I was asked if I’d share a few words ahead of this year’s Breakin’ Convention; an International festival of Hip Hop dance theatre at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. I’m Ben Ajose-Cutting (Mr.Ben), artistic director, choreographer and dancer for The Locksmiths dance co.
I remember sitting in Sadler’s Wells Theatre at the very first Breakin’ Convention back in 2004. I witnessed a back to back onslaught of mind-blowing skills and artistry delivered by a multitude of dancers, companies and pioneering legends such as The Electric Boogaloos who hadn’t returned to London since the 80’s. It was a historical landmark and the beginning of something that would go on to impact the UK and global dance scenes forever. Suddenly this prestigious platform in London more commonly known for classical and contemporary dance was hosting Hip Hop dance from, to quote Breakin’ Convention, ‘around the world and around the corner’. It was inspiring. If they weren’t already, Hip Hop dance artists began pushing their craft in new ways and further exploring the possibilities of creating theatrical Hip Hop.
Returning to watch each year what artistic director Jonzi D and the team had curated demonstrated the continued development and growth of Hip hop dance theatre. I remember the atmosphere sitting among a captivated audience watching Frank II Louise perform Drop It in 2006 and feeling like I’d been transported to 2026! As iron sharpens iron, the wealth of artists that have hit the Breakin’ Convention stage over the past 15 festivals have not only sharpened each other, they have also inspired next generations. I’m hugely grateful for what Jonzi D and the whole Breakin’ Convention team have done over the years in establishing this platform together with the professional development and educational programmes. It’s hard to imagine Hip Hop theatre would be where it is today without it.
6 years on from the first Breakin’ Convention I had performed there twice, one of which was in a tribute to Greg Campellock Jr, RIP, first generation Soul Train dancer and original member of the group responsible for pioneering ‘street dance’ in 1970s; The Lockers. The piece choreographed by Suga Pop of The Electric Boogaloos included some of us who had been Greg’s students and as well as Suga Pop, the piece featured Popin Pete, Tony Gogo, Flo Master, Lockadelic and Hilty & Bosch. It was an immense privilege to be part of honouring Greg who was and is such an influential dancer and whose legacy lives on.
A further 6 years on, in 2016, I debuted my first work with my newly formed dance company, The Locksmiths — A London-based dance company specialising in the dance style Locking; a dance style created by Don Campbell, originating from 1970s, and which you may have seen on Soul Train.
Since then, The Locksmiths have performed a new work at the festival each year and last year I had the privilege of collaborating with Jazz re:freshed, Jason Yarde and a fifteen-piece orchestra. Creating work to a fresh music score and performing with live music such as this was heavenly! For me the idea of working with live musicians makes a lot of sense and I’d like to see it happen a lot more.
For this year’s festival I am currently working on a new piece that I am seeking funding for to develop it to a longer work and educational programme. The piece, ‘Musical Chairs’, is a playful and funky interpretation of the classic party game and explores the characteristics of musical instruments, how they work together and the physical embodiment of these elements and their characterful interaction together. The music for the piece will be performed live by one musician playing all of the instruments and using software to build and layer loops to create the whole sound score live! I hope you can make it!
The Locksmiths perform ‘Musical Chairs’, at Breakin’ Convention on Sunday 5th May. Breakin’ Convention will be on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th May at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. For tickets visit www.breakinconvention.com
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