Celebrating 20 years of excellence on the 50th year of the inception of Hip Hop is a huge milestone for Breakin’ Convention and UK Hip Hop. It goes without saying that this festival has shaped a generation that will never doubt that their talents and culture can exist within theatre.
We started jumping with Jonzi and Jacqui as they introduced Breakin Convention’s inaugural youth company. Here a star was born as a white spotlight centre stage illuminated a young person ferociously krumping to a bassy track, embodying every sound and anchoring the cohort. As I have been saying for the past 4 years, the most exciting thing in theatre is the emergence and development of Krump theatre. It was glorious to see these young artists carrying the torch.
South Korea is home to some of the greatest dancers on the Hip Hop scene and Movers certainly proved that. From brilliant moving tablos and architectures to live beatboxing and bboy battles, they left no coin unturned. Effortless precision and creativity left us deeply satisfied.
Lauren Scott was a work of art in every sense as she stood posed on a plinth, cloaked under a red fabric. As she popped punctiliously to every note played live by her pianist, she dazzled the audience with her style and precision
Justin De Jäger’s Threading Theatre; a collaboration between the Dutch choreographer and UK dancers created a new piece of theatre centring threading rather than it being a technique in breakdance. The flexible trio emerged, hands attached to their feet then when finally released, kept their fingers interlaced for the entirety of the piece. The dancers created holes and pathways for each other to pass through but also to get stuck in. They ran, danced and weaved seamlessly with and around each other leaving the audience in a dreamy, meditative state. We were invited to witness their detailed weaving world. The piece ended with the trio finally setting themselves free.
Rubix presented a heartfelt chair solo to excerpt of United in Grief and Mother I Sober by Kendrick Lemar continuing the conversation Lemar highlights throughout the Mr. Moral and The Big Steppers album about Black men and mental health.
Danny Francis gave a short and sweet insight to the inception of London’s Hip Hop scene in Covent Garden, 1982.
Kloe Dean ended the first half with an all female tribute to long time collaborator Little Simz. A brilliant piece of theatre with each song led by different soloists highlighted through wearing sunglasses. Personal favourites were Dead Body for the use of red umbrellas and beautiful rain lighting, the recreation of the Woman video with glorious poses around a table and the heart pounding heavy hitting Introvert. The cast was electric and embodied the music and the passion of both Simz and Dean valiantly.
The second half continued with womanhood at the centre. Company Nicolas Huchard featured The Barefoot Divas, an all female force that blew us away with their hypnotic and contagious performances and unisons that can only be described as ancestral. A section of the piece was a voiceover of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman, highlighting each dancer’s beauty, grace and fireceness. This is a sisterhood that I want to join.
ILL-Abilities quite literally defied gravity and logic. Seeing two (Redo and Samuka) of the eight members perform the most complex choreography on one leg (Samuka) or with one arm (Redo) blew every single audience member away without question. It was incredibly lyrical and exhilarating and I felt honoured and privileged to be a spectator.
Far From The Norm returned, this time with Botis with hammer in hand skipping and parading with his ensemble to a infectious remix to fela kuti’s zombie. Here after a night of touching moments saw Botis’ son take to the stage after a voice over about his thoughts on the police. Far from the Norm continue to ask the audience to consider the ever present realities faced by Black people.
The night ended with the perfection that is Ghetto funk collective. The Dutch collective locked with the energy and pazaz of James Brown and the synchronicity and ease of the Nicholas brothers. Every solo was dynamic and powerful and even in silence, no beat was missed. They even managed to create a 70’s chic living room as a set change. The Dutch collective left us with a joyous piece of beautifully crafted choreography.
Breakin Convention has a 20 year legacy that will only continue to innovate and inspire the Hip Hop community to achieve its true place as the king of culture.
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