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Global ambition: How Les Twins and Hennessy conjure magic on a world stage

A collaboration between Parisian dancers, Les Twins, and French Cognac House Hennessy has created art that is redefining the story of both

To bring Les Twins' interpretation of Hennessy to life, they travelled to the Cognac region and the historic family seat of Chateau de Bagnolet.

To bring Les Twins' interpretation of Hennessy to life, they travelled to the Cognac region and the historic family seat of Château de Bagnolet.

 

When two French teenagers travelled from their home in the projects of Sarcelles to dance on the Champs Élysée in Paris, they started a journey that’s been circling the globe ever since. Fuelled by talent and raw ambition, Les Twins, Larry and Laurent Bourgeois, bubbled up through the Paris underground dance community before appearing in national and international spotlights. Alicia Keys spotted them on the streets of Paris, inviting them on-stage at her Paris show.

They claimed the crown at France’s version of the TV franchise, Got Talent (Incroyable Talent), before touring the world as the only male dancers on Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, and again when she teamed up with her husband Jay Z on the On the Run tour. In between, they swept into the life of Jennifer Lopez and her US TV talent show World of Dance, turning heads with their freestyle approach to reinventing global street culture. Meanwhile, they’re also models, actors and producers. It’s a breathless CV that shows no signs of slowing any time soon.

Bigger things

The youngest of 11 siblings, Larry and Laurent are twins, something they consider to be a gift of nature that marked them out as different from day one. They’re brimming with ambition and positive attitude, a winning combination that has opened many doors, allowing them to show just how hard they are willing to work to succeed.

Family and France are solid anchors in their lives so, when the House of Hennessy suggested a collaboration, it was a match they couldn’t refuse. Their family is originally from Guadeloupe and their mother was a huge influence on their lives. “Our mother was a singer and dancer. The love of dance runs in our family and our roots are strong. When you’re from Guadeloupe you know how to dance! But in Sarcelles, being twins and dancers hasn’t always been an advantage,” they say.

They used dance to be different and to carve out their own identity among the tower blocks of Sarcelles, rather than just rely on clothes or money. Laurent explains how he talked his brother out of their part-time jobs and persuaded him to really give dance a go, that they were destined for bigger things. Luckily, Larry believed him and it’s this solid belief that has delivered them onto every stage since.   

Hennessy Very Special is a brand that is also equally comfortable on an international stage, with around 99 per cent of its production sold in export each year. According to Les Twins, many of the International musicians, dancers and creatives who choose the brand as a mark of their own success sometimes don’t realise its French heritage. Les Twins aim to change that: “Learning the Maison’s history changed everything for us; we weren’t the same after that, it was mind-blowing. Everyone should know more about it,” says Laurent.

Street spirit

Larry and Laurent are identical but they relish any small differences of opinion or preference, allowing their drive for independence - and interdependence - to fuel their work. Their ideas bounce off each other, their energy taking shape in the constant battles for dominance in the studio. It’s a wonderful space for creativity, they say. “What we create is emotion, art, a street spirit. It’s like an osmosis. We dance our life. Our movement is what makes us unique, it’s like a digital fingerprint – it’s a style, and a signature, our DNA.”

To bring Les Twins' interpretation of Hennessy to life, they travelled to the Cognac region and the historic family seat of Château de Bagnolet. This incredible house, built on the banks of the Charante River in 1810, holds the entire history of Hennessy within its walls. It represents the continuing prestige and standing of this powerful brand. Working with Hennessy’s master blender, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, they visited vineyards, learned the impact of the weather on the grape and saw first-hand the work that goes into tending the vines. “We got our feet muddy, spoke about the earth, the grapes, harvesting. We had a blast,” Laurent says.

It’s a part of French history. Seeing the arm and the broad axe made us think about our own story

“Walking into the Château de Bagnolet was like walking into a chapter of French history,” Larry continues. “We knew we wanted to create something completely new because the Maison has such an incredible story, with so much passion behind it. Believe it or not, their saga resonates with the story of Les Twins, 250 years later.”

The Founder’s Cellar in Cognac was another revelation for the brothers, when they came face-to-face with the oak barrels that age the cognac in the dark and cool of the maturation rooms. Their descriptions of the smell, sense and flavour of the maturation process is infectious, conjuring a sense of energy from this cellar that urges you to try this wonderful cognac for yourself.

They found parallels with themselves in every part of the cognac experience. “It’s a part of French history. Seeing the arm and the broad axe made us think about our own story – it’s about adventure, the conquering spirit. The work, the Maison’s sense of duty, the fact that everyone did what they did for future generations, it’s incredible.”

Move out loud

In shaping their performance for Hennessy, Les Twins wanted to express the entire creative process of the house in their dance, building on the idea of the phrase Move Out Loud and the campaign slogan Never Stop, Never Settle. This idea matches their sense of performance perfectly. Les Twins work on a freestyle, improvised basis, with no two performances the same, even between takes during filming. They constantly reinvent, something that is thrilling for them as creatives but possibly more complicated for the continuity people on set. But it’s an approach that works, sparking new excitement at every turn. Motion capture technology was used to film the dance as the two brothers, dressed in wired body suits that triggered shapes and colours in the final dance, interpreted the story.

Larry chose to represent the fire and wood used in cognac creation while Laurent was the earth and the vine growing through the seasons. It’s a dramatic and original retelling of this classic Cognac story and it allowed the dance to perfectly flow onto the labelling and packaging of the limited edition bottles, one for each of the two brothers.

Hennessy is intertwined with the history of France. It’s a love story about preserving land for future generations

This incredible fusion of modernity and history is just the starting point for this collaboration. Les Twins also composed the song Mirror, which is premiering as a music video, another first for Hennessy. Next up then is a capsule collection of clothing that reflects the urban chic of their own personal style. Working with the Paris-based designer Stéphane Ashpool, they have taken unisex streetwear and elevated it with colour, personality and flair that follows a direct line back to the identity of Les Twins and their performance. This collection will also incorporate the twin arms and the broad axe of Hennessy’s crest.

“Hennessy is intertwined with the history of France. It’s a love story about preserving land for future generations,” they explain. “Believe it or not, it resonates with Les Twins story. Like Hennessy, we had to stick together, change people’s minds and just forge ahead. Never stop, never settle.”

Hennessy Very Special x Les Twins

This is a single special edition, but with two different bottles featuring Laurent and Larry on their own label. The House even redesigned their historic crest – the arm and the broadaxe, just for them, something that’s never happened before. “Here it appears in double as the house wanted to say, Les Twins' story touches us, let’s do this,” explains Laurent. “The Hennessy name also appears in Les Twins' signature graphics, which is something the House has never done before either. It’s a touching gesture of mutual respect and loyalty – and prestige too.” Each bottle has a QR code to link you to the video of the dance they created.

Hennessy’s Irish roots

It’s 256 years since Irishman Richard Hennessy, an officer who had served in the army of Louis XV, founded the Hennessy Cognac Trading House in 1765. The coat of arms, (the Bras Armé in French) is based on his family crest and is on every bottle produced.