This is an excerpt from a series of interviews from February 2018, presented in partnership with ICDF’s Network for Men in Dance.
Sodapop (Jeanville) (France)
Interviewer: Sodapop, you seem to have it all and be living the dream as an artist. You are able to dance, you are able to work with your lovely wife, and you get to travel a lot. You live in the beautiful city of Lyon in France.
I’d like to ask you which you enjoy the most, performing as a dancer yourself or teaching and motivating big groups of people in workshops and events?
I like to do both. When I started to dance more than 36 years ago, I quickly started to perform in the streets of Paris with my first dance group. It has been a great school for me because in the street you cannot cheat, you have to give something that comes from the deep part of your being if you want to really touch the people. You must be true.
Because of this, I discovered that I like to give and share what I have inside of me and what I have is the Joy and the Passion to love people. I do exactly the same when I teach. I want to give what I learnt, I want to give what I received and share my experiences to help people to grow and get good basics that will help their lives. I’m often saying, “What I’m giving to you should be a foundation for you to go further”.
It’s all about transmission. It’s all about transmission from one generation to another – from a father to his son. All I learnt, all I have inside me I transmit it to you to help you to continue to grow with confidence and values. And for this, I must be real with a true heart.
One of the things I know you’ve been involved in is choreographing and leading flash-mobs. Is that a nightmare to organise?
Yes, I’ve been involved in leading and choreographing big flash-mobs. That was not difficult for me because I was organised and structured. My job as a professional dancer, choreographer and artistic director of dance companies and of a dance festival, helped me a lot. Before starting to teach the choreography to the participants, everything must be already prepared. After this first step, we can jump into the second step. The thing is how I will communicate the project to the participants.
It’s important to give them the desire to participate and stimulate their imagination. People need to project themselves and feel what they will do and why they will perform. The challenge is also about the accessibility of each component of my proposals. Most of the participants are not skilled dancers and because of that, the movements have to be accessible… with a hint of difficulty to also stimulate them a little bit in their creativity.
For this task, it’s needed to have a heart-to-heart relationship too.
I’ve met you in Scotland and France. I know you’ve worked in Israel and Ireland, and probably with people from many other places. Do you find it a very different experience working with audiences and dancers from different cultures? Are some really more reserved or excitable or appreciative or noisy? or when you’re dancing are they all the same?
It is very interesting to see the diversity of the body expressions from different parts of the world. Every nation, every culture has their own way to move and express through body-language. I have observed during my travels that the history of a nation has largely influenced the way people move with their bodies. Tradition, culture, religion, political atmosphere, social interaction will contribute to build a tribal, regional and national identity and develop the sensitivity of each people.
It is also very interesting to see that people from Asian countries are more connected to the spiritual in their way of moving with regard to their history… even if today they are more influenced by the Western World. Middle-East and southern countries are more attached to the rhythm and their body-language reflects it very well.
Western countries are more attached to the soul, the emotional part of a piece of music.
But above this, dancers from all nations, when listening to a beat, will react with the desire to move internally and externally. The beat is the first rhythm, like the heartbeat, we are listening to the music before we move. This doesn’t mean that all dancers will move on the tempo of the rhythm, because it’s depending on each collective and personal history. Asian people like to listen to percussions but not necessarily to dance it. On the other hand, Africans love to listen and dance to rhythms according their own history. Western world people will feel the rhythm in a different way.
So is it easier to work with African dancers, Asian dancers or European dancers?
I will say that it is different every time. It’s a question of listening, perception and sensitivity influenced by the history, culture, social context, origins and roots.
Each one has a richness, a sensitivity which brings diversity and beauty if it comes from the heart.
Men in Dance Network
Any man interested in dance can just go on Facebook, type in ‘Men in Dance Network’, and ask to join the group.
(If there are women who have questions, or are looking for pointers about working alongside men as dancers, we’ll be trying to build up suggestions and resources for that also, as Frequently Asked Questions. So address any enquiries to Andy Raine.)