Video Digest: October 5, 2007

Chapter 2 of the latest moves: Rosecrans Baldwin on the Techtonik dance craze sweeping through Paris and the French suburbs. Readers, prepare your mullets.

A Parisian reader emailed me after my Video Digest about the latest hip-hop dances. Was I aware, she wanted to know, of Paris’s own Techtonik craze? I was, though nowhere as well as I am now.

You’ve heard about dances sweeping a city. Well, Paris, she’s full of teenagers with gelled spiky mullets and tight jeans, throwing down like it’s West Side Story cast by American Apparel executives and choreographed by Kanye West on ecstasy. We’re about two months away from Gwen Stefani’s next album featuring these guys:

But it’s no joke: Boys really do throw down on the Paris streets. I’ve had several sightings around town of teenage kids, the kind who seem intimidating and dangerous when they’re bearing down the sidewalk at me, suddenly explode into dance with no soundtrack or cue, the city their rave, the streets their disco.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I wandered by accident into the techno parade in Place de la Bastille. There were a lot of dodgy guys, age 40 or so, who wanted to sell me something, or possibly steal me something. Otherwise the crowd was hundreds, thousands of young people. They’d climbed up the monument, and were hauling friends over the barrier fences by their shirts. And they danced everywhere. This same stupid dance that has no soul to it, just arm trickery and planted feet, I thought, like that kid who can flip a coin back and forth across his knuckles. But I only lasted 10 minutes, and they stayed all night drinking beer and twirling glowsticks, an interminable part of whatever was coming unstoppably next. Why Sarkozy hasn’t grown a mullet yet is probably a style regulation, seeing how Techtonik is exactly what he wants to see more of in France: home-grown innovations the world’s never seen before, from private development to a public embrace.

My father visited last weekend. Saturday evening, on our way out to dinner, we passed a record store mobbed with kids. They were waiting outside for something, and while they waited, they danced. There wasn’t even any music. More kept arriving. They’d put down their backpacks, check their hair in the shop window, then start doing that snaky thing with their arms. Another block, we saw kids on the steps of a post office dancing in place, seemingly unaware that there were a hundred of their comrades around the corner. The music came from a cell phone perched atop a mailbox. I counted about a dozen of them: skinny kids and fat kids, blacks and whites, mostly boys but also two girls. It was twilight on a Saturday. The neighborhood was quiet except for this one tinny beat. No on talked, the kids just danced. And for as little as they moved, the tails on their mullets were already sweaty.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin

blog comments powered by Disqus