As Brooke Mil­liner takes the stage at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion, his jour­ney through the vibrant tapestry of Pop­ping and Hip Hop dance unfolds like a dynam­ic nar­rat­ive. From his form­at­ive years, steeped in the diverse tra­di­tions of dance, to his met­eor­ic rise as a six-time World Hip Hop Cham­pi­on, Brooke’s evol­u­tion is a test­a­ment to his unwaver­ing pas­sion and relent­less pur­suit of excel­lence.

Rooted in the leg­acy of his father­’s influ­ence and fueled by the icon­ic per­form­ances of Michael Jack­son, Brooke’s tra­ject­ory was set early on. Yet, it was his immer­sion in Street Dance styles, under the tutel­age of ment­ors like Rob Pount­ney, that ignited his fer­vor for com­pet­i­tion and innov­a­tion.

As the young­est mem­ber of Plague, Brooke’s ascent to the upper ech­el­ons of the inter­na­tion­al dance scene was pro­pelled by a ten­a­cious spir­it and an insa­ti­able hun­ger for vic­tory. With each accol­ade and tri­umph, he carved out his own path, blend­ing ele­ments of tra­di­tion with his dis­tinct flair.

But Brooke’s artist­ic odys­sey did­n’t stop there. With the estab­lish­ment of Fiya House, he sought to nur­ture the next gen­er­a­tion of dan­cers, fos­ter­ing a com­munity-driv­en eth­os that cel­eb­rated indi­vidu­al­ity and col­lect­ive growth. Through part­ner­ships and ini­ti­at­ives like the King­dom’s League, Fiya House became a beacon of inspir­a­tion, bridging the gap between seasoned vet­er­ans and emer­ging tal­ent.

Now, as he pre­pares to grace the stage at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion once again, Brooke’s per­form­ance prom­ises to be a cul­min­a­tion of years of ded­ic­a­tion and innov­a­tion. With PSYCHE, he invites audi­ences on a jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery and intro­spec­tion, weav­ing togeth­er spoken word, dance, and music into a tapestry of raw emo­tion and unbridled cre­ativ­ity. As he steps into the spot­light, Brooke embod­ies the spir­it of Breakin’ Con­ven­tion — a test­a­ment to the trans­form­at­ive power of Hip Hop cul­ture and the bound­less pos­sib­il­it­ies it holds for those who dare to dream.

Can you share with us your jour­ney into the world of Pop­ping and Hip Hop dance, and what inspired you to pur­sue it as a career?

My fath­er was a dan­cer, so that influ­enced me to fol­low a sim­il­ar path. I prac­ticed many dif­fer­ent dance styles from Bal­let, Jazz, Con­tem­por­ary & Tap at The Brit School fol­lowed by Bird Col­lege, but Street Dances were what I grav­it­ated towards the most. I began prac­ti­cing moves from Lock­ing and Pop­ping, even though I didn’t real­ise that’s what they were called at the time.

I’m sure this is what every­one says, but I grew up watch­ing Michael Jack­son – his per­form­ances and music videos had a big influ­ence on me.

I star­ted tak­ing class with Rob Pount­ney where I expan­ded my know­ledge of Street Dance styles. Even­tu­ally, I joined Plague as the young­est mem­ber of the crew. I became a stu­dent of the game and slowly began enter­ing com­pet­i­tions, win­ning the second battle I’d ever entered as a soloist. Rob would organ­ise pres­ti­gi­ous battles like UK Champs. This motiv­ated me fur­ther and I began to com­pete inter­na­tion­ally.

I’m a very com­pet­it­ive per­son and don’t like to lose. I was out-prac­ti­cing every­one, with the men­tal­ity of “you’ve just got to win” – I made sure I had new mater­i­al in my arsen­al every time I was seen, nev­er rest­ing on my laurels.

I didn’t need much to train, just a small space and a mir­ror. Drills over and over to make sure I Popped hard; con­stantly free­styl­ing and work­ing on con­cepts. Inspired by dan­cers like the Nich­olas Broth­ers, I wanted to devel­op a trade­mark style that brought togeth­er all the ele­ments of my dance and acro­bat­ics train­ing.

I wanted to fol­low in my Fath­ers foot­steps but carve out my own lane. I knew this was what I wanted to do.

As a six-time World Hip Hop Cham­pi­on, what do you believe sets your style apart from oth­ers in the inter­na­tion­al Pop­ping cir­cuit?

