It was a hip-hop dance takeover on June 13-16 at the legendary Apollo Theater, which partnered with Sadler’s Wells, the U.K.’s leading dance house, to present the U.S. premiere of Breakin’ Convention, an international hip-hop dance theater festival. This year also marked the 10-year anniversary of the festival, which brought hip-hop dance back to its roots in New York City, featuring 100 international dance artists and the Apollo’s first global festival on its legendary stage.
The festival’s mainstage performances were emceed by Breakin’ Convention’s artistic director and Sadler’s Wells associate artist Jonzi D, who brought individual dance artists, dance companies and emerging artists from across the globe, as well as U.S. and local dance crews and hip-hop legend MC Lyte, to the stage.
Every evening of the festival kicked off with energetic dance performances by Bronx-based public performance group Dancing in the Streets. The performances revitalized 125th Street as crowds of onlookers experienced the talented choreography of Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie and Valerie Ms. Vee Ho with DJ Boogie Blind spinning live beats, while Part One and Shame 125 created large scale graffiti masterpieces in the background.
Additionally, performances, workshops and panel discussions led by pioneers in the hip-hop dance field took place on the Apollo’s Mainstage and Soundstage. The audience was wowed by all of the performing crews, who incorporated their own unique expressions of hip-hop dance with hints of ballet, modern and theater. Storyboard P glided across the stage as if he were on water; Project Soul Collective from South Korea brought back the old-school b-boy style, infinitely spinning from the tops of their heads to their fingertips; Next Level Squad brought their unique “bone-breaking” style, that they developed, rotating their shoulders in 360-degree motions; and Jonzi D did a piece which incorporated different dance cultures from around the globe. Every crew and performance received a standing ovation from the audience.
“The Apollo has always been about introducing Harlem and New York to current trends and to what’s next, so we are pleased to have partnered with Sadler’s Wells to bring the world’s foremost dance artists to New York, the birthplace of hip-hop culture,” said Mikki Shepard, executive producer of the Apollo. “Particularly, as this is the 40th anniversary of hip-hop, it was so important for us to convey through dance how this art form has evolved into a global phenomenon. As the Apollo’s first global festival, Breakin’ Convention is the perfect introduction to the Apollo’s new artistic direction.”
Performers included Jonzi D; Storyboard P (U.S.); the duo Company Sébastien Ramirez (Germany/France); ensemble Boy Blue (U.K.), Rennie Harris Puremovement (U.S.); Decadance (U.S.); FootworKINGz (U.S.); Next Level Squad (U.S.); soloists Frank Ejara (Brazil) and Jane Sekonya (South Africa/U.K.); the world’s best b-boys from Korea, Project Soul Collective; and local favorites Beast Coast, Ephrat Asherie Dance, Dynamic Rockers, In Da Clutch Dance Crew and the Wondertwins.
Breakin’ Convention is Sadler’s Wells’ critically acclaimed annual international festival of hip-hop dance theater, taking place each May bank holiday. Still the only event of its kind in the U.K., Breakin’ Convention began at Sadler’s Wells in May 2004 under the theater’s current artistic director and chief executive, Alistair Spalding and British hip-hop pioneer Jonzi D. Breakin’ Convention has become a major event in the hip-hop and U.K. dance calendars. It has developed a worldwide reputation for attracting record audience numbers and world-class performers from across the globe, as well as providing a platform for homegrown talent. The festival also includes film screenings, live aerosol jams, international workshop programs, DJ demos and open circles.
To date, the London festival and national tours have showcased over 4,938 performers, 333 U.K. companies and 106 international companies to audiences in excess of 92,000. In 2007, Breakin’ Convention was nominated for the Theatrical Management Association’s Achievement in Dance award for exposing the energy and appeal of hip-hop dance theater to audiences across the U.K. Breakin’ Convention has expanded its activity, developing national partnerships through its national network, national touring, commissions and a unique professional development program for hip-hop dance. Breakin’ Convention is acknowledged for producing excellence in hip-hop dance theater and is respected by the worldwide hip-hop dance community. For more information, go to www.breakinconvention.com.