Tag Archives: Breakdance

Abou Traore Makes a Name For Himself in A Performance Sport Akin to Magic

Abou Traore
Abou Traore shot by Inaeei

While many of us have seen famous soccer players break into dance in celebration of a hard earned goal on the field or a breakdancer who weaves a few ball tricks into their act, the idea of a performance sport that intertwines soccer skills and dance at a professional level is relatively new. Those in the know refer to it as ‘Freestyle Football,’ and former Guinean soccer player Abou Traore is among the top performers in this amazing discipline.

Regardless of whether he’s performing for street crowds or in front of the audiences of thousands of people attending Luzia, the hit international Cirque Du Soleil show he’s performed with since 2016, Abou Traore moves with flawless style, stamina and grace, and the smile never once leaves his face.

After spending a decade playing soccer semi-professionally for the clubs ES Parisienne, MFC Montrouge, Paris FC and Paris Saint Germain, Abou took his soccer ball to the streets in 2011 and began experimenting with a new style of performance art. Blending his athleticism and technical soccer skills with fluid movement, dance and astonishing choreography, Abou’s innovative freestyle football performances quickly turned him into an international celebrity.

Though being chosen as a lead performer in the mesmerizing Cirque Du Soleil show Luzia has undoubtedly put Abou in the spotlight, his groundbreaking talent had begun earning extensive attention well before he joined the show.

Some of the tricks that have made Abou so exciting to watch are his signature moonwalk move, where he glides across the floor with the ball on his head, and his windmill trick, which is inspired by the eponymous breakdance move, but brings the added difficulty of gripping a soccer ball between his flexed foot and shin– only to move it around to other parts of his body as he flows through the move. Take a look at the video here to see Abou’s windmill trick in action.

When asked what gets audiences most excited, Abou says “It is when I mix breakdance moves with the ball. “Every time the audience is wowed because they don’t think it’s possible. Some people think I have glue on my feet to hold the ball, so I did it barefoot to prove it.”

From the moment Abou began performing on the streets, fans couldn’t get enough of him; and they made sure to spread the word through social media. With onlookers around the world capturing countless live videos of Abou working his magic, his profile rose exponentially.

In 2013 the social media buzz around Abou landed him his first “professional” job when the entertainment company Brazil Fever discovered him through a YouTube video. They signed Abou on as a part of the act and he began performing at high-profile events across France as a lead member of the Brazilian Samba performance troupe. At the same time, he was consistently being invited to perform regularly on major television shows airing across multiple continents alongside his brother Iya Traore, who is another key figure in the discipline of freestyle football.

Becoming a celebrated figure on the small screen, Abou wowed German audiences when he performed on the popular RTL TV series “Unschlagbar” aka “Unbeatable,” a challenge series that earned No. 1 ratings and averaged 3.89 million viewers per episode. Japan got a taste of his impressive skill when he performed on Nippon TV, and his presence in France grew even more when he was invited to perform on NRJ12’s hit series “Le Mag.”

Moving from performing for street crowds to international audiences through major televised events, Abou’s journey is a rare and inspiring success story. Since 2016 he has continued to impress audiences across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico with his agility and magnetic stage presence through his performances in over 700 shows with Luzia. He even performed in front of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and last year he was invited to speak at Google about the show.

Inspired by rich Mexican culture, Luzia weaves elements of light (luz) and rain (lluvia) into it’s succession of highly stylized acts, and when Abou takes the stage, audiences know something special is coming. The only performer on stage at the beginning of the act, Abou playfully moves around with his soccer ball revealing a little sliver of his skill.

He says, “The audience is very interested because at first, there is no music, and they are not ready to see football in a Cirque show.”

He is then joined by football freestyler Laura Biondo. Together, the two performers enact a scene of a boy and girl playing ball in the street, each inspiring one another to push their skills further, followed by their solo performances. A soundtrack of laughter and children’s voices plays in the background, and a palpable feeling of wonder and joyful innocence is felt as they move across the stage. The 38th show that Cirque Du Soleil has put on since 1984, Luzia has received rave reviews.

In promotion of the show, Abou has performed live on the Toronto morning show “Breakfast Television,” FOX 31 News in Denver, Colorado, “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS, Access Hollywood Live, and more. He’s also been featured in a plethora of popular newspapers and online platforms including Montreal’s Metro, The Chicago Tribune, The Globe and Mail, The Orange County Register, Redmond Reporter, 303 Magazine, and countless others.

Since the beginning of human history there has been a drive to use performance as a means of expression and a way to unite communities, and that’s no different today. Right when we think that we’ve innovated as far as we can, someone like Abou Traore breaks onto the scene and shows us something completely new and previously unimaginable. Though it is safe to say that most people around the world probably didn’t know much about this performance discipline prior to Abou Traore’s arrival on the scene, with all the attention he’s received from media outlets across the globe for his powerful performances over the last few years, he’s turned freestyle football into something that is now recognizable on a global scale.

