REVIEW | BREAKIN’ CONVENTION 2024

Strong as ever in their 21st year, Breakin’ Con­ven­tion 2024 did not dis­ap­point, bring­ing the best of homegrown and inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop Dance Theatre to yet anoth­er sold out Sadler’s Wells.

Enter­ing the build­ing on Sat­urday 4th May, the sounds of abso­lutely legendary DJ’s Sarah Love, Cut­mas­ter Swift and DJ Pogo set the tone, with fam­il­ies, fans and pro­fes­sion­als from across all Hip Hop, theatre and dance related scenes com­ing togeth­er to cel­eb­rate the cul­ture and com­pany that bring all these togeth­er.

The first half kicked off in style with dynam­ic energy from Shaol­inOr­Shao, going in hard with a ded­ic­a­tion to Grime, mov­ing as a unit and as indi­vidu­als to both ver­sions of For­ward among oth­er 140 tempo tracks. They were fol­lowed by two beau­ti­ful duets by CREATE4, who used orange and white light mas­ter­fully to play with scale, feel­ing and the depth of the stage in a really engross­ing piece, then Ekl­eido, whose inter­lock­ing bod­ies demon­strated their incred­ible dex­ter­ity, along­side some bril­liant inter­ac­tion with space and the light­ing rig.

The qual­ity con­tin­ued to rise through the first half, as Gully South Block hit the stage en masse with a power­ful KRUMP routine that seemed to be com­ment on men­tal health battles and indi­vidu­al­ity. The group fol­lowed the lead of a soloist who seemed to lose them­selves in the crowd, strug­gling to main­tain them­selves as they fought against dif­fer­ent mani­fest­a­tions of their struggles. The cath­artic nature of KRUMP seemed per­fect for this piece, and the crew left everything out on the stage.

Next came one of the high­lights of the whole event, as Nottingham’s Jamal Ster­rett pro­duced a cap­tiv­at­ing Bruk Up solo. Flut­ter­ing and float­ing across the stage with an eth­er­e­al, spell­bind­ing style, Jamal seemed to defy human ana­tomy and phys­ics, con­tort­ing his body in ways that didn’t seem pos­sible but that he made look effort­less. A real tal­ent to look out for and to catch if you get the chance.

The first half ended with a treat. Using sta­ging and light expertly, France’s Son of Wind trans­formed the stage into a 90s ware­house party, boun­cing in a met­ro­nom­ic piece that pulled you in and hyp­not­ised with a heavy, Boom Bap energy that built slowly and stead­ily without ever over­flow­ing. The crew moved like one homo­gen­ous head nod­ding organ­ism, break­ing out into moments of solo demon­stra­tions of skill, but nev­er veer­ing too far from the col­lect­ive. The piece was absorb­ing, and lit­er­ally had me sit­ting for­ward on the edge of my seat by the end.

At the inter­mis­sion, our I Am Hip Hop crew went to the Lili­an Bayl­is theatre to see Cie Kil­aï, an all-woman crew ded­ic­ated to emotive and impact­ful storytelling, that used move­ment and verbal lan­guages to break bar­ri­ers between the crowd and them­selves, as well as each oth­er, work­ing seam­lessly as a team to express stor­ies of over­com­ing hard­ship to find them­selves in the world. It was a really beau­ti­ful pro­duc­tion.

The second half on the main stage was owned com­pletely by three heavy­weight crews of the dance world. The finale was South Korea’s Jinjo Crew, return­ing to Breakin’ Con­ven­tion to do what they do best. The vet­er­an, world cham­pi­on break­ers put togeth­er a spec­tacle of hang time and power moves that you expect to see when their name is on the bill. The best part was this unbe­liev­able use of their hood­ies to make a prop to jump through – I don’t really know how they did it! But I could say that for a lot of what they do!

Before them was Femme Fatale, three expert pop­pers from Mex­ico, Korea and France assembled in LA. The inter­na­tion­al nature of the trio seemed to play into their piece, using lug­gage and an air­port theme as a basis. They donned suits, which they removed lay­er by lay­er to chal­lenge and sup­port James Brown’s asser­tion that this is a man’s world, but that it wouldn’t mean noth­ing without a woman or a girl. The suit­cases at points lit up as music burst out, and the dan­cers used pop­ping and waack­ing to move between clas­sic, time­less pieces of music, from Nina Simone to Little Dragon, ooz­ing class, sex­i­ness, sen­su­al­ness, power and strength in an exten­ded piece that had epochs and chapters as their nar­rat­ive unfol­ded.

The high­light of the night for me though was the open­ing of the second half, Ivan Michael Blackstock’s latest iter­a­tion of TRAPLORD. The Olivi­er Award win­ning incarn­a­tion of the epic piece of work that ran at 180 Strand is one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever encountered in any medi­um. This latest inter­pret­a­tion did not let the levels down. Born out dis­cus­sions of young Black men’s exper­i­ences in Lon­don and bey­ond, the work holds up a mir­ror to those of us who’ve lived the battles and pres­sures of the mas­culin­ity, race, gender, viol­ence, mar­gin­al­isa­tion and more that we’ve been forced through. In this per­form­ance, pink tutus, pig heads, LED rain­bow grills and golden guns were used along­side world class cho­reo­graphy, use of light­ing, smoke and the stage to enthral view­ers while the dan­cers and emcees worked through these issues on stage for us all to see, encour­aging those of us with these exper­i­ences bur­ied in us to con­front them with­in ourselves. The work in phe­nom­en­al, and I can’t wait to see where Ivan and his people take it next.

For the 21st year, Jonzi D and his team put on anoth­er immense demon­stra­tion of the best in their field, keep­ing the torch burn­ing bright for Hip Hop Dance Theatre loc­ally and glob­ally. I can’t wait until next year!

Pho­to­graph­er cred­it: Paul Ham­part­sou­mi­an

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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.