Post date: 22 November 2011

It’s fast becoming apparent that Vagabonds are undisputedly the world's best b-boy crew at the moment, after scooping the UK B-Boy Championships title twice in the past two years and taking both the title and best show award at Battle of the Year (BOTY) 2011.

Battle of the Year is known historically within b-boy circles as the ‘World Cup of B-Boying’ so it was only right that it took place in a massive 12,000 capacity arena in Montpellier, its new home since it moved from Germany two years ago. The last time France won a World Cup (in football) was when it hosted the tournament in 1998, and with the home team taking the silverwear home again it leaves potential for WAGs to scrap their designer handbags for shell toes and phat laces.


What do 12,000 people look like? This.

"They had energy, control and precision. They seemed relaxed and kept their smiles," said Poe One. "A lot crews feel the pressure and pull out all the guns and it doesn't work. But Vagabonds looked at ease."

"This is for us a great comeback after last winning in 2006," they later said. "All eyes were on us but we worked so hard for this all year. We won the UK B-Boy Championships last month and it's so exciting to win the title again."

No doubt. Being the crew flying the national flag saw, or rather heard, audience scream down the arena and the crowd support kept spirits high after a controversial decision to put Battle Born of USA through to the finals. No other crew got the same response, bar Jinjo from (you guessed it) Korea.

In order to qualify for the BOTY 2011 finals each of the 19 crews that qualified for the world finals (see them here) had to perform a six minute showcase. Highlights included a smart dressed Nine States B-Boyz from Japan dancing to an Austin Powers soundtrack, Dead Prezz from Greece going for a poignant political storyline and TPEC from Taiwan bringing energy and attitude that some other competing crews forgot to bring to their set.

BOTY organiser Thomas Hergenröther said: “It was an amazing night. All crews practiced hard to win a spot in the final and there were some great battles. My congratulations to Vagabonds who are now officially the best crew in the world.”

The night before in the BOTY side cyphers the b-girls represented at Nika Kramer’s We B*Girlz battles on Friday night with Lil Fenesis and Yurie from Japan taking out the crowd favourites Aliyah and Marion from France in the finals; B-Boy Niek (formerly Just Do It) of Holland won the 1 v 1 battles, another victory for him since winning the seven to smoke at IBE 2011.

Watch Battle of the Year (BOTY) 2011 highlights

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Battle of the Year 2011 results

Best show
Vagabonds

Top four crews
Battle Born (USA) v Nine State B-Boys (Japan)
TPEC (Taiwan) v Vagabonds (France)

Finals
Battle Born v Vagabonds

BOTY 1 v 1 bboy results

Quarter finals
B-Boy El Nino  v B-Boy Lucky Look
B-Boy Vicious v B-Boy Soso
B-Boy Niek v B-Boy ATN
B-Boy PetAir v B-Boy Taower

Semi finals
B-Boy El Nino v B-Boy Vicious
B-Boy Niek v B-Boy Taower

Finals
B-Boy Niek v B-Boy Viscious

We B*Girlz results

Quarter finals
LiL FeNeSiS & B-Girl yuRie v Soe & Narcis
Sandra & Louise v Nadeen Shine & K
Cugi & Alessandrina v Pauline & Rose
Lusi & Lenton v Aliya & Marion

Semi finals
FeNeSiS & yuRie  v Sandra & Louise
Pauline & Rose v Aliya & Marion

Finals
LiL FeNeSiS & yuRie v Aliya & Marion

It’s bigger than hip hop

France is hyped for street dance. Flicking through the channels on the television at the hotel and who do we see on TV? Bruce, organiser of Juste Debout, as a judge on TV talent competition Dance Street - which was airing on repeat until the early hours of the morning! Brahim, a member of Pockemon crew who also happens to be dating Madonna, was in the gossip headlines, and Vagabonds were clearly the stars at the show as demonstrated when the standing audience pushed forward for a better view.