Five of those World Titles were with my crews: Plague (twice) and Pro­to­type (three times). Plague entered what I would call Show­case Com­pet­i­tions. Led by Mukhtar O S Mukhtar, our first title win was in 2005, where we achieved firsts across the board. His cre­ativ­ity was unmatched and he really util­ised everyone’s indi­vidu­al spe­cial­isms with­in the crew – everything from Breakin’ to Lock­ing, Pop­ping to House.

After Mukhtar’s move to the US, he passed the torch to me — which was a real hon­our. Our second win in 2011 was at Hip Hop Inter­na­tion­al World Finals. We built on the cre­ativ­ity the crew was known for, but our tech­nic­al matur­ity with­in the styles was much great­er. We showed an authen­t­ic under­stand­ing of mul­tiple styles, which was quite rare at the time. I would cre­ate a lot of the cho­reo­graphy before get­ting into the stu­dio with the oth­ers, work­ing to per­fect the for­mula I’d developed from my own train­ing and exper­i­ences on the inter­na­tion­al battle cir­cuit. Plague was def­in­itely a trend­set­ter, our win in 2011 sparked a big change in the sets that oth­er crews would put togeth­er.

Pro­to­type was foun­ded by Mal­com Mbombo. It was a battle crew in the more tra­di­tion­al sense, for example Crew A throws down then Crew B responds and so on. Our wins on the World Stage were down to our level of pre­par­a­tion, we had cho­reo­graphy for almost every round (up to 15 rounds in a battle). This was really uncom­mon at the time. Our approach was dif­fer­ent to Plague, in that we would all work in the stu­dio togeth­er to come up with the mater­i­al. We didn’t rehearse until we got it right, we rehearsed until we couldn’t get it wrong. It took a lot of ded­ic­a­tion from all of us to pre­pare like that. I was com­mis­sioned in 2022 by BBC Dance Pas­sion to pro­duce doc­u­ment­ary film ‘A Dec­ade Later’ which fol­lows the reunion of the crew, ten years since our last battle togeth­er.

I’m really proud of the impact both crews had in the scene, both in the UK and inter­na­tion­ally.

My solo World Title win was at UK B‑Boy Champs. My approach to every battle is to believe I’m going to win before I even get there. Backed up by my ded­ic­a­tion to train­ing, I would say that I just try to be myself whenev­er I step out. I stay true to the found­a­tion of the style – I respect the roots but push its bound­ar­ies.

How has your exper­i­ence as a per­former in stage shows, TV pro­jects, films, and com­mer­cials influ­enced your approach to cho­reo­graphy and storytelling with­in your dance?

My exper­i­ences as a per­former have made it pos­sible to learn from a wide range of cho­reo­graph­ers and dir­ect­ors. Some of which have been greatly influ­en­tial to me and my meth­ods of cre­at­ing. How­ever, I’d say I see the two aspects of my career as quite sep­ar­ate.

When I’m booked as a per­former, I’m hired because of my look, tech­nique, and to ful­fil a brief. I have lots of exper­i­ence doing it, but it’s not sat­is­fy­ing cre­at­ively.

I have so many ideas — I’ve been lucky enough to get some incred­ible com­mis­sions and oppor­tun­it­ies to make those ideas come to life. Hav­ing my own vis­ion for some­thing, then select­ing the dan­cers not only based on their skills, but also based on their abil­ity to con­nect with the mes­sage of the piece. I encour­age the dan­cers I work with to bring their own per­son­al stor­ies to the cho­reo­graphy; this feels entirely dif­fer­ent to my exper­i­ences in the com­mer­cial sec­tor.

Fiya House has been a pivotal plat­form for emer­ging dance tal­ent. What motiv­ated you to estab­lish it, and what impact do you hope it con­tin­ues to have on the UK Hip Hop com­munity?

Back in 2012, not a lot of dan­cers in the UK were trav­el­ling inter­na­tion­ally to train and com­pete. Later that year, my long-stand­ing dance part­ner Dick­son Mbi came back to Lon­don after a trip to Korea. He saw how dan­cers were train­ing over there, and wanted to cre­ate a space where the UK scene could train to the same intens­ity. Togeth­er, we gathered our com­munity and formed Fiya House.

Over the past 12 years, we’ve been work­ing hard to give Street Dan­cers in the UK a place to go to sharpen their skills. Through weekly classes, annu­al inter­na­tion­al events, bi-annu­al train­ing intens­ives and count­less inter­na­tion­al com­pet­i­tions, Fiya House brings togeth­er phe­nom­en­al dance tal­ent from across the UK and around the world. We provide a space to net­work with oth­er like-minded artists, and pro­mote growth for the UK Hip Hop scene.

