Paris museum takes NYC breakdance off the streets, and into the spotlight

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For the first time in Olympics history, breakdance – the hip-hop dance style that grew out of New York City in the 1970s – willl take centre stage at the Paris Olympic Games this summer. To mark the occasion, the Carnavalet Museum is hosting breakdance performances and workshops.

The Carnavalet Museum is dedicated to the history of Paris, from prehistory to the present day.  Located in the central Marais district, it is one of the most visited museums in the French capital.

“Breakdancing is completely part of this Parisian history, or at least the history of the Grand Paris project and its suburbs,” Maxime Boulegroun-Ruyssen, project superviser at  Carnavalet Museum, told RFI.

“We wanted to show how breakdance could be brought into the museum as part of this rather exceptional event, the Olympic Games,” she explains.

As part of the “Cultural Olympiad“, the museum offers breakdance workshops for school groups and those with little or no cultural experience.

Dancing in a museum

Quentin – known as Qujo Amphbian – has been a professional breakdancer for 10 years and a member of Relief dance company.

Earlier this month, he hosted a workshop at Carnavalet to a crowd who wouldn’t normally come to the museum, let alone have an interest in breakdance.

“I tried to explain hip-hop culture to the participants …what are the moves and the groove”, he said.

“And they realised that breaking is not just about twisting your body … ‘breaking’ your body. It’s also a groove, an attitude and a way of life.”

Inès, a participant from theAurore charity – an organisation that helps people in precarious situations or suffering from exclusion – was suprised to see a dance workshop taking place in a museum: “I’m used to doing it in a sports hall, but in a museum … that’s new and original.”

For Quentin, it was challenging too: “In hip-hop, we are used to [dancing] on the streets, to dance in different areas and to be challenged by the environment. 

“I did some parts of my performance on the stairs … being surrounded by art work inspired me. It’s a beautiful place and it was a real pleasure to dance in this museum.”

Breakdancing at the Olympics

As to breakdance being part of the Paris Olympics, opinion is divided on whether it should be included as a sport.

Known as “breaking” the competition will feature two events—one for men and one for women – where 16 B-Boys and 16 B-Girls will face off in spectacular solo battles.

“It’s really good for our art, our culture. It will bring students to our classes,” Quentin explains.

“At the same time, it’s a bit difficult because it will resonate with an image of breakdance being a sport. I think that this is art before everything …I hope we don’t lose our soul”.

During the summer Olympics, breakdance battles will take place on 9 and 10 August at Place de la Concorde in the centre of Paris.

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