It was interesting that looking around the arena the apparent amount of breakers that had travelled from overseas to watch BOTY in person were limited. It's a shame more hadn't travelled to Montpellier as the audience seemed unfamiliar with hip hop fundamentals such call-and-response, giving it a feeling of a theatre crowd than a hip hop concert - and you know how hyped the Breakin' Convention hip hop audience gets inside a theatre!

The smelly, sweaty excitement of a cypher you get in packed, intimate venues was full of seated individuals that looked like a hard job to excite. A spectator sport, maybe? If only Breakin' Convention had reporters the last time we went...

What are your thoughts? Were Vagabonds deserving champions? Was the judge's decision to put Battle Born through to the finals right? Maybe you were there and thought the atmosphere was live? If you have something to say leave your comments below!

Post date: 15 November 2011

The annual Battle of the Year is taking place in front of 12,000 b-boy fans this weekend in Montpellier, France, picking up speed this week with a series of lectures, workshops and preliminaries before the grand finals this Saturday.

Over the past six months a total of 35 qualifying rounds have taken place across the world. Starting with list of 350 crews and 3,000 b-boys, only 20 crews have made it to the final.

Update: Read our BOTY 2011 report here!

Those top 20 crews look hot: Jinjo are reigning champions, winners of the international competition R16 Korea, and were runners up at this year’s UK B-Boy Championships in October, and if fates conspire and they brave it to the final rounds they could face current UK B-Boy world champs, Vagabonds during the show down.

Thomas Hergenröther, organiser of Battle of the Year says: “All crews have been practicing long and hard for this one day, trying to convince our five international judges with their choreography in the first round to rank top four and to qualify for the final battles.”

Those judges are: Poe One, Movie One, Crazy, Lilou and Taisuke.

He continues: “To win the competition the crews have to come up with an extraordinary choreography first. For the battle finals, a high level of individual skill and a good crew tactic is needed.”

BOTY - more than just a showcase

Movie One and Poe One are also lending their judging eyes to the internationally acclaimed We B*Girlz battles with third judge Valentine.

B-girls Rose and Pauline from their success of qualifying at IBE 2011 as they face seven other international b-girl couples competing for the title.

Founded and promoted by Nika Kramer and in collaboration with the photographer Martha Cooper, We B*Girlz will see the dopest dancing duos cypher in a girls-only battle where the ladies always come first.

Once again Sunni (Breakin’ Nest) will be representing UK in the b-boy solos up against a mighty line up of international giants (see below)

And let's not forget Hip Hop In Creation featuring performances from Second Souffle (Pockemon Crew) and Sadako (Uzmaki B-Girl Valentine) and Hotmoves by Storm, a lecture combined with a talk show.

The Battle of the Year 2011 grand finals take place at the Park & Suites Arena, Montpellier. Smaller events and preliminaries happen around the city – see www.braunbattleoftheyear.com for details and locations.

Battle of the Year 2011 crew line up

Jinjo Crew (Korea) - defending champions
1piece ud town (Thailand)
Amazon B-Boys (Brazil)
BMT & Mafia 13 (Russia)
Battle Born (USA)
CT Group (Poland)
De Klan (Italy)
Dead Prezz (Greece)
Guatemaya Crew (Guatemala)
Hoochen Crew (Belgium)
Kosher Flava (Isreal)
Maximum Crew (Korea)
Nine States B-Boyz (Japan)
Over Boys (Dubai)
Reckless Bunch (Germany)
Ruff'n'X (Switzerland)
Simple System (Kazakhstan)
TPEC Crew (Taiwan)
Vagabonds (France)

We B*Girlz Line Up

B-Girl Aliya & B-Girl Marion
B-Girl Pauline & B-Girl Rose
B-Girl Kelly & B-Girl Loueasy
B-Girl Cugi & B-Girl Alessandrina
B-Girl Lusi & B-Girl Lentos
B-Girl Soe & B-Girl Narcis
B-Girl LiL FeNeSiS & B-Girl yuRle
B-Girl Nadeen & B-Girl K

Solo b-boy line up

B-Boy El Nino v B-Boy Rossi
B-Boy Lucky Look v B-Boy Wizard
B-Boy Soso v B-Boy Matthew
B-Boy Vicious v B-Boy Poter
B-Boy Niek v B-Boy Titris
B-Boy Sunni v B-Boy ATN
B-Boy Lil G v B-Boy PetAir
B-Boy Wing v B-Boy Jed

Post date: 11 November 2011

This November at Stratford Circus, dancers from Project G, Myself, Alias, Unity and more are coming together for a dance theatre production based around the subject of abuse.