One of the primary aims of estab­lish­ing Fiya House was to build and main­tain con­nec­tions between older and younger/newer mem­bers of the com­munity. We sup­port dan­cers to find out who they really are and where they belong, not just as artists – but as well-roun­ded indi­vidu­als.

We also devel­op part­ner­ships and devise pro­grammes that invite non-dan­cers to exper­i­ence the cul­ture. Our flag­ship out­door event Hip Hop Week­ender takes over The Scoop for two days each sum­mer and wel­comes people from all walks of life to learn from and engage with the scene.

In 2022 we joined forces with oth­er lead­ers of the com­munity, includ­ing In Da House and West Coun­try Clash, to cre­ate the Kingdom’s League — a battle league for the UK where dan­cers are rewar­ded for their com­mit­ment to the scene.

Through all of this work, we hope Fiya House will con­tin­ue to inspire new gen­er­a­tions and be a space where the com­munity can level up togeth­er.

Your cre­at­ive prac­tice has expan­ded to include dance, music, and tech­no­logy, lead­ing to the form­a­tion of When Time Was New. Could you elab­or­ate on the vis­ion behind this com­pany and how it’s push­ing the bound­ar­ies of Street Dance styles?

Through live theatre shows and screend­ance films, When Time Was New tells stor­ies, asks ques­tions and cel­eb­rates our com­munity – pla­cing under­ground Street Dance cul­ture front and centre.

From Pop­ping to Breakin’, Krump to Lock­ing, the artists we work with are some of the best in the coun­try. Through their incred­ible skill, we can shift per­cep­tions of Hip Hop and cre­ate work that sparks joy, invites reflec­tion and inspires the next gen­er­a­tion.

The com­pany was formed in 2020 after attend­ing a ses­sion with Pro­du­cer Emily Labhart. Emily has worked with Fiya House since 2017 and has 10+ years exper­i­ence work­ing with artists, fest­ivals and ven­ues. At the time, she spoke about estab­lish­ing infra­struc­ture to deliv­er cre­at­ive ideas, how to build part­ner­ships and secure fund­ing for pro­jects. This opened my eyes to new pos­sib­il­it­ies, and showed me that there could be a way to have my artist­ic ideas real­ised. Emily is now Com­pany Pro­du­cer for When Time Was New.

I strive to push cre­at­ive bound­ar­ies. From being the first to use branch­ing tech­no­logy in a Hip Hop screend­ance film; to work­ing with inter­na­tion­ally renowned col­lab­or­at­ors such as poet Casey Bailey; to pro­du­cing my own ori­gin­al music for each pro­duc­tion, even receiv­ing Hon­our­able Men­tion for Best Music/Soundtrack at Exeter Dance Inter­na­tion­al Film Fest­iv­al.

Through the com­pany, I want to show that Street Dance is artist­ic, innov­at­ive and worthy of tak­ing up space. To date, our work has been presen­ted at pres­ti­gi­ous ven­ues includ­ing Hip Hop Cine­fest (Italy); Denton Black Film Fest­iv­al (USA); Cine Dans Fest (Ams­ter­dam), Birm­ing­ham Inter­na­tion­al Dance Fest­iv­al (UK) and now Breakin’ Con­ven­tion (UK).

How did you get involved with this year’s Breakin’ Con­ven­tion?

I have per­formed at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion since it’s very first edi­tion back in 2004, so I’ve had a long rela­tion­ship with Jonzi and the team. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years!

Jonzi came in as a ment­or for PSYCHE when it was first in devel­op­ment back in 2022, work­ing closely with our spoken word artist TJ. We’ve kept in touch about the piece since then, and he invited me to present it as part of the fest­iv­al this year.

It feels like a full circle moment, hav­ing the oppor­tun­ity for my own com­pany to per­form on Sadler’s Wells main­stage, 20 years after I first per­formed on it.

How do you approach cre­at­ing soundtracks for your cho­reo­graph­ic works, and how does music influ­ence your dance com­pos­i­tions?

I always start with the concept for the piece. Once I have a rough skel­et­on of the idea, I begin to work on the music. The instru­ment­a­tion sets the tone of my work, I tell the same story through the com­pos­i­tion and the cho­reo­graphy.

I usu­ally have a rough edit of the track before I enter the stu­dio to work with the dan­cers, but I cre­ate the piece and the music at the same time as the concept is con­stantly evolving. I find hav­ing too much inform­a­tion, or too many fixed ideas in my head before I enter the rehears­al space can stifle cre­ativ­ity. I give myself the free­dom to adapt the sound right up until the first per­form­ance. Work­ing in this way gives a more com­plete vis­ion of the work.

With Breakin’ Con­ven­tion approach­ing in May, how are you pre­par­ing for your upcom­ing per­form­ance at Sadler­’s Wells? Are there any nerves, excite­ment, or spe­cif­ic goals you have for the event?

Pre­par­a­tions are well under­way: rehears­als are in full flow, tweaks to the soundtracks are being made, cos­tumes are being tested and the dan­cers are giv­ing it their all.

I don’t tend to get nervous. For me, the goal is for the com­pany to walk out on stage and give the incred­ible per­form­ance I know we’re cap­able of. Bring­ing in that win­ning mind­set and enjoy­ing the jour­ney.

It’s a priv­ilege to be show­cased at the fest­iv­al along­side some big names with inter­na­tion­al repu­ta­tions. Ulti­mately, I see the event as an oppor­tun­ity to intro­duce to the pub­lic the live work of When Time Was New, on a big­ger scale than we have before. I hope people will want to stay con­nec­ted with us and be excited about what we do.

Con­sid­er­ing the anti­cip­a­tion build­ing up to Breakin’ Con­ven­tion, what can audi­ences expect from your per­form­ance?

Audi­ences should expect to see what When Time Was New is all about. We’ve got some of the UK’s lead­ing Street Dance artists work­ing togeth­er to tackle com­plex sub­ject mat­ter, through power­ful and enga­ging cho­reo­graphy.

You are what you repeatedly do. Can you break the cycle? As pat­terns of beha­viour are uncovered and cir­cum­stances force their hand, two char­ac­ters must make tough choices and con­front who they see look­ing back in their reflec­tion.

I hope PSYCHE sparks con­ver­sa­tion, and leaves the audi­ence feel­ing reflect­ive and uplif­ted.

Photo Cred­it: Naomi Pat­ter­son

Breakin’ Con­ven­tion often serves as a plat­form for innov­a­tion and push­ing artist­ic bound­ar­ies. How do you plan to show­case your unique style and cre­at­ive vis­ion dur­ing your per­form­ance?

PSYCHE is a rep­res­ent­a­tion of why When Time Was New was cre­ated. It show­cases Pop­ping, Hip Hop, Krump and Break­ing at the highest level, per­formed by dan­cers at the top of their game. The piece also fea­tures bespoke spoken word, in addi­tion to a unique music com­pos­i­tion that I have pro­duced.

The dan­cers have been an act­ive part of the cre­at­ive pro­cess, and have tapped into their per­son­al stor­ies to deliv­er the strongest per­form­ance.

I plan to show how all of these ele­ments; from the dance styles to the poetry to the beats; can be brought togeth­er to cre­ate some­thing artist­ic with an authen­t­ic pur­pose, that res­on­ates with us and our audi­ence. The same as in my battle days, I’ve stayed true to myself, hon­oured the found­a­tions of the styles, and tested the bound­ar­ies of what Street Dance can do.

Look­ing ahead to after Breakin’ Con­ven­tion, how do you envi­sion this exper­i­ence shap­ing your future pro­jects and col­lab­or­a­tions with­in the Hip-Hop dance com­munity?

After Breakin’ Con­ven­tion, I will be get­ting straight back into the stu­dio to work on new pro­jects for When Time Was New. This includes what will be my fourth screend­ance film to date, as well as the cre­ation of a brand new children’s show that will première in 20256.

In August, Fiya House will be run­ning our fourth Hip Hop Week­ender event as part of Sum­mer By The River Fest­iv­al. Plus there will be more battle events through­out the year as part of the Kingdom’s League. More details on all these plans will be announced soon.

I hope that our pres­ence at Breakin’ Con­ven­tion will be a spring­board for the future work of When Time Was New. No mat­ter what, I will always stay con­nec­ted to the scene, keep mak­ing oppor­tun­it­ies for dan­cers, and try my best to be a role mod­el for the next gen­er­a­tion.

Fol­low Brooke Mil­liner Here:

Brooke Mil­liner // When Time Was New // Fiya House // Kingdom’s League

Breakin’ Con­ven­tion 2024 takes place Sat­urday 4th and Sunday 5th May at Sadler­’s Wells Theatre

Get your Tick­ets for this year’s Breakin’ Con­ven­tion HERE

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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.