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 Post subject: Breakin' Convention 2006
PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2006 1:45 am 
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Breakin' Convention 06, Sadler's Wells, London
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

Solos had more impact than group dances. The British group Flawless, winners of UK and international championships, look like the background of any hip-hop video. Their unison dances are weightlessly slick but lack bite.

published: May 3, 2006
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 Post subject: Breakin' Conventions '06
PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 10:18 am 
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Location: London
From Thursday 27th April to Monday 1st May, Sadler’s Wells hosted the annual Breakin’ Conventions, the International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre. The event is organised and presented by Hip Hop guru Jonzi D and, once again, it offered a wonderful opportunity for Hip Hop enthusiasts to see, not only the development of the dance form in the UK, but also in the rest of the world. This year’s guests came from Switzerland, USA, Germany, France, Brazil and Korea. Alongside the performances, the audience can also join workshops in the theatre, classes and other events held at different areas of the building.

I attended the performances on Sunday. I was sorry to miss Zoonation’s “Harry Popper and the Hip Hop Battle”, as I was looking forward to seeing this group after seeing their performances at the Peacock Theatre earlier this year. Still, on Sunday, there were other interesting British groups to discover, as well as international artists coming over from France, Brazil and Korea.

Atmosphere in the theatre was great, though not as buzzing as I remembered it from my previous visit last year. As for the performances, they were good overall, though there seemed to be a big gap between the technical abilities of the British participants and those coming from abroad. Of course, this may be down to the fact that the international guests are professional performers and the British ones come mainly from youth dance groups. Still, one thing seems certain, Hip Hop is here to stay. The number of young people interested and practising this dance form is increasing and it seems its appeal is also developing their skills and numbers!

The afternoon started with The Angels, a young group that performed “Into the Light”. Their performance was good and they managed to warm up the atmosphere in the theatre. The second group was Nexus Boys, who presented “Gangs of New York”. We were told at the beginning of their act that there were girls in the group as well, though I had more than reservations about the way these were presented by their choreographer Anthony Dantae “Mega” Johnson. Unfortunately, this representation of women was reinforced by another group, Boy Blue, later on in the evening. Choreographer Kenrick “H20” Sandy created their act, “Street Elementz”.

Hip Hop is an evolving dance form. If, at the beginning, it was accused of not including women in it, by now, it has to be said that, especially in Britain, it has gone a long way in this respect. However, I was shocked by some of the imagery and fetishism that was used to present young women on stage. Presenting women as male sexual fantasies is dangerous in itself, to do so when working with such young women is at least worrying. Hip Hop is an empowering dance form. Its dynamics, pace and physicality are aspects that show how powerful this dance form can be. To adapt this for the women, as some male choreographers seem to do, and have them playing sexual objects for the men in the group is, at the very least insulting and dangerous in the way this may be perceived by the rest of young people. When Boy Blue had a fight between two women - used to showcase locking techniques -, and this ended with one of the young women slapping the other, some members of the audience clapped and cheered. I felt disturbed and consequently, left the theatre.

I am not arguing that young choreographers cannot explore whatever territories they choose to in order to pursue their choreographic quests. What I am arguing is that as young artists, they have accountability for what they do andmore thought should be put into the effect their work may have in their audiences.

Having said that, there was another area of concern that was reinforced throughout the afternoon-evening, and that is the ability to make hip hop evolve by fusing its elements with other dance forms. It is true that some of the groups, like Zoonation or 2XS, have already done this. Their performances are a joy to watch because these young people are not limited by hip hop conventions, but enlarged by its possibilities. The problem most of the groups I saw had, was that, after ten minutes of their performances, there was nothing new to be added to their pieces. In narrative terms, they were constricted by their lack of awareness of theatrical and dramatic elements that could enhance their showcases, and technically, after two hours of hip hop performances, the acrobatics and movement vocabulary seemed repetitive. Of course, this is not something that affects only hip hop. The same could be said of an evening of classical ballet’s pas de deux… there is this much you can do, until the audience becomes tired of seeing thirty two fouettés coming at the end of each one of them!

Avant Garde Dance presented an interesting exploration into the creative process in dance and I found this piece the most satisfying, both in terms of choreography, by Tony Adigun and the Company, and in terms of conveying the dramatic content it set out to tell.

The international groups I saw were Phase T and Frank Ejara. Phase T came from France and they showed a technical display that was simply brilliant to watch. However, I missed the pure genius that the Russian group Top 9 showed last year by not only putting on brilliance on stage, but also taking the form miles ahead in its possibilities.

Frank Ejara, from Brazil, brought a most interesting piece “Som di Movimento” and I found his work the most compelling to watch. It was a one man show and it had moments of pure genius in the way the dancer put together a display of movement and rhythm with the most simple elements.

It was a great festival and it is obvious that it has got its place in the annual programme of the theatre. Maybe that is why it should be expected that, from now on, Breakin’ Conventions starts becoming more aware of its possibilities and tries to nurture the great talent that it has managed to recruit in its years of existence. Young people need platforms and this is undoubtedly a great one. However, they also need guidance and role models they can aspire to. It would be a shame if those in charge of the festival could not manage to provide these for the future of their art form.