A series of performances, collaborations and partnerships between dancers and companies will explore the difficult subject of abuse using real life scenarios and victim’s perspectives through movement and film.

Venus Hates Mars was devised by Olu Alatise of Project G Dance Company, a collective of female dancers who strive to grow and are driven by hard work and passion.

“Dance can be a therapeutic healer for individuals who aren’t necessarily comfortable with being vocal about their emotions and they are able to express this through movement,” she says, with any form of abuse being a difficult subject to talk about with others.

She continues: “Coming from a less fortunate background I have had first hand experience in abuse. Growing up alone you tend to conceal your emotions and are unable to channel them verbally. Dance was my release, and has been for many others.”

Presenting the subject using dance movement and making it relatable to non-dancers has been a focus for the production and it is hoped that dancing will make the message easier to absorb.

“The subject is something a lot of people have experienced but have often kept a secret for fear of judgment, embarrassment or pride and is something that is kept in the dark,” says Olu. “We want the show to appeal to not only dancers but people from all walks of life. The production is bringing the subject to the forefront using real life scenarios to create a visual. We hope by the end it will enlighten minds for those who may not have an insight into the subject.”

A lot of research has using case studies compiled by the charity women and children's charity, Refuge, has gone into the production in regards to the different forms of abuse to ensure they are cautious as how each one area being approached.

The poster itself highlights the different characters, storylines and situations that will be portrayed in the show.

Venus Hates Mars, some might have noticed, has a very similar name to Unity and Unity Youth’s Venus vs Mars Part 2 from Breakin’ Convention 2010, a harrowing story about what happens when a woman gets pushed to the edge.

Venus vs Mars Part 2 was a high energy performance with an underlining argument that domestic violence is a serious subject that should be both widely addressed and permanently eradicated.

Tashan Muir, choreographer of Unity echoes both Venus Hates Mars in both name and message.

“Loads of stuff happens in news every day, domestic violence is a thing that seems like it's not spoken about,” said Tashan, speaking about Venus vs Mars in 2010. “A lot of women and men lose their lives for it, kids have to go into adoption and lose their welfare because of it. It's something I've gone through and something others I didn't know others had gone through too.”

Those that came to Open Art Surgery should expect to see the full version of Natalie James’ haunting piece within the context of a show.

It sounds like a tough show to watch: With so much focus on abuse will people come out feeling guilty? Tashan doesn’t think so: “If you go through situations like that in your life and turn it to a positive, it's a good thing,” he says, comparing emotions to self expression in dance. “A lot of the dance community dance because they love it and because they express themselves. If there are happy and sad issues, put it into your dance and see what can come out of it.”

Olu echoes his sentiment: “It is a sensitive subject and we are aware we are touching on an area that carries a hefty load, however dance can bring that change. Even if we reach one person, our work would have been accomplished.”

Venus Hates Mars is sponsored by Refuge, a charity dedicated to the welfare of women and committed to a world where domestic violence is not tolerated or ignored and where women and children can live in safety. It will also be supported by DanceAid, a charity that transforms young children's lives through dance.

Venus Hates Mars takes place at Stratford Circus on Saturday 19 November. Tickets are £10 and can be bought on line or by calling 0844 357 2625

View our calendar to see the full line up. Despite Unity being referenced in the article, they will not be appearing in the show.

Post date: 04 November 2011

Breakin’ Convention recently relaunched Open Art Surgery (formerly 'The Surgery') last weekend and is celebrating its most successful show yet, with new and returning faces joining its line up.

