Tecktonik: It's techno with a Parisian twist – a lot of really crazy twists
In clubs, street corners, and online, young Europeans are turning a dance into a subculture with its own mix of fashion, symbolism, and moves.
At first glance it looks tribal or even charismatic – arms flail, legs juke. These are dancers "battling" one another right on Paris streets, in a scene found from Notre Dame to the Marais – and all over France.Skip to next paragraph
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A dance craze mixing hip-hop, techno, and aerobics, "Tecktonik," or "Tck," is spreading among young working-class Parisians. Made popular via websites like YouTube, it's inspiring a sub-subculture with a post-postmodern kaleidoscope of fashion, symbols, and moves. Like disco, it's nonpolitical. As a scene, it ignores alcohol and drugs. The kids say it's all about freedom.
Tecktonik claims French, or at least European, origins. In the past 18 months, huge numbers of suburban kids have latched onto the dance that started in small Paris circles in 2001, was put online, and then reemerged on the street.
But don't call it hip-hop. It's not. In a way, Tck is an evolution of punk, hip-hop, house music, rave, and techno styles, with not a lot of fixed rules – which leaves a lot of latitude.
In Tck, arms and hands move at lightning speed in tight complex patterns, then shift to broader, expansive stretching movements. At the same time the body may double over, or the torso may spin, and the legs may pump in what looks like a primal native American ritual dance. The three basic styles: hard, electro, and jump.
Glenn Lenga, a young model, says he got hooked on Tck when he realized it was new. Until Tck, he says, "we weren't getting enough out of the music, something was missing … and I think Tck is growing because people feel like they are expressing more. It is evolving. We don't dance the same as a few years ago."
That Tck comes out of the ethnic banlieue, the outskirts of Paris, in France, where rap and hip-hop are greatly loved, is not a small point. Tck's got less attitude – is self-consciously egalitarian. Tckers wear tight jeans. No baggy clothes or jogging suits.
"Hip-hop is for tall guys, tough guys, really big shots," says Mohammed, Mo-tek, manager for the Scorpio team. "Tck is a people's dance, about participation. We are here for enjoyment, for fun. Everyone dances, that's our message."
"Paris is our center. The rappers don't like Tecktonik," says another Tck dancer, Volcanic, aka Alan.
To the extent that Tecktonik has an address, it is a club called Metropolis, on Saturday night. Located in the Val-de-Marne suburb near the Orly airport in a neighborhood of hotels and fast food, Metropolis is definitely more mature, intense, and aware than the Paris street version of Tck.
Crowds line up before midnight and leave around dawn. A lot of Metropolis regulars don't dance in public, a scene many see as faddish. The presiding spirit is DJ Dees, who favors a hard-beat style that makes the building, a structure over a highway, shake.
Tck fashion is on display. Hair is jelled into ducktails. Stylists even set up chairs and clip and snip right next to the DJ stage. Clothes are 1950s greasers and punk: Tight jeans and neon colors mix with black and white. Accessories include electric belts with signature buckles, and glow-in-the-dark tubular gloves covering the wrist. Hot symbols are stars and skulls plastered on faces, clothes, accessories. Guys seem more prevalent than girls, but not by much.