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Breakin Convention

on October 31, 2013

10th Anniversary of Breakin Convention: An international festival of hip hop dance theatre.

The first weekend of May 2013 witnessed the 10th anniversary of Breakin’ Convention a celebration of the best in International Hip-Hop Dance theatre. This remarkable and world famous 3 day showcase which featured many of the best names in hip hop dance theatre was held at Sadler Well’s, a Leading Centre for Performing Arts, in Islington.

The first Breaking Convention took place in Sadler Well’s in 2004 with an audience of just under 2,000 people and was the brainchild of Jonzi D who is the festival’s Artistic Director.  The initial success of the event has continued year after year right up to the present where we are now celebrating 10years of Breaking convention. This inclusive and dynamic festival draws upon the 4 pillars of hiphop: Graffiti, MC, dance and music; and proudly engages with and draws in some of the most vulnerable youth who are on the brink of exclusion using hip hop as a tool for positive transformation and community engagement. Thousands of choreographers , dancers, and dance enthusiasts return year after year to be refuelled, challenged and inspired all over again. There were dance theatre companies from all over the world including Seoul, Brooklyn as well as UK’s home grown talent.

There was a diverse range of people in attendance, which mirrored the eclectic mix of dance crews present. One thing everyone had in common was their passion for the art of hip hop dance theatre whether they were professional dance artists, aspiring dancers or like me a spectator who was mesmerized by the expressive talent and creativity.

There was a whole range of workshops on during the day including Graffiti art, Afro Hip hop, popping, and even bonebreaking. Before interviewing Kenrick Sandy I was able catch a glimpse of him in action with renowned Saxophonist Soweto Kinch and other artists in the Freestyle Funk Workshop which built on improvisation to develop freestyle performances. After eliciting key words or themes from audience members the artists worked together to create an organic and exciting freestyle performance to express their interpretation of the theme.

In the evening the main stage showcased performances from 10 of the world’s best hip hop theatre companies. Zamunda the all female crew consisting of 6 dancers introduced with the tagline ‘sexycrazycool’ , incorporated an energizing fusion of hip hop, contemporary, Jazz and African styles into their performance.  IMD Legion included 2 young sisters aged 6 and 9 who wowed the crowd with their daring headspins and backflips. At the other end of the generation spectrum were the legendary Electric Bugaloos formed in 1975 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. This quartet have been credited with making popping famous in hip hop dance theatre and they burst onto the stage with their trademark classic funk meets hip hop style.

The final act of the evening was Ill- ability, a collective of truly pioneering and awe inspiring male dancers. Each of the artists had a disability ranging from hearing impairments to missing or incorrectly formed limbs. Words appeared in a presentation on the screen to help explain how they made sense of their disabilities against the backdrop of society’s prejudice and stereotypes. The words of the dancer with the hearing impairment “sometimes I gotta see the music” spoke loudly and profoundly. Beyond having a disability it was evident that they in fact had special abilities which allowed them to soar above the limitations which other’s sought to impose upon them.

We were all moved and inspired by this talented collective’s rousing mantra which was ‘no limits, no excuses’.  Beyond the world of dance, whatever it is that one feels limited by this was a salient reminder to all that we can rise above the restrictions that society or even ourselves place on our dreams.

After a day at this exceptional Festival of Dance it was clear why and how it has played a pivotal role in the development of Hip Hop Dance theatre. Breakin’ Convention continues to go from strength to strength as it prepares to go overseas to the nation where Hip Hop was birthed during the month of June. Jonzi D and MC Lyte are looking forward to moving it on to the next stage and will be hosting the International Festival of Hip Hop Dance theatre at the historic Apollo in Harlem for what is set to be another incredible showcase of International talent.

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