For the 2021 edi­tion of the Breakin’ Con­ven­tion eman­at­ing from its spir­itu­al home the world-fam­ous Sadlers Wells Theatre. Hos­ted by its founder and power­house behind the hip-hop theatre revolu­tion artist­ic dir­ect­or Jonzi D. After being held mainly online, with one fant­ast­ic event before the winter lock­down last year ‘Social Dis­dan­cing’ the sum­mer event was back although not quite at full capa­city yet there was the energy and sound in the ven­ue gave this the feel of a sold-out show.

How can we change the future for the bet­ter through the medi­um of break dance the power of cre­at­ing a nar­rat­ive through move­ment? Seems to be the ques­tion the Breakin Con­ven­tion looks to answer with each of these events and *spoil­er alert! They always deliv­er!

Kick­ing off the show was Jonzi D along­side a BSL inter­pret­er Jac­qui Beck­ford who through­out the show did a fant­ast­ic job of cov­er­ing all the dia­logue (even the rap lyr­ics) for all hear­ing-impaired guests in attend­ance.

Up first was W.A.R (We Ain’t Reg­u­lar) a troop most recog­nised as Stormzy’s Dan­cers from his Gla­ston­bury head­line per­form­ance in 2019 mak­ing their Sadlers Wells debut and didn’t dis­ap­point with their explos­ive dynam­ic per­form­ance.

Each act on the night was fol­lowed with a short film as the stage was dis­in­fec­ted (due to Cov­id pro­to­cols) and prepped for the fol­low­ing attrac­tion. The first short film was called ‘Eat the rich’ by John Berkavitch & Si Rawl­in­son mix­ing gritty rap and break dance cre­at­ively stage through­out numer­ous zoom calls.

The fol­low­ing act is from Uganda. Ant­o­nio Bukhar who is a found­ing mem­ber of Ugandan hip hop dance crew Tabu Flo delivered a ver­sat­ile mix of styles which covered a rich his­tory dance to ask the ques­tion. What are you will­ing to sac­ri­fice for acceptance?Bukhar was fol­lowed by a power­ful short film (Gas)lighting fea­tur­ing dance from Sun Kim & Sur­id

AWA (Atyp­ic­al with Atti­tude) was up next. A truly inspir­a­tion­al col­lect­ive fea­tur­ing young dan­cers with dif­fer­ent spe­cial needs and dis­ab­il­it­ies who aim to chal­lenge per­cep­tions towards aut­ism, while break­ing down bound­ar­ies through the com­mu­nic­a­tion of dance. AWA per­formed Blind­folded dan­cing to express their feel­ings of loss and isol­a­tion whilst find­ing com­pan­ion­ship and com­mon­al­ity through their hip hop dance vocab­u­lary. This per­form­ance was so impress­ive and mov­ing too. I was cap­tiv­ated through­out.

What fol­lowed was a short film from Ken Mas­ters & Rob Ander­son mix­ing polit­ic­al rap with breakin.

The show con­tin­ued with ‘Spin and S.I. Stature’ A spoken word & dance duo from Colom­bia whose per­form­ance delivered A power struggle between two people, rep­res­ent­ing two armies using com­bat­ive breakin and spoken word to shine light on the present struggle in Colom­bia this had a Power­ful end­ing.

Wrap­ping up the first series of short films was ‘Too much too little’ by Anthony & Kel Mat­sena. All these films were all part of the suc­cess­ful ini­ti­at­ive called Net Door deliv­ery where cho­reo­graph­ers, word­smiths and film­makers were asked to col­lab­or­ate on a 24-hour video chal­lenge, cre­at­ing everything from concept through to com­ple­tion with­in the time lim­it between 3 and 5 minutes long and had to include the ele­ments of hip hop, wheth­er dan­cing, rap­ping, graf­fiti, DJing, etc. It must fea­ture new lyr­ics, new cho­reo­graphy, and: One spe­cif­ic object One spe­cif­ic line of text A choice of four pieces of music provided on the Breakin Con­ven­tion site.

Clos­ing out the first half of the show was Betty’s Blues cho­reo­graphed by Vet­er­an award-win­ner Gemma Hoddy. Presen­ted a piece called Vin­tage fea­tur­ing A quar­tet of women per­form­ing a sassy blend of icon­ic jazz dance shapes, punc­tu­ated by furi­ous pop­ping tech­nique also fus­ing hip hop rnb new Jack swing.