Open Art Surgery showcased one-off performances and works in progress from emcees, dancers, beatboxers and musicians collaborating with one another, some meeting each other for the first time during the course of the week.

Artists presenting new pieces of work at Open Art Surgery included the Breakin’ Convention Education Programme’s resident beatboxer, Marv-ill, ABH, Dim, Oneness, Jane Sekonya-John, Jonzi D, Nefeli Tsiouti, Daniel ‘Photon’ Limbaya, Bumi Thomas, K.E.V., and Natalie James.

Jonzi D's Surgeries have long been a breeding ground for creating new and emerging pieces of hip hop theatre work with some pieces progressing to fullly polished productions premièring at Breakin’ Convention, such as Ella Mesma in Evol (Breakin' Convention 2011) and Shock and Breaker of Flawless in Manipulation (Breakin' Convention 2008).

After a week of collaborating and creating new works in progress under the guidance and direction of Jonzi D, work is presented to an audience where spectators are given the opportunity to critically feed back on work directly to the artists.

Showcased work included a mechanical tango for two by Nefeli and Photon, beatboxing meeting dance with Marv-Ill, ABH, Dim and Photon, and a split personality social awareness solo by K.E.V. on underprivileged African Americans in his hometown of Oakland, California.

A poignant extract by Natalie James on domestic abuse using video projection set to a landscape of silence brought the atmosphere to a sombre level, something which will be explored and showcased in full at Venus Hates Mars at Stratford Circus later on this month.

With the assistance of bar wine and engaging performances to aid opinions, audience critiques flowed freely during the discussion, spilling out into the café as attendees expressed their thoughts on the showcased works in progress. Some members of the audience were moved to tears by performances, while others related to the subtle messages carried across through movement, lyrics and movement, all giving valid input that will help the artists develop their work further.

One of the positive outcomes of Open Art Surgery is its inspiration for artists to hook up after hours to hang out and jam which is sure to spur new artist collaborations outside of the workshops as demonstrated by Marv-Ill and K.E.V. taking a beatboxing and rapping hip hop ‘underground’ in its most literal form - watch below!

Are you an outspoken theatregoer and want your voice heard by artists? Don't miss the next Open Art Surgery, Open Art Surgery Goes Back to the Lab, a special edition where Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Jasmin Vardimon will be putting our artists through their paces with her unique approach to choreography.

Tickets are only £5 plus booking fee and are available online or by calling 0844 412 4300

Post date: 01 November 2011

At Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Breakin’ Convention has been conducting its own experiments, mixing choreographic compounds and harvesting the DNA for the next generation of hip hop dancers.

Back to the Lab is a new initiative from Breakin’ Convention aimed at experienced hip hop choreographers and designed for exploring new ways of approaching choreography, direction and staging. The artists, hand-picked by Breakin’ Convention, are: Simeon Qsyea, Toby G, Botis Seva, Ivan Blackstock and Ashley Jack.

For the first part of the course our makeshift laboratory was a dance studio and the head professor working alongside Jonzi D was Jasmin Vardimon, Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and award winning choreographer.

Jasmin has been an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells since 2006. Prior to that she was an Associate Artist at The Place in 1998 and a Yorkshire Dance Partner from 1999-2005. With such an impressive résumé it was only right to appoint her as the leader for this experiment.

“Jonzi asked me to facilitate workshops to allow young hip hop choreographers to examine the way that they’re working and to provide more tools for them to expand and develop the genre that they’re working in,” Jasmin explains. “My work incorporates different layers of information to create a product that is multi-layered, so there are a lot of elements to communicate with the audience through different channels on different levels of communications”

‘Multi layered?’ Like an onion? It’s an interesting analogy but what does this mean for the choreographers? In simple terms it’ll mean fresh new angles on choreography: Thinking outside of the box and stepping outside of comfort zones. For example, if you’re telling a story through movement, how does your body react to the soundtrack by default? If a song has angry undertones do you express the anger through movement the same way another dancer might interpret that feeling?

