The design of sneakers

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1. At dancers’ feet

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In the 60s and 70s, wearing sneakers out of the sport courts was considered as an act of rebellion. Artists, musicians, dancers adopted these rubber-soled shoes,that gave a casual and nonconformist look, breaking up with the rigid rules of the society.

Bebop, 1949
In 1949, in the cellars of the bars of Saint-Germain-des-Près, the « Rats de Cave » company founded by Jano Merry danced the bebop. With their rubber-soled high shoes, they could follow the frantic rhythm of the musicians and perform the riskiest figures without fearing a sprain. Mixing swing, boogie and traditional jazz, bebop appeared across the Atlantic in the 1940s as a jazz movement, played by African-American musicians, who intended to free themselves from the big bands, giving more freedom to interpretation and offering more room to improvisation

The boogie woogie of New Year's Eve, 6 january 1949
Report at chez Carrère on the champs Elysées. Journal des Actualités Françaises with the support of INA

West Side Story, 1961
In the heart of the disadvantaged Upper West Side, the action takes place on a sports field, a place of power where two gangs fight to conquer their territory. The director put sneakers on their feet. The plot reveals a conflict between two gangs: the Jets, white youth from the working class originally from Poland and Ireland, and the Sharks, coming from Puerto Rico. Adapted and transposed from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is a musical written by Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, performed for the first time in 1957 on Broadway, and adapted for the screen in 1961 by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise.

Extract from the movie directed by par Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

Maurice Béjart, Mass for present time, 1967
T-shirts, jeans and sneakers: on the eve of May 1968,it is a both rebellious and liberated youth that the choreographer Maurice Béjart highlights in his Mass for The Present Time. Created for the Avignon Festival and performed in the main courtyard of the Palais des Papes, this ballet conceived with a music by Michel Colombier and Pierre Henry, an eminent representative of concrete music, was a great success.

H.I.P.H.O.P, 1984
In 1984, the first television program dedicated to hip-hop culture in France was broadcasted every Sunday on the first TV channel (TF1), just after mass. The initiator of the famous show H.I.P.H.O.P., Sidney was one of the first French media figures in hip-hop culture. Rapper, dancer, musician and DJ, he invited stars of the international hip-hop scene such as Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow or Sugarhill Gang for a year. Young and old people alike wear sneakers, rap and breakdance.

Extract from the show H.I.P.H.O.P hosted by Sidney and broadcasted on TF1, 19 february 1984

Dance at the core of New York’s counterculture
In New York, in the context of a rise of social and political protest, several young dancers and choreographers radically detached themselves from modern and classical dance. Trained in Robert Dunn’s Cunningham studio in New York and Anna Halprin’s Dancers’ Workshop in San Francisco, they rejected virtuosity, dramatic expression, aesthetic and technical codes and wished to abolish the distance between life and dance. Choreographers asked amateurs to join, borrowed movements from the daily life and gave sneakers to their dancers. Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Simone Forti, David Gordon, Meredith Monk, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, were the major figures of this counterculture.



Lucinda Childs, Katema, 1978