Mention breakdancing, and many immediately think of the gravity-defying stunts that all the b-boys manage to pull off. But French break dance group Pockemon Crew wants to offer something beyond acrobatics - they like to take the audience back in time, and reminisce about the dawn of hip hop.
And … action! is the World Championship-winning crew's latest theatrical spectacle, which they performed in Hong Kong last weekend. It was created when the group decided to look into the history of breakdancing. Much to their surprise, they found that the street style had existed long before it shot to popularity in New York City in the '70s.
"We were looking for the origin of breakdance movements, especially where the dance moves came from," choreographer and artistic director Riyad Fghani tells Young Post.
"The first signs of breakdance that we could trace appeared in some American musicals in the '30s. And that became the backbone of our project.
"The show is a smorgasbord of movies and theatrical performances coming out of the '30s and '40s which represent the origin of hip hop."
Believe it or not, moves which resemble modern breakdancing could already be found in musicals.
"But they were thought of as acrobatics rather than dance," Fghani says. "That, for us, is the most original form of breakdancing, and therefore that's what we want to show the audience."
The former street crew has evolved into a legitimate troupe over the years but, in the same way they pay tribute to hip hop dance's beginnings in And … action!, the guys have never forgotten their roots.
Back in 1996, the dancers were performing in the streets outside the National Opera of Lyon in eastern France. Three years later, they formed the Pockemon Crew, which has since been winning prestigious breakdancing awards all over the world, including the 2003 International Battle of the Year in Germany, 2006's World Champion in the United Kingdom and, a year later, the KB BOY Masters in South Korea.
Though they might be highly acclaimed dancers, a theatre show presents a whole new set of difficulties. "We need to blend our dance with the atmosphere … this poses the biggest challenge for us," says Fghani, who joined the crew in 2004.
The crew still hits the streets every once in a while, despite having a schedule full of rehearsals and brainstorming new show ideas. "We still battle once or twice a year," says Fghani, adding that the crew's favourite places to battle are South Africa, South Korea and Japan.
What's more, he says: "We're writing some new stuff at the moment, and we're still looking for the right theme. We've been getting a lot of inspiration from the tour."
So here comes the most anticipated question: will Hong Kong be lucky enough to be featured in Pockemon Crew's next show?
"Why not?" answers Fghani, with a smile. Watch out, Hong Kong!