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Australia’s Pauler Lam dances in Hotel Indigo’s newest national commercial

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Dancer Pauler Lam

When Pauler Lam was 14 years of age, he did what most teenagers did to entertain themselves at the time; he watched MTV. Upon seeing the music video for Jason Nevins & RUN DMC’s hit song “It’s Like That”, the Australian native watched the two teams featured in the video breakdance, battling each other and executing incredible dance moves. It was from that moment on that he knew he wanted to learn how to breakdance. From there, he practiced almost every day with his high school friends, doing back flips and dancing on the grass. He began watching music videos not just for entertainment, but to watch the dancers and study their moves. He came across Korean Pop (KPOP) videos, which were filled with outstanding choreography, only expanding his passion from breakdance to dance itself. Now, he is trained in multiple genres, and as a celebrated Bboy who is also extremely skilled at Hip Hop choreography, he has achieved his dream that he set out on at just 14.

“For me personally, I love being a dancer because it is fun, and it is the most genuine and positive way that I can express myself as an artist. I love the feeling of bringing music to life through movement. It is when I am the happiest. I love performing too, whether it be on camera or for a crowd of people. I also love making people happy when they watch me dance and perform. I am confident in my skills as a performer that I know that I can make people enjoy themselves while I dance.

Lam quickly rose to fame on the 2016 season of Dance Network’s hit show Steady Mobbin’, where he was a principle dancer for several episodes, and in one episode had a feature about his life and career. Since then, he has been in several Buzzfeed dance videos, amassing over a million views each, and a national commercial for American Crew. Despite such success, the highlight of Lam’s career came when he danced in the national commercial campaign for Hotel Indigo last year.

“What made it the highlight for me is that I, an Asian male, was cast to be the star. This is a big deal to the Asian American community in Hollywood. We, as Asians, are usually cast to play stereotypical roles or aren’t considered appealing to the mainstream media, so this definitely was the highlight of my career. After speaking to the team behind the project, I knew that they believed in me because of my skills as a dancer and performer, and did not care about image,” he said.

Lam was cast to play the lead role in the project, where he was followed dancing around the hotel and the surrounding attractions of Los Angeles. There were hundreds of applicants for this lead role. The production team needed the best possible candidate out of all those applicants, and Lam was the stand out. He had sent footage of himself dancing, videos showing his personality, and several photos. It wasn’t long before he was approved by all parties to lead the campaign. Everyone believed that he was the best candidate for the project and that he would be able to bring their vision to life through his artistry as a dancer. His high level of skill and versatility as well as his vibrant on-screen performance and personality that were shown in his video reel and resume made him the right choice.

The commercial, which premiered last September worldwide, was a large success for the Downtown Los Angeles hotel, and Lam’s dancing was a large part of that. His work ethic was also vital, as he is someone that can adapt quickly to any situation. He has a tremendous positive mindset, something he considers one of his best assets outside of his sense of rhythm.

“Pauler and I were like a dream team when it came to this campaign. His incredible skills as a professional dancer are out of this world. We spent a few days together planning and mapping out some dance moves and camera shots so we would all feel comfortable come shoot day. Pauler was able to make my vision come to life through his art and movement and I couldn’t be any happier with the result,” said Harrison Winter, Director of the commercial and Filmmaker at Co.Mission Content.

Winter hand-selected Lam to played the lead role for his project. They began with Skype meetings along with the producer, Dan Tundis. After easily agreeing on what they all wanted for the shoot, they spent two days together location scouting and rehearsing ideas on the spot regarding choreography. The teamwork between the three of them made everything very effortless for Lam.

“It really meant a lot that Harrison and Dan both trusted me with their vision. They even went with my recommendations for other people to be used on the shoot as other featured dancers.

Because we got along so easily and well, come shoot day, it made everything very smooth and fun. The hotel clients were also present and it didn’t take long for them to relax and trust in all of us too after seeing what we were capable of,” Lam described.

Any suggestion that Lam had for dance moves that he could perform, he was able to execute them easily, which highly impressed everyone he was working with. His friends, Bianca Vallar, Alvin De Castro, Savannah Marco, were other dancers featured in the commercial. In the end, they were all able to achieve the best possible result that they could have with the project. Working with Harrison Winter, Dan Tundis, Kris Young, Sam Nuttman, and everyone at Hotel Indigo made the experience for the principle dancer.

“I loved being able to showcase my personality and skills as a performer on such a large platform. Hotel Indigo is an internationally recognised establishment. And for me to play the lead role in their campaign was such a blessing,” said Lam. “I also loved working with all the people involved in this project. From the production team, the clients, to my friends who were featured dancers. We all did our best to achieve the best results for this project. It was a big validation on why I love being a professional dancer.” 

Lam knows that dance is a tough industry to break into, and he is extremely grateful for the success he has achieved. He never gave up on his dream, even when it seemed like it was the easy way out. However, he believes the best way to achieve success as a dancer is to simply be yourself, and to have fun, and working on this campaign gave him to opportunity to do both.

“It feels absolutely incredible knowing that people all over the country saw my work on this project. I love how the campaign turned out. I feel it definitely captures myself as a person on camera and I hope it makes everyone watching as happy as it made me feel performing that day. It’s work like this why I love doing what I do for a living. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

You can watch Pauler Lam’s impressive dance skills in the Hotel Indigo commercial here.