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 Post subject: Breakin’ Convention 2005, Sadler's Wells
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 4:45 am 
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Popping? It's dope
Don’t know a boogaloo from a windmill? A new season reveals how hip-hop leapt from ghetto to stage. By Donald Hutera for The Times.


Unlike its continental neighbours, British dance has been slow to recognise and nurture hip-hop talent. Until now, that is.

Last year Sadler’s Wells in London staged Breakin’ Convention, billed as Britain’s first international festival of hip-hop dance theatre. This huge undertaking featured films, seminars, workshops, free-style DJs in the mezzanine and, above all, two long but glorious evenings of performances by youth groups and professional companies from Britain and abroad.

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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 1:12 am 
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Quote:
Breakin' Convention
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

Hip-hop certainly has a natural affinity with horror, given how many of its moves verge on the freakish.

published: May 16, 2005
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 Post subject: Breakin Convention '05
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 2:21 pm 
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I’ll second Judith Mackrell’s judgement that the majority of the new name acts on Breakin Convention 2005’s bill presented a somewhat stilted transposition of street and pop video dance styles onto the stage.

Saturday’s programme in the main house presented through the proscenium arch what has traditionally been viewed at close quarters in the round (i.e. through the eyes of those also engaged in breakdance battles, offside spectators or the all-seeing zoom-in eye of the camera) to varying degrees of success. An abundance of slick moves based on stock stylised vocabularies from electric boogaloo, breakdance, urban dance and combinations of these, were interspersed with comprehensive displays of tricks, choreographed to mainly upbeat recent hip hop hits.

Each of the new UK crews had their own distinct hallmarks: Holloway Boyz had male charm across the age group; Status epitomised by their male and female Usher-a-like white suit costumes; and Flowzaic (a kind of movement equivalent of all-female lyrical rappers Floetry) used the stage space effectively, despite being mere six in number. The speed and dynamic of this kind of staccato, gravity-defying movement is impressive when mastered in the live human body, yet the result was at times two-dimensional. Without the mediation of the camera some configurations and small gestures simply lacked the projection to transmit to a static viewer over a long distance. Dance 2XS, however, used and played along with the pop video format creating a well-rounded piece of postmodern theatre that owed as much to ‘Phanton of the Opera’ as Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video. The costumes were witty outrageous concoctions of Goth, Fame, Krump and Rocky Horror fashion displayed with panache and self-conscious irony, all adding gravity to the piece’s surprise vampire ending. IDance were the only company to overtly acknowledge breakdance’s jazz roots and its a lineage to musical theatre traditions with their angular asymmetrical and inverted body positions, hammed-up mini dramas and episodic format. ‘Elements of the Playground’ attempted to portray a complex narrative with a theme of friendship and conflict that may have made sense if it had not been put together from edited highlights of a much longer piece.

Despite all this home-grown talent it was Russian nine-man act Top 9 who completely stole the show. Met with a standing ovation they were unanimously judged the top dogs. Top 9 first established their breakdance credentials with non-stop demonstrations of the most complex floor and aerial stunts all executed with precision, athleticism and speed, and then went on to prove they were also expert showmen. In a physically awesome onslaught of short self-contained pieces, they ricocheted across the stage with acrobatics, circus-style tumbling, clowning dressed in a selection of derivative costumes, such as dinner suits and hooded tops. This company has only been breaking for the last five years, but it’s obvious that they were dancing traditional Russian styles such as Cossack long before that.

It seems that now hip hop has officially broken into the international theatre scene, groups from overseas such as Top 9 have upped the ante even higher. Large numbers may once have been the safe formula for breakdance crews, but now audiences are looking for clever and innovative choreography to show off all the usual tricks in arresting ways. Hip hop on a theatre stage needs to make visual impact over long distances, and to weave into its stock vocabulary tried and tested theatrical traditions. Style, rhythm, energy and talent are the bare minimum. Now audiences are demanding the thrills of those old theatrics: mime; comedy; physical theatre; character portrayal and storylines and/or recognisable themes that evolve throughout the piece. It looks as though the organisers of Breakin Convention will have their work cut out for next year ‘s festival. Possibly it will expand to fill an entire week of events, and I’ll bet many dancers and spectators have put their names down for 2006’s offering already.

(A version of this text forthcoming in Undercover Magazine.)

I’m off to see Compagnie Kafig at Birmingham’s Hippodrome tomorrow to see what all the fuss is about. Dress code is boxes on heads I’ve heard.
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PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 2:30 am 
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Breakin' Convention
By Donald Hutera for The Times


CULTURAL lightning can strike twice. Anyone in doubt should have been at Sadler’s Wells this past weekend for the second edition of the international hip-hop dance theatre festival Breakin’ Convention. There were 25 acts spread across three evenings in more than 12 hours of performances.

It was curated and hosted by the indefatigable British hip-hop theatre-maker (and Wells associate artist) Jonzi D. This giant community event was even more exhausting than in 2004 and almost as exhilarating.

