Breakin’ Convention is one of my highlights of the year. For a decade now, I’ve spent the early May bank holiday weekend down at Sadler’s Wells watching the very best in hip-hop and street dance.
Carefully curated by Jonzi D, this dance festival has consistently challenged conventions and pushed boundaries. Jonzi always throws the net wide, inviting crews from all over the world to share the stage. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching OGs like California’s Electric Boogaloos show how the boogaloo should really be done, and marvelled over Korea’s Project Soul Crew as they expertly meld b-boy acrobatics with bold statements about identity and culture.
The UK has represented too and this year, for the tenth anniversary, Breakin’ Convention dedicated a whole day to the best this island can offer.
It’s been great watching some of the UK crews evolve; I first saw Birdgang Dance Company in 2006 and this year, they made dramatic use of spotlights in a sharply executed routine that might have been more style over substance but it was utterly compelling.
Company Decalage skewed the boundaries of hip hop more towards contemporary dance in a bold piece that needed some finessing but showcased the raw talent this company holds. I can’t wait to see them in a few year’s time when they’re more comfortable in their own skin.
Bad Taste Company brought a whole lot of fun to the table with a piece set to big-band jazz, incorporating flapper routines and perhaps even a little b-boy bootlegging. It was the crowd pleaser and it did its job well, as did the astonishing duet between ZooNation’s Teneisha Bonner and Tommy Franzen, which crackled with emotion.
The highlight, however, was Boy Blue Entertainment’s ‘ Emancipation of Expression’, which swirled round artistic director Kenrick Sandy’s magnetic stage presence. It was a grand spectacle that took in a popping duet and a locking routine so perfectly co-ordinated it was as if robots were doing the dancing. Boy Blue Entertainment will be performing at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre next month as part of Breakin’ Convention’s first foray out of the UK. Next stop: world domination. Good luck, Jonzi.
Photography: Paul Hampartsoumian