An extraordinary journey from martial arts to choreography

Mourad Merzouki studied at the circus school, and then went into martial arts before switching to hip-hop, where his passion lies.

I am Director of the National Choreography Center of Créteil and Val-de-Marne, Company Käfig.

I was first trained in martial arts and circus performance at the age of seven. Then I discovered hip-hop culture at the age of fifteen through several French artists and through the TV program HIP HOP, which had a big impact on French teenagers at that time. That’s when I started gravitating towards dance and soon started experimenting with choreography. I worked with several French contemporary dance choreographers before starting my own company.

I created my first dance company in 1989 with Kader Attou, Eric Mezino and Chaouki Saïd. Then in 1996, I realized I wanted to start my own project – something that was more ‘personal’…and that was “Käfig” which means “cage” in Arabic and German. It is a piece about being locked up and references hip-hop which is often associated with being locked in a single style or specific representation.

My whole artistic work since then has been about delivering dance from this ‘cage’ and pushing out boundaries by integrating and confronting other art forms. Since 1996, I created 27 shows that have toured world-wide. Our company has given over 2800 performances in 58 countries.


At the very beginning, it was difficult to get rid of the image that hip-hop conveys. It is a dance form for young immigrants from the suburbs. But hip-hop was not always considered a form of dance and some people thought it would be a trend that would not last. Fighting this perception was hard but it also gave us the strength and motivation to prove that this dance has a firm place in the art scene.

I want to share my artistic work with people throughout the world and I am bringing it to Abu Dhabi through NYUAD. I think of dance as a universal language. My hope is that the audience will be surprised by the energy and poetry of hip-hop, and see that it is far from the clichés we often associate with it.

The main advice I would give to aspiring choreographers wanting to make his or her mark would be to keep an open mind about what surrounds you. Be curious, travel and meet people and always question yourself. You will get inspired when you confront what you think you know by looking at things through different points of view.

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