'I am a creator, no?' French choreographer Anthony Egea says half jokingly. 'Jazz, hip hop, classical ballet, I love to mix it all together and come up with something completely new. It's so predictable to do a hip hop dance piece to hip hop music, but when you set hip hop against classical music, for example, that's unexpected.'
So Urban Ballet, which his Compagnie R?volution will be staging next week in Hong Kong as part of Le French May, is all about creating the unexpected. Egea says the work is a result of his experience as a young dancer in Bordeaux, 'I loved 80s hip hop street culture, movies like Beat Street and France's TV show Hip Hop,' he recalls. 'The dance battles, graffiti, the music, all of it.' A street-taught hip hop dancer, he later fell in love with classical dance and was drawn to 'the virtuosity of classical ballet, the aerial work, the grace, the precision and the body lines'.
On a Ministere de la Culture scholarship, he attended the Rosella Hightower School in Cannes between 1996 and 1997 for intensive training in ballet, jazz, and modern dance. Then he received a Lavoisier scholarship from the Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres to attend classes in New York with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre.
Now in its fifth season, Urban Ballet has evolved. Dancers change, and choreography has been refined to showcase their personalities. But it is difficult to find dancers who can master both the techniques required for hip hop and ballet, so Egea instructs them to perform their movements with the power and energy of hip hop yet with the precision and grace of ballet.
In 2002, Egea opened his own school, Compagnie R?volution Vocational Training Centre, to help his dancers become more well-versed in other genres. 'I am training a new generation of dancers to be versatile and open-minded,' says the choreographer who founded his company in 1991. He named it R?volution not only because the word combines 'r?ve', which means 'dream' in French, with 'evolution' but also because 'I wanted to start a revolution!'
The troupe has toured the world, including a trip to the mainland in 2010. Last year, it collaborated with the Beijing Contemporary Dance Theatre for Middle, which combined ballet, hip hop and tai chi. 'I wanted to weave hip hop in with some Chinese elements without worrying about the outcome,' he says.
Egea is now looking forward to his next project, Ecstasy, which will incorporate both trance and house dance. The 40-year-old is clear about his creative future: 'I want to create an urban ballet company, just like a traditional ballet company. Something permanent that specialises in 'urban ballet'. That would be the ultimate.'
Theatre, Sheung Wan Civic Centre, 345 Queen's Road Central, May 25-26, 8pm. HK$180, HK$280, HK$380 Urbtix. Inquiries: frenchmay.com