Rewind to 2004 and the likes of Kanye West, Terror Squad, and T.I were dominating the airwaves. A once disregarded musical form, hip hop was now at the pinnacle of global success; it’s  a crucial component of popular culture. Hip hop’s influence is no doubt evident within the fields of music and dance, however the movement continues to fuel multiple facets such as art and fashion. 2004 would also be the year that Jonzi D, a key figure in the movement of Hip Hop Theatre within the UK, would curate a weekend packed full of workshops and performances that 15 years later would still inspire many.

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Taking over Sadler’s Wells both on and off stage, Breakin’ Convention proudly celebrates its 15 years with a mural situated in the foyer. Prior to doors opening, crowds gather in the mezzanine to watch performers showcase their talents, Breakin’ Convention’s staple of setting the welcoming tone of the evening established.

Tylically taking over 2 evenings over the May bank holiday weekend (Saturday and Sunday), 15 years of success are marked with an additional night of performances on Monday 7th May. Starting off Sunday 6th May’s line up is Birdgang with a piece showcasing solidarity in numbers. Tens of dancers take to the stage as they celebrate synchronisity and precision, faces covered by masks, to solidify their message of the ensemble being powerful when working as one. Next, Zeljko Bozic and Miljan Nojic from Slovenia present Let’s Play, a comedic double act fusing their knowledge of Latin and Ballroom with the integration of manipulating cardboard boxes to form comedic scenarios. Clown-ish in execution, the duo throw, lean, push around and stack boxes in silence, they control the mood, the tempo, and this is intriguing to watch.

Femme Fatale, consisting of Lily Frias, Dassy Lee and Marie Poppins deliver a sequence full of empowerment with Rising in Motion. Solos serve to highlight each of the trio’s strengths, united sequences delivering a message of togetherness and withstanding life’s obstacles via the styles of krump and popping. To conclude the first half, choreographer Amala Dianor presents New School, a piece witnessing trio Link Berthomieux, Sandrine Lescourant and Admir Mirena distill the b-boying aspect of hip hop. The trio battling but ultimately working together, a dynamic that showcases all three dancers, in particular Lescourant’s fluidity and precision.

Acknowledging the founding years of hip hop, The Locksmiths bring an old school soul to the evening. Accompanied by live orchestra, Jazz Refreshed, they bring back the vibrant style of boogaloo, a jazz inspired, animated genre heightened by the boldness of their multi-coloured suits. UMA follow with their considered piece, Cause and Effect. Lee Putnam and Luke Lentes explore stillness and posing; the posing a staple of hip hop. Extracting this element flips the genre on its head, an often energetic dance style stripped back, it’s a unique offering and a concept that would be intriguing to see if it were made into a production. Dancer Mufasa teams up with Celloist Ayanna Witter-Johnson to perform a solo piece. Fluid in her movements, Mufasa locks and pops to Witter-Johnson’s soulful tones. At points, the piece a duo as Witter-Johnson joins in with the routine. A beautiful way to integrate musicians into the actual performance.

The Ruggeds return with their fearless, non apologetic approach to tacing choreography. Beaming with confidence the quartet celebrate the conventional, they show off their b-boy prowess with effortless tricks and a brovado. Room 2 Manooeuvre fuse hip hop with physical theatre to bring us a comedic look at how a b-boy crew create their sequences. It’s a shame it’s hard to hear what the collective are saying at points due to the cast battling talking over music and the absence of a microphone, however their set up is an interesting one. Without A Hitch is fun, B-Boy Antti-Freeze, B-Boy Fluid Druid, B-Boy Oh My Josh! and B-Boy Prime all emulating DV8’s physical theatre energy of reenacting real life scenarios via the medium of dance. Lastly, Boy Blue Ent steal the show. A high octane, afrobeats-centric performance, Karnival 2.0 dominates the second half and is right to be programmed as the show’s conclusion. Tens of female dancers, accompanied by the companies lead dancers deliver a spectacular dance piece embodying the spirit of carnival. The vibe, footwork and enthusiasm radiates and reminds hip hop fans of its African roots. As always, Breakin’ Convention is all about celebrating the complexity of hip hop, and this is something that it succeeds at.

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Breakin’ Convention was shown at Sadler’s Wells from Saturday 5th until Monday 7th May 2018. To find out more about the event, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop