Breakin’ Convention

SADLER’S WELLS ENGAGES YOUNG PEOPLE IN DANCE WITH FREE SUMMER SCHOOLS

We believe dance has a vital and transformative role to play in education. It improves children and young people’s mental and physical wellbeing, including by inspiring creativity, boosting self-confidence, increasing self-awareness and developing discipline, communication and team-working skills.

As part of our work to embed dance in young people’s lives, Sadler’s Wells recently ran a summer school with the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), and delivered dance workshops at the East Education Summer School. Both projects were designed to offer memorable and inspiring opportunities for children and young people to experience and engage with dance.

On International Youth Day, we speak to some of the young participants in the two summer schools to ask about their experience.

Summer School with NYDC

From 29 July to 9 August, we offered 19 students from seven of our Associate Schools the chance to experience a ‘week in the life of’ NYDC and its current Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva, with bespoke workshops led by members of his company Far From the Norm.

At the beginning of the week, a young participant interviewed Associate Choreographer Jordan Douglas, shining a light on his approach to teaching and take on the role of dance in empowering young people.

What will you be facilitating in the workshop?

“During the course of the week, participants in the NYDC summer school will be taught by a different member of Far from the Norm each day. We will be teaching and introducing dancers to the foundations of different street styles such as house, locking, krump, popping and breaking. We will also be teaching sections from MADHEAD, Botis Seva’s recent production for National Youth Dance Company, as well as works from the company. I will be focusing specifically on house dance and gestural phrases from MADHEAD.”

NYDC Summer School participants.

How do you prepare the young people for the week? Can you describe your approach?

“I start by teaching the students some of the basics of house dance, so we look at groove and footwork. As there is a mixed level of ability in a class, being able to have an adaptable framework is very important in order to get the most out of a session. During the workshop, one of my top priorities is getting the young dancers to interact with each other. This way, you’re creating an environment that is a safe space, which allows the students to feel confident no matter what the challenge is.”

How does dance educate, inspire and empower young people?

“The feeling of learning something new, of working on it, watching it improve and then being able to perform it, is a great one. This, as well as the freedom to express yourself through dance, is very empowering. The creativity within dance can really offer a much-needed break from their standard school subjects and daily activities.”

NYDC Summer School participants with Associate Choreographer Jordan Douglas.

Why is dance a useful/important form of expression for young people to explore?

“The medium of street dance is a lot more connected to youth. Street dance is easily accessible: it’s online, in music videos and at the forefront of fashion. Being able to share a common language takes us one step further to being able to help young people open up to dance.”

At the end of the week, we asked some of the young participants to share some thoughts:

What did you learn during your week at the Summer School with NYDC and Far From The Norm?

“I learnt a lot on how to develop myself as a dancer, but also on how to open up more to things that are difficult.”

“It was interesting to learn about new dance styles, and also to see how professional dancers work.”

“My favourite part was engaging and getting on with people as well as taking on new stuff that was given. I learned more about working together, but also having to learn quickly and keeping up at a fast pace.”

What three words would you use to describe how you felt before the workshop?

“Nervous, scared, anxious”

“Shy, inexperienced, insecure”

“Interested, anticipating, open”

What three words would you use to describe how you felt after the workshop?

“Optimistic, determined, confident”

“Creative, happy, educated”

“Courageous, challenged, proud”

NYDC Summer School participants.

East Education Summer School

During a free, two-week programme held at Here East in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, young east Londoners were given the opportunity to take part in a host of activities and classes delivered by world-leading organisations. These included the six institutions that will be part of East Bank, a new cultural and education district being developed in the park: Sadler’s Wells, the BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, UCL and the V&A in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution.

East Education Summer School promotional flyer. Image: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

As part of the summer school, Sadler’s Wells hosted workshops in African dance, led by our Learning & Engagement team, and in rap, grime, music, theatre skills and dramaturgy, led by our Breakin’ Convention team. An evening trip was also arranged during the week for the young participants to enjoy Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet, a new production performed by our Resident Company New Adventures. 

We asked some of the participants from Breakin’ Convention’s hip hop theatre workshop to share some of their highlights from the programme.