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 Post subject: Breakin Convention 2006
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 5:51 am 
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Breakin Convention 2006 at Sadlers Wells, London

Sunday 30th April 2006

“BREAKIN…CONVENTION…06” the three tiers of the Sadlers Wells auditorium shout one word per tier, a wave of voices descending towards the stage – almost in unison. The vocal wave is orchestrated by masters of this most prestigious of ceremonies Jonzi D and Kimberley jay. It’s the second day of a sold-out three-day dance festival, and the whole event has really found its feet. Jonzi and Kimberley are the bridge in the form of spoken language between the audience and the languages onstage: namely movement, rhythm and melody. But hip hop dance theatre is now a large enough entity to have forked off the main route to become many, many eloquent subsidiary dialects particular to nationalities, regions, cultural genres, tastes and influential individuals. And Breakin Convention not only succeeds in reflecting all this, it absolutely revels in it.

A cultural Che Guevara for our times, Jonzi D is instigating his RPM philosophy – Revolutions Per Minute, a wry metaphor that alludes both to dj culture and the radical thinking that has been at core of hip hop since its inception. An interesting topic in itself BUT…on with the dance. The first five items on the programme showcased local talent from around the UK. These were The Angels, Nexus Boys, Karizma, Streetvibes and Avant Garde Dance. All of these companies were strong in body, mind and sheer number.

To form an overall picture of this section of the festival, three things strike me as outstanding 1. From my seat very distant from the stage, I note the velocity with which hip hop dance theatre has accelerated its development of group choreography. These are not professional companies, and some of them number 40 or so dancers, but they use the stage space with attack, keeping the eye constantly moving. The choreography doesn’t just rely on the quality of the dancers’ performance or expressive interpretation: this is dance made for the stage, with the screen sensibility of Busby Berkeley. 2. The dancers are getting younger and younger! Amazing stunts, power moves and the latest street styles erupt from tiny bodies whose years (from the looks of things) not yet reached double figures. And 3. There’s an unhealthy obsession with chemical suits out there! This attire featured uncannily recurrently in the costume department. And this seemed even to have spread across the waters to France: Phase T sported the trend whilst also filling the stage with finely tuned bodies, drawing on African and Caribbean traditional dances, crisply infused with the present.

From Brazil, Frank Ejara took a bold, giant leap into the hitherto unexplored territory of solo performance “Som di Movimento”. His solitary, suit-clad body then took us one step further, back in time to the heyday of postmodernism with a minimalist performance. Ejara cuts a lonely figure grooving to a personal stereo. The conditions are less than perfect: I imagine one of those old-skool walkmans or cd players that hicupped if the wearer executed any over-exuberant moves, such as breathing. This is expressed through the interrupted soundtrack that keeps going quiet. His headphones are oversized and fall off with predictable regularity. He carries on regardless. Then he discovers that certain of his body movements produce cartoonish sound effects. Initially this is light-hearted, then, as it continues, the audience’s laughter subsides and something a little darker can be found in the obsessive repetition of the sound-producing movement compulsion. Poignant and moving, this was a brave break from the ‘safety in numbers’ streetdance ethos.

Established UK company Boy Blue were next to represent. Going from strength to strength, not only in the number of dancers, but also in the depth of choreography, this company was for me the most emotionally resonant of the home crop. “Street Elementz” was a montage of group routines for vast numbers of dancers, increasing the power of the sharp dynamic through sheer expanse. Boy Blue also proved they could really put the theatre into hip hop dance theatre with boy-girl romance drama(s) for a handful of dancers, proving that good choreography expands to fill the space available.

Project Soul from Korea delivered all the power-move goods you could care to imagine, and some you couldn’t. They also displayed episodes of highly original footwork too, for example, traditional toprock into split leaps was unusual, but it worked. Every single dancer in the company was a virtuoso, with poise, precision, stamina and attitude with a capital A. Like the well-known battery brand, they kept on going until Jonzi’s face nervously appeared from the wing, signalling that they couldn’t go on all night, although you bet they would if given half a chance.

It was almost as if the chemical suits of the earlier companies presciently announced the arrival of the biological warfare of the final piece. The footlights come up and, instead of humans, from French company Franck II Louise, we get robots. There are six of them, identically dressed in metallic body armour and face covering helmets, and as they start to stir from their hexagonal individually lit zones, the audience is stunned by their awesome robotics, moonwalking and backslide manoeuvres. Whether or not you relate to “Drop It”’s synopsis in the festival programme about an alternative universe, this work hypnotises from the very start. It provokes comparison between the uniformed, conformist, armoured, body that moves in set, restricted patterns and the slowly revealed human body flawed with curiosity and ambition, needing oxygen and a sense of individuality. Instigated by a renegade robot wanting to start a personal revolution, the dancers literally deconstruct the costume armour and gradually free themselves of this complicated garment, stripping down to long baggy shorts and light sneakers. The hour-long piece is truly abstract with an un-earthly quality as the movement is dictated by the changes in the pacing of the music and has no fixed narrative in time or space. The choreography’s reliance on the costumes and visual trickery also means that it is without doubt a true piece of theatre. Franck II Louise provoke the imagination and peck at fears deep within the psyche…will robots one day take over humans…? They’ll have to fool the children of the hip hop revolution first.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 5:18 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Breakin’ Convention ‘06By Lucy Wallis for The Stage

Now into its third year, Breakin’ Convention, the annual festival of hip-hop dance theatre has become a cult event in the hip-hop calendar.

Hosted and curated by UK pioneer, Jonzi D, the convention showcases some of the best hip-hop companies from around the world along with the cream of talent from the UK.

This year’s highlights include hip-hop legend Storm, in the UK premiere of Solo for Two, a witty battle between two characters told through the entertaining use of live dance and recorded film footage. Storm, alias Neils “Storm” Robitzky from Germany blends hip hop, robotics and acrobatics with a backwards walk through life and the city.

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