Dance in Pop Culture

The Story Behind The Contemporary Choreography of Christine and the Queens

Chris (in red) and her dancers. Source: Instagram

Whether she's performing on stage, in music videos, or on television, French electro-pop sensation Chris (formerly known as Christine and the Queens) never seems to stop moving.

Her current international tour combines choreography and set designs with songs from her second studio album, Chris. In contrast to the traditional concert format that relies on distinct musical numbers, the artist and her collaborators sought to create a comprehensive show from start to finish. This evening-length work of dance theater explores the dynamics of identity and power.

Chris doesn't attempt to hide the physical challenges of her live act. In contrast to the illusion of glamor, she refers to performing in a "body without filters."

The choreography was created by (La) Horde, a collective from Paris with a growing reputation for interdisciplinary dance productions on both stage and screen. The group is composed of three members: Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer and Arthur Harel. Like Chris, the trio eschews easy classification and is known for drawing on a wide range of artistic styles, recently creating the "jumpstyle" film To Da Bone.

This eclecticism is reflected in the cast of dancers, a group that includes performers from contemporary dance, acrobatics, commercial dance, as well as a former BalletBoyz company member.

Contemporary dancer Benjamin Bertrand, who continues to create and perform his own choreography internationally while touring with Chris, explains that Chris and the choreographers were looking for performers with unique personalities and interpretive qualities.

"I am done with belonging," sings Chris on her recent single Comme si. Indeed, her work embodies the freedom to experiment with identity and desire in constant metamorphosis.

Surrounded by a group of diverse dancers, the choreography provides a physical form for the lyrics. It allows for a cohesive group dynamic while playing on individual strengths.

At times, the dancers separate from one another. Other moments bear witness to tension within the group, resembling a hip-hop battle or a showdown from West Side Story. But the group always comes back together eventually, reassembling in organic sculptural formations. They don't look like a streamlined corps de ballet, but they belong to a collective unit in which everyone has a rightful place.

Chris is certainly no stranger to the stage. After studying various forms of dance in her native Nantes, she moved to Lyon where she pursued conservatory theater training. In 2010, an extended stay in London marked a turning point: Mentored by drag queens, including celebrated performer Russella, Chris began to craft her unique stage identity.

Following a string of introspective pop ballads on the 2014 album Chaleur humaine, her second studio release has a bold physical presence. She describes her recent work as "sweaty" and "with more muscle." The artist seems to have grown more comfortable in her own skin, openly experimenting with fluid representations of gender and desire on stage.

It's not surprising that the musical artists Chris cites as inspiration include celebrated theatrical performers, many of whom studied dance intensively, such as Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Kate Bush. Chris has also expressed appreciation for choreographers Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins, whose sensual group dynamics and strong musicality are echoed in the current tour's choreography. Dance theater, including the politically-engaged work of choreographer Maguy Marin, serves as another creative reference for the pop star.

During a recent radio discussion with Elton John—who informed Chris that she is one of "the most incredible live acts" he has ever seen—the artist emphasized her personal attachment to the stage: "Live performance is a moment of truth for me. I can't live without the stage."

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