Photo: Belinda Lawley
When it comes to watching live performance, it's rare that I take a 'punt' on anything these days. Anyone who comes onto my roster of approved and guaranteed great nights out has either come through word of mouth, or through a variety show in which a performer previewed and I went giddy for them. However there is always a 'punty' element in the air before each Breakin' Convention, for we put our trust in Jonzi D, the UK hip-hop mogul, to be the selector of talent for the night. Except this feeling of chance, is like putting your hand into a lucky dip knowing every single prize you pull out will give you the equivalent of what 'Time of Your Life' was to Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze...a bloody great experience.
Behold the name Breakin' Convention for that is at the core of what this event does. It's very rare that you will hear commercial tracks laid down like a Britian's Got Talent final although there is a time and a place for that. In fact, the second half of the Saturday line-up opened with a performance from Old Men Grooving from the 2015 series of BGT, well placed to fit in with the ethos, and reminding us we're never too old to dance.
The Rebirth Network started us off with clear East London gusto, reminding us of the social and political discussion around equality and injustice. Strong emotion came through with this collective and there were interesting waves and canons that gave the audience a distinct London flavour.
Houston Dance Collective surprised us with their piece The Purple Jigsaw, inspired by choreographer Emma Houston's trip to NYC. Whilst out there, she explored the Vogue scene and in wanting to connect with this style brought Breaking and Vogue together to create a dance about gender expression. Each chapter of this dance built up to a crescendo that really gave Vogue a new frame and showed how much of a crowd-pleasing style and form of expression it really is.
Dan-i & Sia's duet was personally for me more enjoyable once I heard the interesting route of the dance. Inspired by the idea of being 'dissatisfied' as a positive stance, because from dissatisfaction comes progress was the stimulus for this choreographed piece about a couple striving for their relationship. Suddenly the dance took on a new meaning, and I took away a great learning quote that I will shield from Pinterest and keep on a post-it note by my bed.
Krumping for me is an essential dance style to see on the line-up so the inclusion of Theo 'Godson' Oloyade was a welcome one. Godson and crew shine a light on Krumping as necessary physical phrasing. Highly energetic and reminiscent of battle dance, this style is an outlet which can sometimes seem aggressive although that is not the case. Developed on the streets of LA, it has come from it's Clowning roots and has spread far and wide to become a dance style that provides an outlet for anger, but also, a valued manifestation of emotion and movement within the hip-hop dance community.
A huge highlight of the line-up came from Austrian B-Boys Hungry Sharks whose piece entitled FOMO-The Fear of Missing Out could not have been more apt. This highly creative B-Boy rendition was a stark yet tongue-in-cheek reminder that we are all OBSESSED with our phones. I say phones as that really is the truth when it comes down to it. The irony was at a high temperature, as I sat behind an audience member determined to watch the whole show through her i-Phone (PLEASE- THIS IS STILL A THEATRE SPACE, TURN.IT.OFF!) FOMO was engaging enough to make me ignore the 'screen beam of Hades' (a title for a piece in next year's show maybe?) and fully switch on to this incredible showcase of breaking skill, athleticism and a brilliant concept (Choreography by Valentin Alfrey) that used lighting, shadow, physical theatre and dance to bring us to think about our virtual obsession and the point of it all?
Photo: Belinda Lawley
The underdog for me was born through Tentacle Tribe's Origami Mami. This female tribe trio were definitely an audience favourite as they carefully unfolded their mechanical- organical- botanical (say what? If you saw it you'd know what I meant!) movements across the stage. Truly mesmerising and most certainly boundary pushing in showing that dance in this arena can be new, experimental and understood for how good it really is.
By the time we got Russian B-boy Cheerito I was already so full from all the goodies at the party that his B-Boy bendiness was like that crazy surprise when the clown shows up near the end to entertain. He was, to say the least, slicker and bendier than your average.
Jaws dropped across the venue as South Korean collective Just Dance blew everyones socks off with The 7 Human Emotions. Beautifully narrated, and with impressive traditional interludes, this crew have got tricks and spins you can only dream of.
Jonzi D as always did a stellar job hosting the main stage alongside charismatic Jacqui Beckford who provided sign language interpretation throughout.
Even my plus one for the night confessed she had grown a soft spot for Jonzi D. How can you not? Let's be honest, when it comes to hip-hop, hosting and putting on a showstopper of a night that isn't dripping in commercial bling but brings the real thing, Jonzi D has got us covered.
Breakin' Convention is currently touring and you can find out more by clicking here:
With thanks to Abstrakt publicity