Breakin' Convention: Hip Hop for the Masses
Tony Mills – b-boy and contemporary dancer, MC of the Castle Rocks street dance competitions and wild style fashion originator – takes up his familiar co-host role at Breakin' Convention 2012
With the jamboree of hip hop dance heading on to Inverness after its bi-annual visit to Edinburgh, Breakin' Convention's mash-up of street crews and theatrical companies is reaching out further. After the success of mainstream crew Flawless, on TV and at the Fringe, break dance has held its place in the commercial world: yet it retains an energy that comes from beyond the theatre and the big productions.
"From day one, BC has always been about trying to take the vibe from the street into the theatre," explains Mills. "With this in mind foyer activity is given just as much importance as that which happens on stage. As soon as the doors open people can expect local DJs spinning and drummers drumming for dancers on the open floor. If you want to learn how to top rock, drop, footwork into freeze there will be workshops on offer from local dancers. Or if art on paper is more your thing, we'll also have graffiti artists in the house to show how to bag your tag. And don't forget to look out for free giveaways throughout the evening. We'll also have live performances from Fife hip hop crews UNIK and WOTT crew."
The confidence of the hip-hop scene is not surprising: both in dance and music, authenticity and ostentatious display have always been crucial. Even back in its earliest incarnations at Sadler's Wells in London, The Convention aimed to put the dance into context, surrounding it with the graffiti artists, fashion designs and rappers that are part of the broader hip-hop culture. And although it was once a very American form, Mills affirms that the entire world has been inspired. "In terms of the battle scene really the level is pretty high across the board. There are more competitions these days and the internet allows footage to blaze around the world: all this helps to push the scene and the dancers."
And other nations are leading b-boys in their new directions. "On the theatre front, I still think France leads the way," Mills continues. "They have been producing work in this genre for many years and have a good infrastructure in place to support such artists." In the UK, the prestigious British Dance Edition – a showcase for professional companies, invited BC, Champloo, Avant Garde and Room 2 Manoeuvre (Mill's own crew) to appear. "It's encouraging that work within this genre is seen as part of the dance fabric of the UK," notes Mills. And within the scene, "BC is also doing their bit to develop choreographic talent through their back to the lab programme and supporting collaborations involving UK artists."
Mills is very aware of the dual nature of Breakin' Convention: "Every time it comes to Scotland, it is a huge catalyst for local groups to get in the studio and start creating. It makes a huge difference when you have something to aim for with regards to a performance and even more so when it is such a huge platform," he observes on the local crews, including Jackin' The Box and Heavy Smokers, who will be rocking the EFT. The international acts are going to be really exciting and will showcase highly technical hip hop/breaking from current Battle of the Year champions, Vagabonds, with a more conceptual take from Clash 66. Both companies are an example of how hip hop dance in the theatre is not just a novelty but that these artists bring a world class level of skill, commitment and creativity to the genre.