Breakin' Convention, Spreading the Word
Fiona Campbell catches the non-stop rush of hip hop's jamboree of beats and breaks and poppin'
Breakin’ Convention began in 2004 when British hip hop artist and MC, Jonzi D, was approached by current Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Sadler's Wells, Alistair Spalding, to direct a fresh and innovative international festival of hip hop dance theatre. The intention was to create a festival that would celebrate the complex diversity of this art form and unite hip hop communities from all over the globe. Above and beyond these aspirations he wanted to create an event that ‘broke the convention’ of performance commonly associated with proscenium stage, and so began the annual Breakin’ Convention.
Jonzi D recognised from both his training at London School of Contemporary dance, as well as his hip hop background, that, very often, hip hop can be pigeon-holed as a genre deemed “less sophisticated and more commercialised” than other dance forms. Realising that “hip hop and the theatre tend to be polarised” he sought to use Breakin’ Convention as a means to present hip hop within a theatrical context, and to dispel any misconceptions concerning the credibility of this art form. In doing so it exposed the highly skilled, multidimensional techniques that make up the vastly intricate dance genre commonly referred to as hip hop. Aware that the lack of social – and chronological – mobility within the theatre needed addressing, Breakin’ Convention became his vehicle to “resuscitate a flagging theatre scene and inject it with a fresh, new, young, zesty energy”.
The 2009 tour will begin in Sadlers Wells theatre in London, before travelling throughout the UK, culminating in Edinburgh on 18 and 19 May. Held in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, Breakin’ Convention will be hosted by the prolific, ever charismatic Jonzi D and local B Boy Tony Mills. The line up, bursting with talent from all over the world, includes the original 80s B Boy, Ken Swift referred to by Jonzi D as “the epitome of the B boy”, recent winner of French talent contest Incroyable, Solah (“the most enigmatic, multifaceted hip hop performer out there”) commonly known as “the Charlie Chaplin of hip hop”, and from Korea, Myosung, “the most technically advanced nation of B Boys in the world”. The aforementioned performers will also be delivering workshops alongside their tour dates, and foyer demonstrations will start at 6pm providing a taster of the acts to follow.
When selecting performers, Breakin’ Convention look for more than mere technical ability. Performers must display a theatrical talent as well, with a style and approach that engages an audience. Frequently, dance can fail to successfully fulfil all three criteria, yet the fusion of these qualities serves to transcend one dimensional performances taking dance to a magical, new and exciting realm.
What really makes Breakin’ Convention so unique is the way it foregrounds the formidable sense of community intrinsic to the hip hop world. The artists work together, striving to achieve shared objectives: to raise the profile and awareness of their art form and deliver a vibrant and exciting celebration of hip hop dance theatre. The convention provides an ideal platform for new and established artists to present work, share ideas, and more importantly build networks, with a view to expanding an already thriving community. The importance of this cohesion among artists in these times of economic downturn is essential to the longevity and maintenance of creativity. When funding from corporate sponsorship and charitable giving becomes unpredictable and costs of bringing in artists from overseas are steadily increasing, artists must draw from internal sources and work together. Breakin’ Convention provides the ideal structure for the hip hop world to do so; a structure that is unique to hip hop, and one that other dance forms could learn from.
In Scotland alone there is much burgeoning talent of the sort events such as Breakin’ Convention seek to highlight. It provides the ideal opportunity to nurture home grown talent, when so many dancers tend to gravitate south in pursuit of increased opportunities. Breakin’ Convention can actively help to reverse this trend, “giving people working in Scotland support; creating a network of hubs throughout the country so that resources can be shared and touring networks can be formed, and helping to stoke the fire that’s already burning”. Scottish crews, Random Aspects and Psycho Stylez are two examples of local talent that are likely to thrive from such exposure.
So whether you are locking, popping, grinding, crumping, or, like me, just happy watching in awe of the sheer talent and technical feats on display, come to Breakin’ Convention. In the words of Jonzi D: “if you haven’t been to Breakin’ Convention before it is guaranteed to be unlike anything you've ever seen or experienced before”. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting and unique events in Scotland’s theatrical calendar, Breakin’ Convention 09 will exceed all expectations and ensure a hyped evening of widely diverse music, dance and aerosol art all encapsulated by an unyielding fun and boundless energy that you cannot help but succumb to.
Breakin' Convention 09!