For Hip Hop dancer Karl Ruben Noël – well-known in the vibrant Parisian scene as Rubix The Grizzly – dance is a language. Communicating with people through deeply personal and improvised dance routines has become Rubix’s most valued means of self expression. And with the romantic rooftops of Paris as his backdrop, and its streets as his dance floor, he’s in his element.
“When kids were playing games outside, I was literally dancing every day, practising,” Rubix remembers, “I had my first battle at five years old. And we never really had days off. I started at five – and I just kept going.” And what exactly attracted Rubix to dance battles at such a young age? The freedom to express himself with clarity. “After my first battle, I felt something in my heart and spirit. I really liked how we were speaking with our bodies to another person.” This mutual understanding between two people, one that might otherwise require many words to create, bound Rubix to the art forever.
Likening dance to turning the pages of a book, or absorbing the scenes of a film, Rubix describes dancing as a kind of storytelling. And all good storytelling speaks to its reader with purpose. “For me, dancing is a feeling. It’s a way to speak to someone and show them your story – to show them your life,” Rubix describes. “I want people to know me and to watch me like a movie. And if I start something and I don't end it correctly, people will become lost and won’t understand the full story.”
Rubix’s inspiration comes from his surroundings and the senses they stimulate. “I'm inspired by the space and the structure of a place,” Rubix explains, “Everything I can touch and feel. If you put me in a place, the first thing I'm going to do before I dance is just take in the space.” Freestyling and allowing the body to follow the senses in real-time seems to best suit this approach to dance: “I don't choreograph anything, I just freestyle. I want to take the place as a feeling – I want to be in the place and become the place.” Paris, with its iconic scenic skyline and cobbled streets by the Seine, may superficially appear conventional and perhaps even a little antiquated. But its raw, dynamic energy that continually pushes its people and culture forward is what most inspires Rubix about his city: “Paris to me is revolution. Revolution is its story. Revolution is a part of its Hip Hop culture. Revolution in life. In Paris, we always do stuff to make us better.”
“Paris is in the blood for life.”
Riding, a liberating act itself, fits Rubix’s lifestyle like a glove. “When you ride a bicycle, you see the difference between the old Paris and the new Paris. You see its whole story. And that's just beautiful.” Rubix describes riding the city’s streets as like flicking through chapters of an ongoing story, allowing for an interaction with the narrative of a place that might otherwise be lost in the detached and solitary bubble of a car’s driving seat: “You see some stuff you can not see when you're in the car or on the bus. You can see the new Paris, like the Olympiad and you can see the old Paris, like the Du Pont Alexandre in the same city, within just one bike ride.”
What is it that binds us to the places we live? A home, family, a job? For Rubix, “Paris is in the blood for life.” And not just because he’s grown up with the city like a brother. Not just about the family of dancers that tear up the Hip Hop dance scene unlike any city in the world. Rubix’s Paris shows him the way of the world: “Paris shows me the rich city and the poor city. Paris shows me the truth and the false. Ultimately, Paris shows me that you always have the choice to be what you want to be.”