What was your favourite part of the workshop?

“Showcasing what I’ve got!”

“Having a good time.”

“Meeting new people.”

“Spitting some hard bars!”

“Learning new things.”

“Destroying the stage.”

“Embracing ourselves.”

East Education Summer School participants from Breakin’ Convention’s hip hop theatre workshop pictured with mentors. Image: Theo Godson

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) is supported using public funding by the Department for Education and Arts Council England.

BREAKIN’ CONVENTION TO STRENGTHEN HIP HOP SECTOR WITH NATIONAL PROGRAMME

Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention is set to deliver a three-year national programme to strengthen the hip hop sector thanks to a grant from Arts Council England.

Sadler’s Wells has been awarded £630,660 as part of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants funding programme. Using this funding, our Breakin’ Convention team will continue to build on the learnings and legacy of 16 years of successful hip hop theatre development with an ambitious new programme, Breakin’ Out.

Breakin’ Out will encompass three distinct and connected strands: Grass Routes partnerships, artist development and performance.

Grass Routes partnerships

This will see a new area of engagement for Breakin’ Convention. The programme will reinforce the national hip hop network by fostering relationships between hip hop artists and cultural institutions. Joining forces with six national practitioners – two each year – Breakin’ Out will deliver high-quality training at a local level, including youth projects, masterclasses and teacher training, as well as providing mentorship in organisational development. The first year partners will be with Dance4All in Bournemouth and Bad Taste Cru in Gateshead.

Breakin’ Convention Park Jam. Image: Paul Hampartsoumian

Artist Development

With no formalised training currently existing for hip hop artists in the UK, Breakin’ Out will provide a variety of progression routes at different points in their artistic journeys, giving more people access to hip hop at entry level and forging pathways into the sector. Breakin’ Convention will deliver its successful Open Art Surgery professional development project around the country, offering participants the opportunity to learn under different mentors and perform locally and nationally. Artists will also be offered bespoke ‘Higher Learning’ training days, focused on theatre practice.

Open Art Surgery. Image: Owen Ling

Nurturing the development of artists represents an integral part of the programme in the lead up to the opening of the UK’s first hip hop theatre academy, part of Sadler’s Wells’ additional, mid-scale venue to open in east London in 2022. The new theatre will be part of new cultural and education district East Bank, in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Performances

Breakin’ Out will reach out to wide and diverse audiences through two large-scale Breakin’ Convention national tours, engaging over 1000 UK artists and featuring 34 national performances. The festival will tour to cities including Norwich, Blackpool, Sheffield, Doncaster, Canterbury, Brighton, Plymouth, Poole and Birmingham in spring 2020 and 2022.  

Phase T (France) at Breakin’ Convention 2010. Image: Belinda Lawley

Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that, through the Arts Council’s support, over the next three years the programme will engage over a thousand artists and large audiences across the country, strengthening the UK infrastructure for hip hop and widening its reach.”

Jonzi D, Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist and artistic director of Breakin’ Convention, commented: “Breakin’ Convention has been a catalyst in the exposure and development of hip hop in the theatre. A hunger from artists and audiences has been created! We have a responsibility to continue supporting hip hop culture and this funding will enable us to strengthen the sector, and to prepare for the opening of Sadler’s Wells’ hip hop theatre academy in 2022.”

Breakin’ Convention Presents

Yaman Okur 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol. Image: Ragbui

After introducing audiences to the work of artist Pierre Rigale by presenting his work Scandale in 2018, Breakin’ Convention Presents returns with 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol (1mm above the floor), a collaboration between French choreographers Yaman Okur and Sébastien Lefrançois.

Curated by Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Jonzi D, the initiative provides a platform for the finest hip hop theatre makers to showcase a full-length work on our stage, as well as welcoming creations by contemporary choreographers working with street dance forms. Breakin’ Convention Presents: Yaman Okur and Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven’s 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol is at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio on 27 and 28 September 2019.

“We break down the fourth wall. It’s the true hip hop experience.” Breakin’ Convention: The story so far

Breakin’ Convention is the UK’s biggest festival of hip hop dance theatre. World-renowned for representing the origins and evolution of hip hop culture from around the world, it is one of the most prestigious platforms for dance theatre globally. True to form, this year’s festival at Sadler’s Wells promises a lineup of exceptional dance talent from the UK and beyond, with international companies hailing from around the globe.

