Sadler’s Wells’ international festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention is back in Scotland for two days only. Live evening performances featuring artists from ‘around the world and around the corner’ are complemented with daily sessions of graffiti, dance, MC-ing, Beat Box-ing and DJ-ing workshops, amid opportunities to view some of the best hip hop and breaking films.
On Friday evening, there’s an old-school black and white lino laid out in the foyer of the Festival Theatre and youngsters of all ages can be found facing off freestyle under the watchful eye of Tony Thrills, Orkney’s own breakdancing legend. Crowds are lining the stairs to get a better view and the kids are giving it some attitude.
Once inside the auditorium, Tony Thrills is joined by founder and artistic director Jonzi D to whip up the crowd (not difficult, everyone is so up for this) and introduce this evening’s performers. What is uniquely brilliant about the line-up is the mix of the young, inexperienced and local with the phenomenal, international and accomplished artists. No distinction is made between them. All are credited with equal respect and equal billing. This is very much indicative of the whole vibe and ethos of this event.
The first half opens with Hip Hop Revival Entertainment, four young lads with choreographer Rudy Mbunzama, who move together like a well-oiled fighting machine, busting out here and there to throw some individual shapes and moves that has the house screaming. A.K.O. are up next, a local group with a West African influence who work a narrative into the routine that brings a different dimension. Glasgow veteran of the Scottish hip hop scene, ShelltoeMel, performs her routine while artist Pearl Kinnear sketches her own interpretation of the music onto a loosely-hung sheet that takes shape while we watch. And while it seems inappropriate to set a ranking for performers at such an egalitarian and inclusive event, the final half ends with an astonishing performance of Pantsula by the Soweto Skeleton Movers from South Africa. Worth the ticket price for them alone.
The second half opens with a moody piece from the Minijackers Youth Company. This group of 14-21 year-olds are mostly made up of girls, bucking the male-dominated trend under the tutelage of Edinburgh’s hip hop queen, Ashley jack. Tentacle Tribe from Canada follow with a stunning performance of a contemporary-hip hop mash-up, before South Korean group Just Dance blow the roof of the house with a display of powerful skill from the leading b-boys of this country’s leading crews. After this, the audience are on their feet to show their appreciation.
The international artists will be back to perform on Saturday night, together with a posse of different local acts. Tickets are still available – go check it out and get involved. There really is nothing else quite like this in the whole of Scotland.
Event: Fri 5 & Sat 6 May