Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention bought its tour to Birmingham last weekend. Over two days, there was a mixture of hip hop and break dancing, DJs, workshops and graffiti. Friday evening saw the first of two live shows at the Rep, and I went along to check it out.
The proceedings were kicked off by Jonzi D, founder and Artistic Director of Jonzi D Projects and Breakin’ Convention, and MC Madflow. They explained the motto of Breakin’ Convention is to bring the best talent from around the world and around the corner, and first up were three local acts, starting with the Rhythm Junkiez Dance Company. The company performed an original piece of choreography called Voices, about going through tough times. The young dancers had plenty of fans in the audience and their performance showed why. Set to a mix of contemporary R’n’B, the dancers demonstrated their skills and proved they’re a bunch of talented youngsters with great moves and even more potential.
Edith Piaf, a watering can and a sunflower might not be what you expect from a showcase of hip hop and break dancing, but the second act of the evening had all three. Petite Fleur Garcon, the Little Flower Boy, performed by Nathan Lafayette of the Jigsaw Collective. The performance demonstrates that hip hop dance is about much more than spinning on various unexpected body parts; it’s about expression and experimentation too. A humorous, slightly confusing and intriguing piece of dance.
The third local company were SDA – Street Dance Academy. Hailing from Cheshire, SDA, another young company, performed a piece that examined the how children across the world get caught up in conflicts, becoming innocent, undeserving casualties of war. Collateral Children was a moving piece of dance, especially as the performers themselves were so young.
I didn’t think some of the moves they did were physically possible without involving dislocation of limbs.
The Soweto Skeleton movers bought the first act to a close. From the notorious township in South Africa, the four dancers performed a style of dance called Pantsula, inspired by jumping on and off the moving trains. Their performance involved magic hats – seriously, they flew – and a lot of unbelievably flexible, double jointed moves. I didn’t think some of the moves they did were physically possible without involving dislocation of limbs. The funny, in parts slightly gross but very impressive moves were set to the music of apartheid.
After a break, the second half was kicked off by a performance inspired by The Black Lives Matter campaign. The three performers interspersed physically challenging moves with spoken word monologues charting some of the most notorious acts of violence perpetrated against black people across the world, recently and in the past. An effective and thoughtful performance, Inherent, questions why some people are considered part of our tribes and others are left on the outside. The performers, from Hong Kong, the Seychelles and Bulgaria, acted out the scenes, including the terrible events in Ferguson, Missouri. They channelled the experience of black people throughout the decades and asking whether they, as UK based Caucasian performers, have a responsibility to more vocally question a society that can allow so many deaths to go unchallenged.
The penultimate act, a Canadian duo and part of the Tentacle Tribe, performed their piece called Nobody likes a Pixelated Squid. The choreography draws on movements seen underwater; liquid contortions combined with contemporary breaking. The “conceptual hip hop” or “deconstructed street dance” performance drew on the considerable talents of the two dancers, who channelled sea creatures to mysterious but impressive effect.
Just Dance showed why there’s so much heat on the hip hop dance scene in South Korea.
Undeniably the last act was the highlight of the show. Just Dance showed why there’s so much heat on the hip hop dance scene in South Korea. A Buddhist Monk conducted The 7 Human Emotions, beating a traditional drum as the dancers made the audience gasp at their demonstrations of what the human body is capable of if you don’t spend every weekend watching Netflix and eating crisps. Spectacular moves including the iconic head spin, stole the show and made the finale something special, getting the audience up on their feet for a standing ovation.
As is probably obvious, I don’t much about contemporary dance, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the evening. What I got was entertained, astounded, and at times touched. The skills on display demonstrated what people can do if they put their mind, body and soul into it. If you missed the convention this year, I highly recommend you catch it next time round – you won’t be disappointed.
Friday 2 – Saturday 3 June 2017
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Review by by Sally Watson-Jones