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!
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