From OZ Arts

MazelFreten presents Rave Lucid at OZ Arts Nashville

Absolument incroyable!

In Nashville for three performances, February 29 – March 2, MazelFreten helped audiences escape into a pulsing, euphoric world scored by house music. Described as a combination of extreme control and energetic movements, ten electrifying dancers astound in this high-velocity tribute to French electro-dance. These performances marked the French dance troupe’s first residency in Nashville, and only the second city in the United States ever visited by the company, having presented two performances the previous week in the Historic Asolo Theater at The Ringling in Sarasota, Florida. Following the final performance in Tennessee, MazelFreten returned to France where the company continues to present Rave Lucid through mid-May 2024.

Not confident with how French electro-dance music distinguishes itself from other like genres, I attempted to prime my sensibilities with a ‘French Electro Dance’ playlist on Spotify. The genre proved to be more melodic and developing than the trance house soundscape my instinct initially conjured. OZ Arts Nashville also attempted to set expectations with an ambient soundtrack that was played throughout the facility in anticipation of the performance. Also helping to set what would be a great evening experiencing new art was complimentary valet parking and a signature cocktail crafted specifically for the performances of Rave Lucid – offered both in an alcoholic and nonalcoholic version.

The performance space included stadium seating for the audience, made up of fourteen rows with about twenty seats in each row. General admission tickets allowed for patrons to choose where to sit, aside from several reserved seats near the front for members of OZ Arts Nashville. The stage was constructed with wings on each side resulting in an informal proscenium of sorts. A water-based theatrical haze engulfed the room, while anticipation of the closing night performance electrified all in attendance.

Mark Murphy, Executive and Artistic Director of OZ Arts Nashville, welcomed the crowd and provided a quick introduction to the work about to be showcased. Murphy joked that MazelFreten had saved enough energy for this final performance, a significant reality about which we would soon have a better understanding, while he also gave permission to make noise and to post about one’s experience on social media. Even still, I found myself caught between the stoicism of conservatory training and wanting to express my appreciation and support for the performers in real time. Fortunately for the company of MazelFreten, others in attendance were less inhibited and offered vocal encouragement throughout the performance.

Rave Lucid runs about fifty minutes in length without pause. Seven music selections have been choreographed with such thought paid to the pacing of each vignette, as well as the overall arch form of the piece. The complete track listing used in Rave Lucid is provided below:

Strict choreography looks to be interjected with improvisatory opportunities for each performer throughout the work. Moments of high intensity are coupled with fragile phrases of such intimacy. This elided juxtaposition of emotion kept my attention, not once allowing my thoughts to drift from the artform, making the experience seem to be over in a flash.

MazelFreten’s Rave Lucid features the artistic direction, design, and choreography of Brandon Mesele and Laura Defretin. The work is performed by ten dancers: Khaled “Cerizz” Adbulahi, Achraf “HFLOW” Bouzefour, Téo “Le Mino” Cellier, Thea “X23” Haggiag-Meier, Adrien “Vexus” Larrazet, Manuela “Emrose” Le Daeron, Alice “Aliché” Lemonnier, Marie “Mariejuana” Levenez, Jonathan “Vision” Lutumba, and Océane “Haja” Maréchal. The music of NiKit and Midnight Girls is featured, along with Judith Leray’s light design and costumes by Sting Masele.

The choreography created in dialogue with Alessandro Cortini’s “Scappa” was particularly moving. Following an opening number that uses the entire company, this second movement begins with a solo dancer focused on a single beam of light generated from the opposite side of the stage. Distorted pulsations in the music ascend, becoming easier to perceive as melody – albeit through a filter of John Adams – that continue to get louder to the point that makes the music both an auditory and physical experience. Economy of gesture on stage brings a heightened significance to each movement. Pairs of dancers follow behind the protagonist. It seems obvious that each couplet is host to one dancer experiencing hardship while another offers support, but the exact narrative seems to be left to the viewer to contextualize.

MazelFreten was founded in 2016 by Laura Defretin, an award-winning hip-hop artist, and Brandon Masele, a world champion electro dancer. Bringing electro-dance and dance battle culture to the concert stage, Rave Lucid is one of six productions created for the company’s repertoire. Aiding in the preparation of the next generation of dancers, Defretin and Masele have created INTRO training courses in urban dance for women and La Planke for electro dancers respectively.

Our respect for OZ Arts Nashville should continue to grow. Having the artistic eye and financial courage to curate such innovate programming as Rave Lucid is inspiring. Nashville was one of only two cities to host the premiere tour to the United States for MazelFreten. I’m proud to have experienced such a superlative in person. One should seriously consider attending the remaining three performances this artistic season sponsored by OZ Arts Nashville, particularly if one is unsure about what exactly is being presented. While mainstream arts organizations continue to establish excellence with perennial favorites, it is organizations like OZ Arts Nashville that help to further develop regional culture through highlighting artistic experimentation. Find out more about upcoming performances at OZ Arts Nashville by visiting the organization’s website.

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