Straight to the point: Bill Shannon rocks!!
Here's my review:
For me this show started on Monday evening with workshops held by the company. There was a beginners and improvers, and in each one we were taught a short but fun routine. It was a good opportunity to meet the cast, who were all really nice guys who made us feel relaxed and helped us with anything we wanted help with. For not much money at all you got to jam with some of the best b-boys from New York if not the world, money well spent if you ask me.
Sketchy - The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome, 23rd May
This show is not just a dancers enter, dancers dance, dancers leave-type show. In Sketchy, Bill Shannon and the Step Fénz crew take you on a journey, and the show therefore has a purpose.
The show opens with Shannon, accompanied to the music of DJ Excess and equipped with a headmike, entering the stage on his skateboard with a small suitcase between his legs on the board. In this amusing opening section he explains to us how he keeps getting stopped in airports and told that he can't skateboard, and how he gets around this. Anyone who has seen any clips of Shannon performing will notice that he usually performs in a raincoat with the hood up, as if hiding himself from the camera, but here I was glad to see that he's actually a very outgoing, funny and likeable guy and the audience immediately warms to his presence.
Speaking into a camera which then projects the image onto a big screen at the back of the stage, Shannon then takes us through a brief history of street/breakdancing, which is acted out by members of Step Fénz at the same time. Shannon starts off at 1984, when the "robot" was all the rage, then continues up to the present day, where Shannon points out that street dancing today is found behind big pop stars in the backing dancers. We then get an insight from Shannon about the difficulties of transferring this style of dance from a club onto a stage, and how he gets really annoyed by one thing very common in dance: The Eight Count.
Sketchy is structured as a mixture of workshop and performance, and there are a few routine dances by the company. They were not entirely in time with each other, but we must remember that these guys are freestyle dancers, not theatre dancers. The first routine starts with a solo: Danny "Infamous" Rodriguez entering and twice attempting a complicated move but failing, with Shannon repeating "Dancing is just you versus your own body".
A more workshop section came when Shannon called out each of his crew individually and they each attempted a certian move they had been working on but couldn't yet complete everytime. This night some were successful and others weren't, but even those who failed their move still managed to impress the audience.
Two of my favourite sections in the show were Dave "Cyclone" Fogler coming out and battling against an invisible opponent. This was then played back on the big screen and he then took the role of the other dancer, battling against himself. My other favourite part was Shannon giving us a demonstration of the Shannon Technique, which he of course came up with, and how he teaches it to able-bodied dancers.
The show finished off with the traditional breakdance circle.
The only thing that disappointed me about the show was that I would have liked to have seen Shannon dancing with his crew, as even though we did get to see him strut his stuff onstage, he was more of a compére throughout the show. However he told us that a few days ago he had been in a car accident and injured his neck and so couldn't do any power moves. In his place though we had Dergin "Stix" Tokmak, a German dancer who also uses crutches.
Sketchy had me gripped from beginning to end, Step Fénz are some of the best breakdancers you can find and the informal feel to the show meant that you felt like you knew the cast by the end. Sketchy is an excellent production, and even if you're not too familiar with this genre of dance, I still recommend it to everyone.
So, to sum up: Bill Shannon rocks!!