REVIEW | BREAKIN’ CONVENTION 2019… HIP-HOP THEATRE’S POWERHOUSE! (@BCONVENTION)

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Lon­don and Hip Hop have a long and con­stantly evolving rela­tion­ship that’s enriched both the city and the cul­ture. Events, artists and styles come, go, are reborn, fused and more, but for the last 16 years of that his­tor­ic­al pro­cess Break­in’ Con­ven­tion has been a main­stay, sup­port­ing and being sub­ject to that growth. since 2004, the base of Hip Hop Dance Theatre pion­eered by the legendary Jonzi D and housed at Sadler’s Wells has provided a home for innov­at­ive cre­at­ives and the young per­formers they inspire in return for the fruits of their ima­gin­at­ive endeav­ours. The show on Sat­urday May 4th was no excep­tion, with some of the most tal­en­ted artists in the city, coun­try and world­wide brought togeth­er to show­case their skills.

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Before the main stage opened, there was a beau­ti­ful fam­ily atmo­sphere with Hip Hop cul­ture being embraced, explored and expressed by heads of all ages – free­style dance cyphers held down by the res­id­ent DJs the En4cerzand a ‘Train­ing Zone’ for new­comers run by Rowdyand Mid-Air; Mr Dane teach­ing people to tag and cus­tom­ise pieces; graf­fiti work­shops in the yard by a glob­al col­lec­tion of pros Case, Gnash­er, Niser, Teas­erand Letty Lyons; per­form­ances by emcee Broken Penand beat­box from Grace Sav­age.

With Hip Hop liv­ing and breath­ing through­out the build­ing, the main event kicked off with huge excite­ment run­ning through the rammed-out theatre. Jonzi and his co-host Jac­qui Beck­ford, who signed the whole show, raised that excite­ment to the fullest, as the show opened with 3 amaz­ing group pieces. ‘Air’ by Arche­type explored envir­on­ment­al issues, dual­ity and bal­ance, Funky Fresh Col­lect­ive gave a visu­al ded­ic­a­tion to the music of TLC in ‘Crazy­Sexy­Cool’, while the all-female pop­ping crew A.I.M Col­lect­ive gave a com­mand­ing per­form­ance seem­ingly inspired by Jord­an Peele’s ‘US’ – red jump­suits, pup­pet-like move­ments and a haunt­ing solo intro­duc­tion to ‘Love and Hap­pi­ness’ by Al Green.

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This was fol­lowed by one of the stand out moments. San Diego’s Logistx– who at 15 is young­er than Break­in’ Con­ven­tion itself – was described by Jonzi as the future of break­ing. Her solo ‘Pain is Real­ity’ explored the need to over­come life’s agony to attain freedom, and she moved through impress­ive sequences of power moves in her own style, all with amaz­ing use of light to a blen­ded soundtrack of Hip Hop, Chinese clas­sic­al and Alan Watts quotes. She was fol­lowed by ‘Kigiriki Mun­gu’ by Cocojam– a mov­ing group trib­ute to Jack Saun­ders, a friend of the crew who recently passed on. The per­son­al piece rep­res­en­ted the inspir­a­tion and appre­ci­ation for dan­cers who have come, given and left us, through­out the gen­er­a­tions, and the emo­tion and grat­it­ude was vis­ible in every move­ment.

My favour­ite part of the night came from God­son with ‘RAW’ – which is exactly what it was. The power­ful polit­ic­al piece was like a battle raged again­st an invis­ible oppon­ent, with God­son lead­ing a crew of 20 dan­cers into war, krump­ing with a level of energy I’ve rarely seen aimed at, hit or sus­tained on any stage. The space, smoke and light­ing was used mas­ter­fully, begin­ning in the back corner with God­son alone, evok­ing a ‘back again­st the wall’ claus­tro­pho­bia that was even­tu­ally over­come by call­ing on his team, rising up and boil­ing over the whole stage and bey­ond it. The group moved and spread like a col­lect­ive entity viol­ently react­ing to its cir­cum­stances through the expres­sion of each of its parts. As the unit spread, the light­ing rig des­cen­ded, giv­ing a sense of react­ive con­tain­ment, as if the envir­on­ment itself was seek­ing to crack down on the dan­cers to regain con­trol. It was an aston­ish­ing piece of dance and theatre, fit­ting for the times we’re liv­ing through. The first half of the show was closed by France’s Geo­met­rie Vari­able, who put on a stun­ning dis­play ‘Labora’, inter­twin­ing their arms and bod­ies into extraordin­ary shapes and sequences, strik­ing a per­fect bal­ance between fluid­ity and mech­an­ist­ic move­ment.