Dur­ing the Inter­val we got to see some more dope short films. Start­ing with I Am Hip Hop Magazine’s own Apex Zero.  This was a bril­liant, highly emotive and power­ful look at police bru­tal­ity beau­ti­fully shot, edited and scored by Apex Zero. I would cer­tainly like to see this exten­ded with a big­ger budget to see how Apex could expand on this concept.

We want our bod­ies back nar­rated by Amer­ic­an spoken word artist Jes­sica care more which centred on empower­ing Black Women was dir­ec­ted by Breakin Con­ven­tion founder Jonzi D

To close this very impress­ive col­lec­tion of short films which were all part of the Power to the pixel chal­lenge set last year by Jonzi D. Breakin’ Con­ven­tion favour­ites Birdgang from the UK delivered an innov­at­ive piece Breakin set to the sounds of a grand piano being played on a con­cert stage. this film fea­tured some mas­ter­ful edit­ing and trans­itions.

The second half of this show fea­tured high­lights for me includ­ing Waack­ing artist Bagsy solo per­form­ance of Sur­render. Tak­ing inspir­a­tion from his own iden­tity, examin­ing mas­culin­ity, expect­a­tions and Yoruba’s god of thun­der Shango, Bagsy cre­ated an intim­ate explor­a­tion of his jour­ney through the form of waack­ing which was really a good abstract cho­reo­graph­ic choices and cos­tume, held the stage so well, I was cap­tiv­ated for the whole piece it had a very con­tem­por­ary feel and his use of props (the cloth), live music (talk­ing drum — Afric­an influ­ences) to sound track.

Spoken move­ment duo coördin­a­tion seems less cho­reo­graphed incred­ible power­ful and uses pop­ping and tut­ting to illus­trate a psy­cho­lo­gic­ally potent duet between Asafo-Adjei him­self and dan­cer Catrina Nis­bett which explores the reli­gious and cul­tur­al taboos in a Ghanai­an fam­ily. Developed a lot over the years from the ori­gin­al concept video back in 2015 with a dif­fer­ent cast as well as a live per­form­ance 2016. Ini­tially the piece was a bit more abstract. Love the intric­acy and pre­ci­sion of the cho­reo­graphy. I like how there is now a some­what storyline that is revealed in the piece — gave the cho­reo­graphy a dif­fer­ent intens­ity and inten­sion as a view­er. I appre­ci­ated how the cho­reo­graph­er may have used the storyline to also nar­rate a part of his per­son­al exper­i­ences — the storyline gave it a relat­ab­il­ity to audi­ence mem­bers too — I saw the story of a tumul­tu­ous rela­tion­ship between a fath­er and daugh­ter. Trans­itions from dif­fer­ent levels (sit­ting on the chairs and rest­ing on the table to stand­ing on props to using the rest of the space) in the duet were so smooth! The use of breath had its own sound­scape. Loved how it ended with a subtle cliff-hanger.

Clos­ing the show was Patience J + Crew — group explor­ing mod­ern Afro dance forms from the Afric­an dia­spora includ­ing n’dombolo and azonto.

Patience was elec­tric I was watch­ing her the whole time. I think the oth­er dan­cers were good, but they just did­n’t match the energy she had. It was a fun piece bright col­ours in the cos­tume, light­ing, music, and mood through­out. But for me it did­n’t have that refine­ment and fin­esse that Patience J has. But it was light and fun — it would have been nice to see the rest of her dan­cers match her energy though!  I won­der if she was­n’t in it if it would have main­tained such a high stand­ard?

From top to bot­tom this was an amaz­ing show and expertly cur­ated by the legendary Jonzi D. We are truly priv­ileged to exist in a time where we get a have the world lead­er in the Break-dan­cing theatre lane in the UK deliv­er­ing these mas­ter­ful shows year after year. Fant­ast­ic!

Pho­to­graphy By Belinda Law­ley

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Hip Hop Artist / Act­iv­ist / Journ­al­ist / Fun lov­ing indi­vidu­al @SKANDOUZ (On Errr’thang )


Hip Hop Artist / Activist / Journalist / Fun loving individual @SKANDOUZ (On Errr’thang )