hip hop

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. 

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.