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In the inter­val, I man­aged to get over to the Lili­an Bayl­is stu­dio where some more lan­guage driv­en per­form­ances were given, with 2 really mak­ing an impres­sion. Ukweli Roach’s‘Vicycle’ high­lighted the dopam­ine fuelled addic­tion to social media many people are deal­ing with today, pre­ceded by a deeply dis­tress­ing but neces­sary cri­tique of abuse with­in Black fam­il­ies ‘Broken Silence’ by vet­er­an play­wright and poet Real­it­ie, with incred­ible per­form­ances from Debora Ade­fioyeand Olivia Masen­gi cap­tur­ing the con­flic­ted per­sonas pro­duced by the inner tur­moil of a child abused by her step­father and mother.LBTsaturday-14

The second half of the main stage show reopened with another heart­felt ded­ic­a­tion to a tran­scen­ded soul – Paul Trouble Ander­son– by the Perry Louis Jazz Cotech Crew, pay­ing homage to the dance­floor Jazz and Boo­gie scene of 1970s and 80s Lon­don that the DJ, pro­du­cer and dan­cer helped to shape. WeWolf, com­prised of LA based Rub­ber­legz and Ger­many based James Gregg, saw the duo lit­er­ally com­bine to present ‘Decay’, a unique and engross­ing set of move­ments and shapes that saw the dan­cers util­iz­ing some incom­pre­hens­ible dex­ter­ity to often appear as a bizar­re amal­gam­a­tion of sen­tient flesh. This was fol­lowed the pro­foundly per­son­al ‘Find­ing Me’ by Angy­il McNeal, which star­ted with a har­row­ing account of her child­hood in Kansas City as the daugh­ter of a drug user father and drug deal­er mother. McNeal has used dance to over­come her situ­ation, which has caused her to cre­ate dif­fer­ent sides of her­self, some of which were explored through her pop­ping, out­fit changes and light­ing.

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The finale of the show was another high­light; one of the biggest b-boy crews in the world, Battle of the Year World Cham­pi­ons Jin­jo Crew of South Korea. Demon­strat­ing the best attrib­utes of the long leg­acy of Korean break­ers, the crew com­bine level rais­ing takes on estab­lished moves with innov­a­tion, acro­bat­ic deft­ness and their own cul­ture, mov­ing from tra­di­tion­al Korean music and cloth­ing to all out clas­sic break­ing style. The whole routine was insane, espe­cially when they man­aged to tie all their hood­ies togeth­er in one move­ment! It was a mad­ness!

Break­in’ Con­ven­tion had suc­cess­fully cel­eb­rated it’s sweet 16 with an aston­ish­ing event. Every­one involved demon­strated the care, pre­ci­sion and love that has gone into the art of each per­former and estab­lished Break­in’ Con­ven­tion as a power­house of Hip Hop, dance, theatre and cul­ture in Lon­don and world­wide, and that I’m sure will lead to at least another 16 years of suc­cess.

Pho­tos by Belinda Law­ley

 

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been express­ing his anti-polit­ic­al views and extend­ing his work towards defin­ing, inspir­ing and cre­at­ing last­ing change through Hip Hop for over a dec­ade. Apex has been work­ing with grass­roots and mil­it­ant organ­isa­tions, edu­cat­ing him­self and oth­ers, organ­ising and build­ing towards over­turn­ing the oppress­ive mech­an­ism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s under­ground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omni­scient. Years of earn­ing respect and enhan­cing their repu­ta­tion, which lead to col­lab­or­a­tions and work­ing rela­tion­ships with many of the scenes most prom­in­ent artists and organ­isa­tions, mani­fes­ted in the Octo­ber 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Real­ity Pro­vok­ing Lib­er­a­tion’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hard­core Hip Hop’ gathered inter­na­tion­al acclaim from both fans and crit­ics, fur­ther enhan­cing Apex’s repu­ta­tion as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-polit­ic­al, ‘revolu­tion­ary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been trav­el­ling out­side of the UK, seek­ing new per­spect­ives and aim­ing at enhan­cing his out­look, explor­ing dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies, con­nect­ing with Hip Hop heads, act­iv­ists and schol­ars world­wide. Like his music, his writ­ing is often an exten­sion of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whil­st enhan­cing and elev­at­ing both the cul­ture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been expressing his anti-political views and extending his work towards defining, inspiring and creating lasting change through Hip Hop for over a decade. Apex has been working with grassroots and militant organisations, educating himself and others, organising and building towards overturning the oppressive mechanism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s underground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omniscient. Years of earning respect and enhancing their reputation, which lead to collaborations and working relationships with many of the scenes most prominent artists and organisations, manifested in the October 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Reality Provoking Liberation’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hardcore Hip Hop’ gathered international acclaim from both fans and critics, further enhancing Apex’s reputation as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-political, ‘revolutionary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been travelling outside of the UK, seeking new perspectives and aiming at enhancing his outlook, exploring different societies, connecting with Hip Hop heads, activists and scholars worldwide. Like his music, his writing is often an extension of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whilst enhancing and elevating both the culture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.