Jasmin’s exercises drills have included different ways of looking at choreography. She prefers to study a theme or idea, the concept behind the movement, and which context that defines that move, then builds upon it: it’s the finer details that have been put under the microscope for Back to the Lab with the dancers reporting “eureka!” moments throughout the course.

“In my process of creation the music comes last, which is somehow unusual in the dance world,” Jasmin says. “I believe the music is so influential that sometime it overwrites the original meaning of the work”

Some choreographers might have a predefined idea for a set piece after hearing a music track; others might already have a concept but want to find the right music.

The Frankenstein of Fearta

Some might have reservations that the choreographers might come out transformed into contemporary choreographers.

“One of the hardest things is making sure that the material, the end product, doesn’t then become contemporary, that we steer in the direction of Jasmin’s approach and merge the two together as opposed to scrap everything we learn in hip hop and go down this contemporary hip hoppish way,” said Simeon Qsyea. “We noticed the first time in a couple of sessions when me and Jonzi spoke.”

However, Jasmin insists that what she teaches won’t encroach on their hip hop disciplines.

“I asked them to let go of what they have because they have that, it’s not as though they’re going to lose it: put it to the side and try and do other things, dig in and find out what else they have in themselves so they can use,” she said.

In fact, Jasmin has worked with hip hop artists before, and has been known to pass through Brixton battle cyphers.

What will come out of the Back to the Lab course as a result are some unique creations: “I always find that mixed marriages are bringing the most beautiful children. When you mixed art forms that’s when new things happen,” says Jasmin. “I’m not sure yet what will happen from that. But I’m sure something will, I’m sure there are some impacts that are going to appear.”

The artists on Back to the Lab have two months months to digest everything they learned before before regrouping for the second week of the course where they will create short pieces with their own dancers in December for Open Art Surgery Goes Back to the Lab.

Time will tell how it affects the choreographers, whether they’ll realise what they’ve learned a week after the course or a month.

Open Art Surgery Goes Back to the Lab takes place on 10 December at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells.

Tickets are only £5 plus booking fee - buy online or call 0844 412 4300

Do you want to be on the next Back to the Lab course? Find out more in Breakin' Convention's Professional Development section.

Post date: 24 October 2011

For Just Jam 2011, Bad Taste Cru (BTC) promised a weekend of b-boy battles, Hip Hop theatre, workshops and parties, and boy did they deliver!

Jam and Juice is Bad Taste Crew’s very own Hip Hop theatre night and saw crews from across Europe, as well as local youth groups, step to the stage. Highlights included a slick, new jack inspired set from Breakin’ Convention’s Back To The Lab choreographer Ashley Jack (Jackin’ The Box) and Newcastle’s own all-girl crew Sana with their trademark sassiness.

But the showstopper rightly came from Bad Taste Cru. Aftermath sensitively addresses the Omagh bombing and its fallout. An issue close close to their hearts (BTC hail from Omagh) the piece resonated with the raw emotion the small town still feels from the atrocity. This Place Prize nominated performance is powerful whilst also displays a maturity that reflects the journey Hip Hop dance theatre has taken. It’s clear why Dance City recently made BTC an associate company.

Day two saw the action head to the more familiar setting of battles.  Bboys and bgirls went head to head and pitted the world’s finest against the UK. The eventual winner was T-Killa (Norway) and his display of character, foundations and originality captured the essence of breaking at its purest. BTC have managed to nurture an event where the camaraderie amongst bboys and bgirls is a priority, it represents a refreshing change to the testosterone fuelled atmosphere of many battles.

The day, however, was to belong to Ken Masters, one of Newcastle’s most respected emcees and Just Jam host. He topped off a perfect day, with an elaborate surprise marriage proposal in front of the audience.  For a moment there were tears in even the most stoney-faced b-boys’ eyes!

Breakin’ Convention wishes you all the best Kenny - who says there’s no romance in Hip Hop?!