We speak to Michelle, Head of Breakin’ Convention, about the festival’s genesis, its evolution and what audiences can expect from its 16th year.

What is the meaning behind Breakin’ Convention?

The name is something a lot of people get confused with, because hearing it they think of a breaking competition or that you’ll just see breaking performances. The name Breakin’ Convention actually comes from the aim to break convention – of what people think hip hop culture is and of what you’re used to seeing in the theatre. It’s breaking conceptions about the conventional way you see hip hop – at a convention (laughs).

Michelle Norton, Head of Breakin’ Convention. Image: Dave Barros

How would you describe the Breakin’ Convention experience?

The festival encompasses all of the elements of hip hop. We commission artists to create graffiti on the walls of Sadler’s Wells. You have DJs, and not only that but the original DMC champions like Cutmaster Swift, DJ Billy Bizznizz, DJ 279 – some of the biggest names when we think of London hip hop culture. We have cyphers in the foyer, rap and freestylers in our front-of-house spaces, we even have a special menu for the occasion – lots of jerk chicken, soul food and West Indian cuisine.

You get to see the best of the UK and the international hip hop scene, so it’s everyone coming together. We break down the fourth wall; the artists come into the foyer and mingle with everyone. It’s the true hip hop experience.


Breakin’ Convention 2018 – 15th Anniversary Highlights

It’s also open for all. As much as the idea behind the festival was to bring in hip hop audiences and let them know that theatre is for them, it makes people that wouldn’t usually be into hip hop see that hip hop is for them too. There are no barriers. It makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

You’ve worked your way up from festival volunteer to projects coordinator, to finally heading the Breakin’ Convention team. What are some of the personal highlights of your career?

When we started touring internationally in 2013 and brought the festival to the Harlem Apollo – that was a major highlight! There have been quite a few. I’d say the global effect of our work, but also the development of the UK hip hop scene and of our artists, especially in theatre.

The festival is one thing, without it we probably wouldn’t have been able to create the platforms for professional development that we now have, and to develop the kind of work we’re now developing within hip hop in the UK and internationally. I think over the years it’s been seeing the development of the scene in the UK and how it’s grown, and how a lot of these artists are now on the same level as the international ones, which wasn’t the case when we first started.

What is it like to run the festival?

I’ve been here since the very beginning. I volunteered for the first festival back in 2004 and knew Jonzi [Breakin Convention’s Artistic Director] from way before, since we were in our teens. I grew up in the 80s when hip hop first got big in the UK, and it’s the same feeling now as it was then – the feeling of wanting to be part of it all. I remember walking in the building on the Tuesday after the festival, and almost feeling like I’ve come off a high!

Jonzi D, founder & Artistic Director of Breakin’ Convention

As Mufasa [French hip hop dancer] said last year after her debut performance at the festival, ‘you just feel love’. You’re in the building and that’s what you feel, from the Wednesday when you see the graffiti being put up on the walls, to the next day when the companies start coming in for their tech runs. It feels like a family within our team, but also within the wider context of hip hop.

Michelle (right) pictured with Breakin’ Convention’s Education Coordinator Shay Rafati. Image: Dave Barros

How do you keep Breakin’ Convention feeling fresh and exciting from year to year?

It’s different every single year. There’s a blueprint of course, but with every single year we’re constantly thinking: ‘How can we top that?’ For our 10th anniversary in 2013, we commissioned 10 UK artists: the whole night was dedicated to just UK artists on the main stage. Last year, we had a 15-piece orchestra as part of a new piece marking our 15th anniversary. We are already looking at how to top that for our 20th.

Breakin’ Convention 2019 promotional poster

We try and make sure there’s something for everyone. We look at the programme every year and ask ‘Have we got something for the older generation? What’s something that’s a little more innovative? Are we representing enough females? Are we representing rawness? Are we representing more of the theatrical, the artistic?’ We try and do things organically, so that we’re not dictating what the scene has to have – it’s more a case of what is needed and what is wanted.

