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.


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.


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.


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.


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

An emcee, beat­maker, film­maker and writer from Lon­don with Gren­adian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learn­ing and liv­ing Hip Hop cul­ture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and reg­u­larly tour­ing the globe, Apex is well trav­elled, and uses the les­sons this provides to inform his art and out­look. He is a mem­ber of the Glob­al­Fac­tion digit­al pro­duc­tion house and the inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop col­lect­ive End of the Weak.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
An emcee, beatmaker, filmmaker and writer from London with Grenadian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learning and living Hip Hop culture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and regularly touring the globe, Apex is well travelled, and uses the lessons this provides to inform his art and outlook. He is a member of the GlobalFaction digital production house and the international Hip Hop collective End of the Weak.