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KAI RYSSDAL: Even though overall consumer demand is down, there are still slices of the buying public willing to spend. I’m thinking teenagers here, who still want the latest in music, or clothes, or video games. And in France nowadays a lot of that stuff bears a single brand name: Tecktonik. Tecktonik started as dance style in the nightclubs of suburban Paris. Today it’s a registered trademark that even has its own brand of duvet covers. And that — as John Laurenson reports — might not be a great selling point.
John Laurenson: An all-night Tecktonik party in a suburb of Paris: The DJ starts his set with the French national anthem because people here reckon Tecktonik is the first new dance to come out of France since the Can-Can.
Frenchman: This dance is French and we’re proud of it.
Even before they start dancing, Tecktonik fans are unmistakable. Because of the haircut — short at the front and sides, long at the back with a Mohican crest. And the dance. Your feet swivel from side to side while you make big arm movements. Even French primary school children know the one where you sweep your forearm back over your head. Alexandre Barouzdin is one of Tecktonik’s two creators.
Alexandre Barouzdin: It represents more than 12 percent of the youth from 8to 25, so it’s something like millions of people. It’s going very, very fast via the Internet because when we arrived in countries like Morocco or Madagascar, for example, and the people know exactly how to dance — it’s just amazing.
Barouzdin was an investment banker. Eight years ago he and Cyril Blanc, a ballet dancer, started organizing what they called Tecktonik Killer nights in the suburbs which brought in up to 8,000 dancers a time. At 30 bucks a ticket. Last year, says Barouzdin, they organized 120 parties worldwide. No one else is allowed to use the name, which they made a trademark right at the start.
Guillaume Lascoux: You have some very nice tee-shirts. So this one is for a girl.
Guillaume Lascoux, in charge of product development at a subsidiary of France’s biggest TV channel, TF1, shows me through a pile of Tecktonik T-shirts, energy drinks and magazines. He signed a product development deal with Tecktonik in July 2007. Kids as young as six are in his target market, so he’s keen to keep the image clean.
Guillaume Lascoux: We won’t go in the sector of sex, or weapons, or drugs, or alcohol or anything. Tecktonik has some very positive values, which are the respect of oneself.
A Tecktonik TV commercial for mobile phone services.
[Tecktonik TV commercial]
The Tecktonik company opened its first boutique and hair salon in Paris in November. Now there’s a new Tecktonik PlayStation game and Tecktonik school bags. But the young philosopher and writer Vincent Cespedes says Tecktonik’s value as a brand makes it worthless as a youth movement.
Vincent Cespedes: When you’re young, you dance to tell your mother or your father ‘I’m a free man. I’m an adult. And I’ve got my sexuality, my desires and they aren’t yours!’ But, here, it’s not this kind of dance. It’s a safe dance. No alcohol, no drugs, no sex. OK, It’s anti-Rock&Roll. It’s a Sarkozy dance!
Back at that Tecktonik dance night, some people agree with him.
[Woman speaking in French]
This woman tells me the Tecktonik movement’s become too commercial, so she just never buys the stuff.
In Villebon-sur-Yvette, I’m John Laurenson for Marketplace.
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