What in your opinion is needed in the scene? How has Breakin’ Convention facilitated that?  

Hip hop artists don’t have the same kind of opportunities as ballet and contemporary dancers – there are no hip hop conservatoires. You can’t go to a school where you can learn and study hip hop in that sense. So doing things like our artist development programmes Open Art Surgery and Back to the Lab means that artists are not only able to develop their craft, but they’re also learning how to direct their pieces, they’re looking at lighting -all of those things they don’t usually have the privilege of doing.

Back To The Lab: A hip hop choreographer’s course

We need to develop our artists to be on the same level playing field, and so the professional development side of Breakin’ Convention has really started to grow. It’s nice that within Sadler’s Wells on the whole, we’re working with a lot more hip hop artists. It’s a real pleasure to work with the artists we work with. Professional development and education are the things we’re really pushing now. Looking towards the hip hop theatre academy that Sadler’s Wells will establish as part of our new venue in east London in 2022, it’s definitely about incorporating those things.

Something that Jonzi always says is that we’re at an advantage, in that even though hip hop has been going for 40 odd years now, we still have living legends. In 2008, we started doing training with the legends of hip hop under what we called the Pioneers project. The fact that we can invite people down to a workshop with Popin’ Pete [one of the originators of the “popping” dance style and member of the Electric Boogaloos], for instance, is something that you can’t always do in other, more classical dance styles.

Popin’ Pete: Harlem Funk Renaissance

What does Breakin’ Convention have in store for our audiences this year? What can we expect?

The best from around the world and around the corner – just like our slogan says! On the international front, everyone we have apart from B-Boy Junior [world-renowned Congolese break dancer] is quite new to the Breakin’ Convention stage. We’ve got Jinjo, a crew from South Korea who are B-boy champions, and France’s Geometrie Variable. We’ve got someone like Logistx, a B-Girl from California who is 16, so very much the new generation.

B-Boy Junior Bosila and Kalli Tarasidou will appear as duo Company Même Pas Mal at Breakin’ Convention 2019. Image: Christian Schneider

And then even on the UK front, we’ve got an influx of new companies on the stage like The Archetype and Cocojam. Boy Blue is one of the regulars, having performed at the festival almost every year. We have some familiar faces performing in a new capacity at Breakin’ Convention such as Fiya House, a collective consisting of founders Brooke Milliner and Dickson Mbi. It’s all very fresh and really exciting.

If you could choose a word that captures the essence of the festival, what would it be?

Sensory. There’s just something about the senses – all of them are aroused. There’s music, there’s the smell of different foods, there’s the energy of the people coming in. The building just comes alive. I always tell people that no matter how much you can describe it or watch a Breakin’ Convention video, you have to be there to experience it yourself. When you come to the festival, how you then experience it, and sit in it… it’s different, you know? It’s a sensory experience.

Breakin’ Convention will take place at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th May 2019. Tickets are available here.

Breakin’ Convention takes over Denver for a weekend of hip hop dance theatre

Breakin’ Convention returned to Denver this month with a festival that celebrated hip-hop culture and showcased both world-class, international acts and local street dance companies.

The festival took over the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) for the second consecutive year on 2-4 November, in conjunction with #DenverArtsWeek. Around 5,000 people enjoyed performances and free activities over the weekend. The lineup featured Dutch b-boy crew The Ruggeds, UK’s BirdGang Dance Company with Vice, a piece on addiction, French dancer Antoinette Gomis, whose solo honoured the beauty of black culture, a comic duet by Sample Culture (also from The Netherlands), and Los Angeles-based popping trio Femme Fatale. All received standing ovations from the crowd.

Image by John Moore

The Ruggeds in Adrenaline The Show. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Femme Fatale performing at DCPA. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

The Bboy Factory at DCPA. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Antoinette Gomis in IMAGES. Image: John Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist and Breakin’ Convention’s Artistic Director Jonzi D curated and hosted the show, stressing the importance of creating an organic environment for hip-hop culture to flourish, a space where both local and international acts come together. Sharing his vision, General Manager of the DCPA’s Broadway division Alicia Bruce recognised that the festival “is not just about dance from around the world. It’s also about dance from around the corner”.


