2020…What a year, the pandemic brought us a new normal, a normal that as a creative, arts lover and secret Hip-Hop mosh pit head, I really found hard accept. The absence of live music and productions has been the most difficult thing for many of us, and also a testament to the positive influence the arts has on our well-being.
As a day one supporter of Breakin’ Convention, the powerhouse behind the hip-hop theatre revolution and all of the work produced by artistic director Jonzi D, the cancelled shows and our favourite annual park jam were amongst some of our most missed events of 2020. So when we came to know that there was going to be a very special ‘Social DisDancing’ edition, an actual LIVE show, we knew there was no way we could miss this.
Breakin’ Convention has always brought us the feels, empowering us through innovative and inspiring dance, it is a strong part of Hip-Hop culture, and since 2004 has been providing incredible dancers with a platform to express and create.
Walking into the Sadlers Wells theatre for ‘Social Disdancing’ felt like a part of me had been restored, yes we now have restaurants and shops open, but the missing part of my world was being able to walk into a venue and be transformed into a whole new artistic dimension. Though things were slightly different, masked up, fewer seats, and a lot of empty space…ironically with the social distance setting I had never felt closer to those on stage than any time before.
The show opened with a powerful monologue from Jonzi D, speaking on the events of 2020 we felt how at home he was on that stage and his presence alone set the tone for the rest of the show.
First on the stage was a piece by A.I.M Collective, an all-female popping group. Entitled Suspended, it explored the feeling of being standstill, stuck on your thoughts until you eventually find the resilience to stand tall. Illustrated with slow movement to ‘Fire Fly’ by J‑E-T‑S the piece evolved into a 80s soul jam as we were treated to a brighter more uplifting movement to Cheryl Lynn’s Encore.
The show was a mixture of both film and live dance, the film was to keep us engaged whilst the stage was being disinfected in between acts. We were treated to the powerful visuals from Far From The Norm ‘Can’t Kill us all’, a collaboration from 3 original voices working in hip hop theatre: dance artist Botis Seva, film maker Ben Williams and composer Torben Lars Sylvest. ‘Can’t Kill Us All’ explored the mental state of one man during the lockdown, an emotional watch that takes us on a monotonous journey through the dark, from deterioration to finding peace.
The curtains opened to welcome the second live performance of the evening, a London premier for Birmingham based O’Driscoll Collective, a captivating duet exploring mental health through duality. The performance highlighted just how therapeutic dance is in releasing our inner battles as the duet beautifully embodied the battles within our mind.
The second film of the evening was a very special piece by Jonzi D himself, his directorial debut a reaction to George Floyd’s murder and an ode to Black womanhood ‘Our Bodies Back’. Featuring a piece by acclaimed American poet and performance artist Jessica Care Moore, the film was choreographed and performed by Axelle ‘Ebony’ Munezero in Canada; Bolegue Manuela in Germany and Nafisah Baba in UK. ‘Our Bodies Back’ highlights the realities of racism, and sexual violence whilst honouring the Black lives lost through spoken word and dance.
Breakin’ Convention favourites Boy Blue were the last act of this special evening, ending the show with a larger than life performance. The collective brought to life just exactly what we love about Hip-Hop theatre, the empowerment behind break dance, the ability to use movement to act as a voice for the voiceless.
Social Disdancing was our break away from the virtual world, all the zooms and the online festivals. The power of dance came to life accompanied with sound and beautiful soft lighting throughout. Through movement and imagery, we were home, back to the heart of Breakin’ Convention, a celebration of live Hip-Hop theatre away from the outside world that is so far away from our normal.
Photography By Belinda Lawley
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