Between Tiny Cit­ies by Thoeun Veassna

Inter­na­tion­ally renowned Aus­trali­an cho­reo­graph­er and b‑boy Nick Power presents Between Tiny Cit­ies in the Lili­an Bayl­is Stu­dio at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion this year. Dan­cers Aaron Lim and Erak Mith per­form the duet in the round, blend­ing the raw, wild energy of b‑boy battles with skil­ful impro­visa­tion and cho­reo­graphy, offer­ing a cross-cul­tur­al per­spect­ive on style, cul­ture and loc­al­ity. Between Tiny Cit­ies is per­formed as part of a UK tour and below, Nick Power tells us more about his hip hop tra­ject­ory and this dynam­ic work:

Nick, tell us about your own hip hop dance jour­ney, when did it begin and how?

I star­ted break­ing in the early 90’s in my homet­own of Too­woomba, rent­ing video tapes like Beat Street, learn­ing the moves by watch­ing them in slow mo and then test­ing my mettle at the school socials or loc­al under­age dis­cos. I soon found that hip hop gave me oth­er aven­ues to con­nect with com­munit­ies and broaden my skills, I star­ted a late night hard­core hip hop radio show through the Uni­ver­sity chan­nel and was very act­ive as a graff artist. I felt I was doing some­thing cre­at­ive and import­ant, con­trib­ut­ing to the cul­ture and the com­munity.

When the time was right, I moved to the major cap­it­al of Bris­bane and star­ted train­ing with high level b*boys. From there things star­ted to gain momentum, I star­ted my own crew, we would rock shows in clubs and fest­ivals as well as battle at jams across the coun­try. I also began to run hip hop work­shop pro­jects and throw events, this cre­ated a new tra­ject­ory for me and enabled me to work full time as a b*boy.

How did you meet and begin work­ing with dan­cers Erak Mith from Phnom Penh and Aaron Lim? Can you describe their back­grounds and dance styles?

I was approached by Cre­at­ive Pro­du­cer Britt Guy who was inter­ested in long term cross cul­tur­al pro­jects and thought my style of work­ing might suit a pro­ject she had in mind. She had done a res­id­ency at Tiny Toones — a hip hop organ­isa­tion in Cam­bod­ia and was look­ing for a dance crew in Dar­win to begin a col­lab­or­a­tion. I had been work­ing with Aaron and his crew D‑City Rock­ers for sev­er­al years and I thought they would be a good fit for the pro­ject. Britt then arranged for Tiny Toones to come to Dar­win Fest­iv­al. The two crews spent two weeks jam­ming, per­form­ing and skill shar­ing, it was a really fun time and a strong con­nec­tion and friend­ship was built. It all cul­min­ated with this crazy jam at Dar­win Fest­iv­al called Block Party at the Light­house, we per­formed a little show­case, battled and gen­er­ally rocked the house, solid­i­fy­ing the con­nec­tion

Can you explain how Between Tiny Cit­ies evolved as a concept and its tra­ject­ory?

After that ini­tial time in Dar­win, D‑City trav­elled to Phnom Penh and got to see where Tiny Toones were com­ing from. It was a real eye open­er, the organ­isa­tion works with young people who don’t have access to edu­ca­tion and it is set in one of the city’s most impov­er­ished neigh­bour­hoods. You could really see and feel what a pos­it­ive and vital force hip hop was in the lives of the Tiny Toones stu­dents and Teach­ers. We were wel­comed into the Tiny Toones stu­dio by each stu­dent rock­ing a break­ing set for us, it was this beau­ti­ful, cul­tur­al moment of con­nec­tion through hip hop. Dur­ing our stay in Phnom Penh I ran some cho­reo­graph­ic ses­sions with the seni­or Tiny Toones Dan­cers and the D‑City Rock­ers, this time it was more explor­at­ory and exper­i­ment­al and it was clear that both Aaron and Erak had a strong con­nec­tion and were inter­ested in pur­su­ing this style of cre­ation. After I got back to Aus­tralia it was really clear in my mind that the next step for the pro­ject would be to cre­ate a duet with these two dan­cers.

Duets can make com­pel­ling view­ing, can you describe what audi­ences can expect?

Hip Hop has always been rooted in place, MC’s let you know where they’re from when they’re rock­ing the Mic, sim­il­arly, the way b*boys dance reflects their back­ground. You can feel Phnom Penh when Erak dances, he fuses tra­di­tion­al Khmer styles into his b*boy lan­guage, he is from the streets of Phnom Penh you can see this in his char­ac­ter as he per­forms. Aaron’s style is also reflect­ive of his back­ground as a mar­tial artist and his time teach­ing work­shops in remote abori­gin­al com­munit­ies. I call them the “Wild Styler” and “The Tech­ni­cian”. Erak, being the wild styler, is a very instinct­ive dan­cer, he does­n’t know what he is going to do and when he fin­ishes his free­style he usu­ally does­n’t know what he has just done. This pro­duces incred­ible moments of dance magic … but on the flip­side it is a bit of a night­mare to cho­reo­graph. Aaron, on the oth­er hand, is a very dis­cip­lined dan­cer, he has his sets and styles he can access and repro­duce, he is super clean and highly tech­nic­al. This dif­fer­ence is one of the works great strengths, their indi­vidu­al style and char­ac­ter really shine through and their dif­fer­ent approaches to dance pushed us to find unortho­dox and cre­at­ive ways to struc­ture and cho­reo­graph the work.

Nick Power is by Timothee Lejoliv­et

While this sense of place and indi­vidu­al­ity is clear and present in the work at its core it is about their friend­ship, broth­er­hood and all the fun, play­ful drama and levels of con­nec­tion that is entwined with­in this rela­tion­ship.

How have people respon­ded on your travels? Do you think it’s increased aware­ness of hip hop in Aus­tralia and diversity there?

We have been blown away by the response to this work, it has gone out into the world in a way that we did­n’t dream of. I think one of the reas­ons it has had such a big life is that it rep­res­ents the rela­tion­ship between Aus­tralia and Cam­bod­ia and more broadly South East Asia and it does this through the prism and com­mon ground of hip hop. Aus­tralia gen­er­ally looks to its more tra­di­tion­al ties to Eng­land and Europe, but our region, our geo­graph­ic­al place in the world is part of Asia and the Pacific. To see this rela­tion­ship played out between two dope b*boys I think it rings true and intrigues people on many levels.

What are you look­ing for­ward most to about per­form­ing at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion?

We are so proud to be part of Breakin’ Con­ven­tion, I have been once as a punter and abso­lutely loved it. The dopest thing is we get to share this work with our hip hop peers, that’s super excit­ing … and a bit scary. I’m also really look­ing for­ward to see­ing the oth­er per­form­ances, we don’t get a lot of hip hop theatre down under so it’s always inspir­ing to see what oth­er artists are doing.

Breakin’ Con­ven­tion is at Sadler’s Wells from Fri­day 29 April to Sunday 1 May. For more inform­a­tion go to

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.