Jonzi D in conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

Local acts included Block 1750, Chase Evered, Whole Milk, Breaking Barriers, The Freak Show, Love Es Love, Side by Side and B-Boy Factory, who also performed at the student matinee on Friday, which attracted an audience of 2,500 pupils.

A highlight was the 303 Free Jam, which kick-started the festival with a rich programme of dance workshops, graffiti, MCs, DJs and impromptu dance sessions delivered by Breakin’ Convention in collaboration with the headline artists.

“Considering that we don’t always have the opportunity to move the way we want, we really wanted to take advantage of this,” said Abner Genece, who took his son Jaden to the 303 Free Jam. “It fills me with joy to see him out there expressing himself. It’s amazing really to have the exposure to artists from all over the world, not only visually but movement-wise, music, vocally. To be able to expose him to all these different kinds of influences is great, and show him there’s a whole world out there right here in Denver.”

Image by John Moore

Mastering the steps with Ivan the Urban Action Figure. Image: John Moore

Image by Emma Ponsford

Young attendees wearing Breakin’ Convention’s merch. Image: Emma Ponsford

Image by John Moore

Graffiti workshop. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Antoinette Gomis’ free Sample Session workshop. Image: John Moore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on upcoming events and activities, visit www.breakinconvention.com/

Header image: John Moore

Young artists bring hip-hop lyrics to life

This weekend was the culmination of Graffical, a project run by our Breakin’ Convention team and funded by Islington Council’s Summerversity programme. For four days, participants aged between 13 and 21 had explored different aspects of hip-hop lyricism aided by three mentors: the poet and art educator Poetcurious, the rapper Reveal and the graffiti artist Mr. Dane. At a local youth facility, Soapbox Islington, they wrote their own lyrics and brought them to life via the medium of visual art; using paint, markers and POSCA pens. (Since they first entered the market in 1983, POSCA paint pens have had a formative role in the cultural history of urban art and are still revered in the graffiti community and wider visual arts today). 

On Sunday, their creations were exhibited at Sadler’s Wells. The art they produced represents their lived experiences and candidly reflects how these young people navigate their social environments. The participants had never met or worked together previously, and the result was outstanding. The Graffical project struck a chord both with members of the public and the participants themselves. Zion, 13, said of his mentors Poetcurious, Reveal and Mr. Dane, “I wish my art teachers were like you”. Brian, 17, said he would definitely use the opportunity to do take part in a similar project in the future.

Sadler’s Wells recognises that the most effective way to produce great art is to allow artists to create work on their own terms – a particular forte of the youth outreach programme run by Breakin’ Convention. When artists are given the freedom and the opportunity, their creativity can shine.

For more Breakin’ Convention youth projects, follow their Instagram @BreakinConventionYP.

Photo credit: Shay Rafati. 

Sadler’s Wells joins the Great Get Together in the Olympic Park

Sadler’s Wells took over the Music and Dance Stage at Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last Sunday for the Great Get Together. In this verdant spot in east London, among a variety of music, dancing, workshops and activities to engage the local communities, Sadler’s Wells presented a series of shows, including two performances of IZINDAVA, a performance and workshop from Casson and Friends, and a full programme from our Breakin’ Convention team.

Inspired by the memory of Jo Cox MP and supported by the Jo Cox foundation, the Great Get Together is an annual, nationwide initiative celebrating connections and commonalities among people through the setting up of free, community events.

IZINDAVA, performed by Tavaziva, was a synthesis of ballet, contemporary and African dance. The personal piece from Bawren Tavaziva’s company communicated a message about human fragility within a changing world, and the healing and redemptive power of music and dance. Extraordinary sculptural costumes and the intricate movements of the dancers had audiences enthralled.

Later in the afternoon, we presented Casson and Friends with The Dance WE Made, an interactive performance that saw the company collect dance moves contributed from the public over the course of the afternoon. This culminated in a wonderfully expressive piece, in which there was not one choreographer, but many. The dancers from Casson and Friends then led a free workshop, in which participants joined in pairs and devised dance moves based on – among other things – what they had for breakfast, their favourite party moves and a choice photographic pose. This was a particularly enjoyable half-hour, when open participation created a piece from the ground up.

