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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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.