to satisfy the public. The further I go down my path as a choreographer, the clearer it is that you really have to show your mettle. When fame and recognition are no longer enough, only risk taking – the face off, the leap into the unknown, and ultimately your battle with yourself – will keep you going. So there’s a mix – the excitement of combat and fear of the spectators: the gut fear of getting badly knocked about, of taking a licking, together with that great feeling of abandoning yourself, of achieving absolute fulfillment in that magic moment on stage or in the ring.

Now I want to relive those feelings, those moments of release and letting go. The move from boxing to dance is like a pirouette: like when Chaplin turns a street brawl into an hilarious choreographed sequence.

The Debussy String Quartet

A hip hop company and a string quartet – unimaginable? The Debussy String Quartet and Mourad Merzouki don’t think so, which is why they are dauntlessly joining forces for a performance based on boxing. On go the gloves and the battle begins.

Summoned into the ring are the composers Maurice Ravel, Giuseppe Verdi, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert with his celebrated Death and the Maiden Quartet, Philip Glass with Dracula, and Henryk Gorecki. This Ring is definitely not the Wagner version. The musicians are not on stage just to interpret the music: their on stage role has been thought through and meticulously prepared in association with the choreographer. In parallel with their work as a classical string quartet, the Debussy String Quartet have long been engaged with other artistic domains. Their motto, you could say is curiosity, surprise, renewal, discovery and sharing; and with them they have built bridges to such different disciplines as dance (Maguy Marin, Anne Teresa De Keersmaecker, Wayne McGregor, Abou Lagraa \and others), theatre (with Philippe Delaigue, Richard Brunel, Jean Lacornerie…) and contemporary music (Olivier Mellano, Robert le Magnifique). This is a Quartet that is never short of innovative ideas. So the challenge has been taken up and the battle has begun!