Throughout the day, our Breakin’ Convention team staffed a pavilion where a variety of performances and workshops showcased different facets of hip hop culture, with a particular focus on engaging young people. Attendees could try their hand at graffiti, freestyle dance and rap. A popular highlight was the showcase from local schools that were part of Breakin’ Convention’s Moving Rap project, which over the course of two months saw pupils from eight east London schools combine spoken word, rap and dance into a performance piece. The result was a display of talent with impressive energy that drew in a huge crowd. Many congratulations to the students of Willowfields, Lister, St. Angela Ursuline, Our Lady’s Convent, Chobham Academy, Langdon Park, Rushcroft and Stormont House for their excellent work!

Other activities across the park included a storytelling tent, which captivated young audiences with readings from Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Also an Octopus and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer’s Monkey Puzzle. Face painting stalls ensured there were a variety of decorated animals in among the guests. And the East Bank creative and engineering area offered interactive workshops led by University College London, the University of the Arts London’s London College of Fashion and architects Allies and Morrison.

Both UCL and UAL’s London College of Fashion are among our partners in the new, world-leading cultural and educational district that is being developed in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Sadler’s Wells will develop a new, mid-scale venue on the Stratford Waterfront site, where our building will be alongside new spaces for the BBC, the London College of Fashion and the V&A, in a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. For those interested in learning more, join us at Here East on 22 July for Open Doors: Vote 100, the first event devised and delivered in tandem with all our partners in the project, celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage with performances, talks and activities.

The Great Get Together was a resounding success. The beautiful sunshine provided an ideal backdrop, as the local communities’ enthusiastic participation in the programme provided a perfect example of how we have much more in common than what divides us.

Follow the links for more information about the Jo Cox Foundation and the Great Get Together

Two young attendees try their hand at a graffiti workshop. Photograph: Alexander Peel.

Breakin’ Convention break records in America

After breaking box office records on their first Canadian dates in June, Breakin’ Convention, our international festival of hip-hop dance theatre, concluded its triumphant 2017 tour with a return to the USA, presenting 11 shows over four weeks across Charlotte, Denver, Harlem and Miami.

The festival returned to Charlotte’s Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts and Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and was also held for the first time at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami and the Denver Center for Performing Arts. As ever, it featured performances by a mixture of international and local dance artists and offered a rich programme featuring dance workshops, graffiti, DJs and freestyle dance circles.

International headliners included France’s dynamic b-boy crew Yeah Yellow and iconic hip-hop dancer Salah, while South Africa’s Soweto Skeleton Movers performed the high-energy, quick-stepping dance style Pantsula. In three of the touring cities, they were joined by dancer and choreographer Popin’ Pete, a pioneer of the ‘popping’ dance style and founding member of street dance crew Electric Boogaloos. All-female US popping crew Femme Fatale joined Breakin’ Convention for the first time in Charlotte.

Representing the UK was Protocol Dance Company, who presented a powerful duet called I Can’t Breathe. The piece, exploring the theme of power and racial tensions present in communities today, visibly moved audiences. Protocol developed the piece as part of Back to The Lab, one of Breakin’ Convention’s professional development programmes for hip hop artists.

These were incredibly successful dates for Breakin’ Convention, with over 13,000 people attending the whole American tour and the performances receiving over 40 standing ovations. In Denver, 2234 people attended the schools matinee, breaking a new record for the festival.

Next year, Breakin’ Convention will celebrate its 15th anniversary at Sadler’s Wells on 5-7 May 2018. You can book tickets here.

Breakin’ Convention Toronto breaks box office records

Following successful dates across the UK and in Luxembourg, our acclaimed festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention continued its 2017 international tour by touching down in Canada for the first time at the end of June. The festival attracted huge crowds to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, with UK, international and local acts performing over two days and engaging audiences in taster classes and in-depth workshops.

