Breakin’ Convention

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

Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation awarded £1m to tour the UK

Sadler’s Wells’ international festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation Dance Company, one of Sadler’s Wells’ resident companies, have together been awarded over £1 million in funding by the Arts Council.

They are among 13 organisations who will receive a total of over £4.8 million from Arts Council England as part of its Strategic Touring Programme, enabling them to tour throughout the UK over the next two years. The funding shows a substantial investment in developing audiences for hip hop dance.

Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells’ Chief Executive and Artistic Director, said:“There is no underestimating the growth hip hop as a dance style has been experiencing in recent years, exploding from the streets onto the stage, but also on TV and through fashion and advertising. Its enormous success stems from its ‘each one teach one’ approach to knowledge-sharing and its ability to continuously evolve and develop a highly original vocabulary – a language that is dynamic and current, and speaks to ever increasing numbers of young people.

In the last 12 years, Breakin’ Convention has established itself as a world leader in hip hop dance theatre through its annual international festival at Sadler’ Wells. ZooNation has also been championing the development of hip hop through productions characterised by inventive and captivating storytelling, such as Into the Hoods and Some Like It Hip Hop.”

He continued: “It is great news that the Arts Council has chosen to invest in these projects through their Strategic Touring Fund, which will enable Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation to tour their high-quality work to a number of venues across the UK over the next two years, giving audiences outside London the opportunity to experience hip hop dance theatre, as well as to hopefully discover the next generation of hip hop artists.”

Welcoming the grant, Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist and Breakin’ Convention’s Artistic Director Jonzi D said: “This is excellent news for the sector. It allows Breakin’ Convention to support the professional development of hip hop dance theatre even further, providing skills, knowledge and platforms for the plethora of emerging dance crews following in the footsteps of ZooNation, Boy Blue, Southpaw and Birdgang. The lyrical dexterity of UK emcees will now have a space to develop theatrical devices within our Moving Rap workshop strand. Arts Council England has shown commitment to the creative phenomenon that is Hip Hop culture, at a time when peace, love, unity, and fun is much needed.”

Breakin’ Convention has been awarded £562,783 for a two-year project that will see the festival tour throughout May 2016 and May 2017, programming over 400 local artists per tour to perform alongside international artists. The touring activity will be complemented by a professional development programme, pairing up artists and future hip hop programmers. There will be a new spoken word professional development strand entitled Moving Rap and a continuation of the film-makers mentorship programme.

Launched by Sadler’s Wells in 2004 and hosted and curated by Jonzi D, Breakin’ Convention features performances from diverse UK and international companies each year. The festival also sees Sadler’s Wells’ foyer transformed into a performance space with live DJs, freestyle dance jams, graffiti exhibitions and workshops from top international artists.

ZooNation Dance Company has been awarded £499,471 to present a large-scale tour of Into the Hoods: Remixed, a newly revamped version of the award-winning production, throughout the UK from Spring 2016. Performances of the work at regional venues will build on the show’s track record of bringing more diverse and younger audiences into theatres, something that it successfully achieved during previous runs at Sadler’s Wells, the Edinburgh Fringe, Southbank Centre and in the West End between 2006 and 2010.

Into the Hoods became both the first ever hip hop dance show in the West End and the longest running dance show in the West End’s history, with a five month run at the Novello Theatre. The cast of Into the Hoods won the 2009 What’s On Stage Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance. Under the direction of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Kate Prince, the much-loved show has been updated for 2015 with new choreography, a remixed soundtrack and new designs. Its first performances will take place at The Peacock from 23 October to 14 November, before the show embarks on national tour in spring 2016.

Into the Hoods: Remixed will act as the catalyst to deliver an audience development project, ZooResidence, across England, supporting and encouraging venues and their local partners to build audiences for hip hop dance theatre in new ways. It will include a series of projects for reaching thousands of young people, culminating in the creation of a piece to be performed as a pre-show curtain raiser for the production at each of the five partner venues.

In the production, ZooNation’s trademark narrative hip hop theatre style is used to tell the story of two children who get lost in the ‘hood’ and the surprising encounters and discoveries they make along their way, in what is a witty and humorous contemporary fairytale.

Kate Prince, Artistic Director of ZooNation Dance Company, said: “I think it is a really exciting and bold move for the Arts Council to make such a significant investment in developing audiences for hip hop dance theatre through these two major projects. The chance to work with venues more closely will really release the potential of our work to reach more people and connect new audiences to regional theatres”. 

She continued: “This investment of over £1 million pounds between ourselves and Breakin’ Convention also makes a statement about hip hop dance and its cultural importance and artistic currency. We are over the moon that the Arts Council is supporting us to take our work around the UK and to be part of developing hip hop dance nationwide.” 

Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to be able to support Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation Dance Company through our Strategic touring programme; it is a clear illustration of the breadth and quality of work that we value and support. These tours will not only showcase some of the best hip hop dance theatre in the world, but also support the professional development of emerging hip hop dance talent and leaders across England.”

 

Image: Wanted Posse performing at Breakin’ Convention in 2014. Photo: Belinda Lawley