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.
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.