To help nurture local talent, our Breakin’ Convention team had been to Toronto in 2014 and 2016 to deliver Open Art Surgery, a one-week project offering hip hop dance theatre artists the opportunity to develop and experiment with new ideas, share new work publicly and receive mentorship from established artists. Among the talent that took part were local crews The Surgeons and Tense Image, who performed on the main stage at the festival alongside other acts from across Canada like Tentacle Tribe, RoyaLazyness and LockUnity.

BirdGang Dance Company represented British talent with challenging piece Vice, while Soweto Skeleton Movers introduced audiences to South Africa’s high-energy, quick-stepping dance style Pantsula and South Korea’s Just Dance blended bboy choreography with elements of Korean culture. Many of the acts received standing ovations on both nights.

Park Jam, a free family-friendly dance, live music and graffiti art extravaganza rounded off the weekend with jazz, hip hop and spoken word from local acts and Breakin’ Convention Artistic Director Jonzi D. The Famous Spiegeltent hosted Freestyle Funk Forum, hip hop’s answer to classic improvisational comedy show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’.

Around 4000 people attended the festival – the largest audience Breakin’ Convention has ever had. The next stop of the festival’s international tour will be a return to the USA in October, visiting Charlotte, Denver, Harlem and Miami.

For more information on Breakin’ Convention and upcoming touring dates, visit the website.

Young people create rap-inspired mural for Graffical 2017

Budding young rappers and aspiring creatives came together over June half term for Graffical 2017, a two-day workshop led by our Breakin’ Convention team.

A group of 13 to 16-year-olds from across London took part in the project, which aimed to engage young people with rap lyricism and spark their creativity through writing and visual art.

Mentored by rappers and educators Poetcurious and Kingpin, participants analysed their favourite rap songs, exploring the social and political issues addressed by the lyrics, as well as the personal meaning the words had to them. Alongside this, they worked on writing their own lyrics with the purpose of inspiring their families and communities.

The group also collaborated on a mural, which is on display at Corker Walk behind the Andover Estate in Islington, north London. Overseen by graffiti artist Mr Dane, the teens brought their words to life by incorporating themes from their lyrics into the sprayed work. Graffical 2017 was a huge success and the mural is a truly vibrant addition to its surroundings.

Thanks to Islington Word Festival for helping to fund the project and Lyrix Organix for collaborating with Breakin’ Convention to deliver it. We are also grateful to Samir from Emirates Stadium and Jacqueline Robinson from Islington Council who supported the project.

Image: the mural realised as part of Graffical 2017 at Corker Walk off the Seven Sisters Rd in Islington.

 

Breakin’ America: bringing hip hop dance theatre to the US

Breakin’ Convention brought its trademark hip hop dance theatre spectacular stateside in October with a successful tour to New York and North Carolina.  The line-up presented by the renowned Sadler’s Wells festival included breakdance crew The Ruggeds, dancer and choreographer Antoinette Gomis, hip hop duo Compagnie Phorm and dance company BirdGang.

The first stop was Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina. The arts centre embraced the project wholeheartedly, working closely with the Breakin’ Convention team and truly making the festival their own.

“Breakin’ Convention has been this unifying event in the community that brought together people from all walks of life,” said Tom Gabbard, President of Blumenthal Performing Arts. “That’s probably always an important thing, but at this unique moment in time, in our country, I think those kind of unifying activities are more important than ever.”

Breakin’ Convention will return to Charlotte for the next two years, building of this success and acting as catalyst for the continued development of hip hop theatre in the region.

The team then went to Harlem’s Apollo Theater in New York – where it had toured for the first time in June 2013 to great acclaim. It was a second opportunity for Breakin’ Convention to take hip hop theatre to the birthplace of hip hop and promote the development of the art form in the US. The atmosphere in the Apollo Theater was electric and the festival was not only loved by the audience, but also an emotional experience for the dance artists, who felt humbled by the chance to follow in the footsteps of so much African-American jazz, soul, funk and hip hop talent by performing on stage.

In his review of the event in The New York Times, Alastair Macaulay wrote: “It’s to be hoped that Breakin’ Convention — first and last seen here two years ago — becomes as established in New York as it is in London.”

 

Image: Jonzi D and Boris ‘Bluz’ Rogers host Breakin’ Convention at the Levine Center for the Arts’ Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Daniel Coston