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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 3:17 am 
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Breakin' Convention, Sadler's Wells, London
By Zoë Anderson for The Independent


The first Breakin' Convention, a festival of hip-hop dance held at Sadler's Wells, was a huge hit. This second convention followed the same format as the first, with the same success. It was again directed by Jonzi D, now an artist in residence at the theatre. It was an international festival, with
performers from Russia, France and Sweden as well as from Britain and the US.

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 Post subject: BREAKIN’ CONVENTIONS ’05 AT SADLER’S WELLS
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 10:02 am 
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During the weekend from 13th to 15th of May, Sadler’s Wells held their second International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre, Breakin’ Conventions 05. I had heard great comments about the first one and I was really excited about attending this one. I was not disappointed. Sadler’s Wells turned itself into an open space where Hip Hop fans, families and dance enthusiast gathered for the occasion. The atmosphere was fantastic, with a buzz of creativity which is hard to find at most dance events. Kids were practising Hip Hop moves in the different areas of the theatre, the auditorium transformed itself into an arena where people just cheered, entered and left without the usual protocol applied to “latecomers”.

I attended some of the performances on Saturday and they were of different levels, from the amateur to the highly sophisticated. One of the things that was fascinating to watch was the way Hip Hop has been absorbing influences from other dance forms and incorporating them to their idiom. Another fascinating feature was the level of some of these kids dancing on the Sadler’s Wells stage, especially considering that most of them are not being trained professionally.

In an interview for Animated, the magazine published by Foundation for Community Dance, after the Convention last year, Jonzi D had explained how the performances had been planned taking into consideration that the average attention span of Hip Hop audiences was limited, therefore the performances lasted for about 15 minutes. The same principle applied this year, though the Russian group Top 9 proved that this attention span can vary enormously when the performers can offer such varied and stunning an act as they did!

The performances were introduced by Jonzi D – in crutches after and Achilles Tendom injury- and MC Mell’O. They set the tone of joy and excitement for the proceedings. One thing was quite obvious, they do know their audiences and how to connect with them; a lesson that more than one artistic director should perhaps take into consideration.

The afternoon started with a short act by the Holloway Boyz that showed the basics of Hip Hop: a group of male kids practising routines that went from the very simple to the more acrobatic. Still, they obviously had a good following among the audience and the performance was enjoyable to watch.

Next came Idance with a piece called Elements of the Playground, a work that incorporated the theatricality of Musical Theatre as well as many elements from different dance forms. Some of the performers were simply great, showing a commitment and professionalism on the stage hard to find in such young and non professional level.

Status presented Evolution next. Again, some good performers, more Hip Hop based, and with some stunning theatrical stunts.

Dance 2XS presented The Damned, reminiscing of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but with, once again, a theatricality that was quite surprising. These performers obviously knew their contemporary dance as well as their Musical Theatre basics, or, if they did not, they certainly had it under their skins. The piece was longer than the previous ones and it had some quite interesting theatrical stunts. At times it reminded me of Cats –perhaps they would not be too happy about reading this- in strictly movement terms. But the lead’s stage presence as well as the commitment of the performers struck me as highly sophisticated.

Next came the first international performance of the evening, Top 9, from Russia. It is confirmed, there is something in the water these Russians drink that allow them to dance the way they do, be it classical, modern or Hip Hop! The audience was in a continuous uproar at everything they did. They managed to fuse classical music with Hip Hop in a way that was not only beautifully crafted, but hilarious to watch. Audiences responded to their jokes with an almost lost sense of recognition. Here was an audience capable of recognising and laughing at the jokes and transgressions made to their movement language and style they so well know. Audiences elsewhere, please take note! At a time when even the most obvious jokes Ashton or Balanchine played on their audiences are treated with a seriousness only found in MacMillan’s most dramatic pieces, it was refreshing to be able to laugh without feeling guilty for spoiling the sense of propriety of the person sitting next to you. My favourite part of their act –and there were many glorious moments in it- was the moment when they used jazz music with a tap routine and they responded to the tap rhythm with their own Hip Hop routines at unbelievable speed and precision. A joy to watch and a lesson to learn on how to fuse elements from so many different origin and make them work.

The last performance I watched was that by Flowzaic, a female Hip Hop group based in London. Unfortunately, after Top 9’s performance, there was little they could have done in order to stand out. What was a bit disappointing was the attempt in these girls to emulate their male counterparts in all they did. Hip Hop started as a male dance style, but by now more and more women are participating and the style has been adapted very successfully.

Congratulations to Sadler’s Wells for organising this event. It was wonderful to be there and be part of the celebrations. Also, sincere admiration to the young performers that showed us all how much talent there is out there! Hip Hop, as Jonzi D said in the above mentioned interview, is here to stay, it is adapting and it is transforming itself at incredible speed. It is high time, the more established dance forms start considering what is happening in this urban dance form.


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