East­ab­lish­ment Photo by Belinda Law­ley

It’s been 3 years since we’ve been able to gath­er from across the globe for our favour­ite spring, bank hol­i­day week­end, when Sadler’s Wells annu­ally trans­forms from its form­al, rigid dance­house into Lon­don’s home of the best Hip Hop Theatre. The long awaited 3 day fest­iv­al, Breakin Con­ven­tion didn’t miss a beat in its 19th iter­a­tion, gath­er­ing 8 incred­ible com­pan­ies from 3 con­tin­ents to grace the main stage.

Hip Hop roy­alty and Mas­ter of Cere­mon­ies, Jonzi D with legendary BSL inter­pret­er Jaqcui Beck­ford, opened the show with a poem. A flaw­less vic­tory of witty pan­dem­ic satire star­ted the night in true hip hop fash­ion; every punch­line remind­ing the audi­ence that we’re ‘dis­trac­ted by the slap’. Sat­urday 30th April would be noth­ing of the sort.

East­ab­lish­ment effort­lessly affirmed East London’s unri­valled sov­er­eignty with an explos­ive start to the show. The final moments of the cho­reo­graphy saw the com­pany rise to the occa­sion then salut­ing to the audi­ence at the end, sign­ing off and set­ting the tone for what would be a glor­i­ous event.

Oxy­gen left us gasp­ing for breath as the all female troupe waved, dived and pup­pet­eered under one spot­light exhib­it­ing an exquis­ite con­tem­por­ary urb­an fusion. The clas­sic mono­chrome cos­tum­ing paired with clas­sic­al music denoted pre­ci­sion which saw the Dutch ensemble effort­lessly deliv­er intric­ate and pol­ished per­fec­tion.

Embody­ing Jonzi’s social com­ment­ary through the lens of Lima, Peru, D1 Dance Com­pany gave a touch­ing and thought­ful per­form­ance. The dan­cers took us on a jour­ney through a num­ber of dif­fer­ent visu­al stim­u­lants from a play­ful cho­reo­graphy includ­ing red and blue buck­ets (buck­ets on heads would poet­ic­ally travel to their feet etc) to pro­jec­ted mov­ing images of water droplets to nar­rate Peru’s water crisis. The final sec­tion presen­ted hope through power­ful text teamed with a flurry of beau­ti­ful afro per­us­i­an house.

‘I move with cour­age, I move with resi­li­ence’
‘I am moved by struggle’
‘I move to change the world’

The com­pany encap­su­lated strength and pride.

Paint­ing and illus­trat­ing with both pen­cil and body, Czech Republic’s Mr Kriss was the first act of the night to use live accom­pani­ment. The wood­wind instru­ment­a­tion mar­ried beau­ti­fully with Mr Kriss’ grace and com­plex cho­reo­graphy. Covered in a thick blanket remin­is­cent of a trav­el­ler, he began to fold and extend his limbs majestic­ally across the stage. His b‑boy vocab­u­lary mixed with a spell­bind­ing flu­id flex­ib­il­ity, Mr Kriss gave the audi­ence a won­der­fully con­sidered piece or art.

Unaware that the first half had not ended, I left to get a head start at the bar for the infam­ously tasty Carib­bean cuisine that BC always brings to the fest­iv­al as I thought Jonzi was wrap­ping up the first half. I there­fore missed the North­ern Amer­ic­an & Brit­ish act jes­sica Care moore, Axelle ‘Ebony’ Mun­ezero & Soweto Kinch which judging from the com­ments of audi­ence mem­bers who sat beside me, brought the first half to an elec­tri­fy­ing con­clu­sion. As did my jerk chick­en hahaha!

The second half of the night saw French Com­pag­nie Niya, like Mr Kriss, use live accom­pani­ment with more atten­tion to embody­ing the shape and the sound of the instru­ment; now the ever per­cuss­ive steel pan. The piece began with the audi­ence briefly unable to dif­fer­en­ti­ate dan­cer from musi­cian exem­pli­fy­ing that Hip Hop dance and music are insep­ar­able. The musi­cians danced on every crevice, care­fully anchor­ing the 4 b‑boys and their elab­or­ate cho­reo­graphy.

Olivi­er Award win­ning Far From The Norm provided a vis­cer­al dis­play of geni­us phys­ic­al­ity, visu­ally paint­ing the music in the space like no oth­er. The col­lect­ive gasp as the quick flat foot on the spot bourre and tut­ting combo left the audi­ence with noth­ing but sheer admir­a­tion for the cohes­ive accur­acy and tal­ent.

Ant­oinette Gomis by Belinda Law­ley

The night ended with Com­pag­nie Ant­oinette Gomis, a long time BC favour­ite. The audi­ence was trans­por­ted to a desert hori­zon with sil­hou­ettes and shad­ows in the back­ground. The per­spect­ive sim­il­arly to Mr Kriss alluded to trav­el­lers only this time instead of being trans­por­ted to the cold of a winter night, the heat of the desert became a cata­lyst for the fiery energy and mas­ter­ful foot­work of the french crew. The jour­ney ended with the calm and reck­on­ing sounds of Lady­s­mith Black Mam­bazo, clos­ing the night peace­fully, leav­ing the audi­ence ful­filled.

BC gave a much needed injec­tion of energy, pos­it­iv­ity and hope for the future of theatre. It’s a true example of Hip Hop’s resi­li­ence, time­less­ness and immor­tal­ity. Thank god it’s back.

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Valerie Ebuwa

Valer­ie “wing girl” Ebuwa is a freel­ance dance artist and yoga teach­er from East Lon­don. She is cur­rently dan­cing for 3 con­tem­por­ary dance com­pan­ies and is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.

About Valerie Ebuwa

Valerie "wing girl" Ebuwa is a freelance dance artist and yoga teacher from East London. She is currently dancing for 3 contemporary dance companies and is one of the founding members of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.