Just Jam has definitely stamped itself in the Hip Hop dance calendar and is testimony to the relationship between Bad Taste Cru and Dance City.  Both have embraced each other and the results are impressive. A healthy Hip Hop dance scene is flourishing in Newcastle thanks to the open doors policy of Dance City - every day their foyer is taken over by Hip Hop dancers. Their investment in BTC, Just Jam and Hip Hop dance we salute.

Bad Taste Cru perform a double bill of Aftermath and Tribal Assembly at Dance City (Newcastle) on Saturday 3 December

Post date: 19 October 2011

The Surgery is back. Originally produced by the defunct JDP this unique hip hop theatre event is now re-funked and brought to you by Breakin' Convention and re-branded as OPEN ART SURGERY featuring some funky new character designs by Henry Obasi.

My original motivation for this idea remains the same. To provide space and a stage for hip hop artists across the disciplines - MCing, Dance, Beatboxing etc - who are interested in creating fresh new theatre with their skills.

After a week of workshops, we will present the fresh works in progress at the OPEN ART SURGERY to a captive audience that are invited to give immediate feedback to the artists.

Over the years we have had some great examples of artists that have gone on to develop work initiated in the Surgery. Sean Graham with "Buskin' Boy", Maxwell Golden with "Country Boy MC" and the amazing Rob Broderick with "Abandoman".

As part of the re-launch I'm happy to say we are working with premiere beat-box Marv-ILL Superlungs, MC Kev coming straight out of Oakland, California, and London's own Lyric-L, who will be presenting work from her upcoming album.

Buy tickets for Open Art Surgery - The Relaunch here and and join our mailing list for updates on the plethora of artists that will be added to this dope programme.

We will also indulge ourselves in some freestyle theatre games including Playback Theatre and an MC battle with a difference.

Do you want to be part of the development of this exciting hip hop theatre genre?

Get in touch!

Peace!

Post date: 17 October 2011

Every year Breakin’ Convention anticipates the second weekend of October when the UK B-Boy Championships comes to town. Brixton has become the second home to b-boying bar the Bronx when it comes to holding the biggest breaking competition on your own doorstep.

It took a year of planning and despite no naming rights sponsor, Hooch and company still managed to pack out the house with a slick marketing campaign and a pro-active approach to getting footage up as soon as possible.

How the B-Boy Championships poster was made

All of the breaking and popping world was in town competing for the title that has made champions out of such luminaries as Salah, Deydey, and Mouse. The line up for this year was as impressive as ever, with stars of IBE, Red Bull BC One, and past title holders all lined up to battle.

Saturdays filtration process at the knockout jam meant that only half the dancers that travelled to London ended up making the world finals stage on Sunday with one of the most impressive being Sunni (Breakin’ Nest) who was on fire, defeating the people’s champ, Hong 10 in the quarter finals with some massive power moves and meeting 2009 solo champion Morris in the finals where he eventually placed as runner up.

Sticking with our UK counterparts, Soul Mavericks looked hungry as ever for the title defeating the US’ Dynamic Rockers to face Jinjo in the semi finals before succumbing to the Korean flavour.

Jinjo went on to face last year’s champions, Vagabonds in the finals. While Korea is a melting pot of b-boy culture, France is evidently where it’s at (both Nelson, last year’s champion, and Bruce made the latter stages in popping). The crews equally pulled off impressive routines but it was Vagabond’s execution and use of commandos that would have tipped the scales for the judges, awarding them the title of champions for the second year in a row.

Somebody came to win, somebody gotta go home... here are the results for the finals of the UK B-Boy Championships 2011

UK B-Boy Championships 2011

The crews: Dynamic Rockers, Found Nation, Illusion of Exist, Jinjo Crew, La Smala Crew, Rugged Solutions, Soul Mavericks, Vagabonds Crew
The winners: Vagabonds (France)
The runners-up: Jinjo (Korea)

The solo b-boys
The winner: B-Boy Morris (US)
The runner up: B-Boy Sunni (UK)

Popping
The winner: Kite (Japan)
The runner up: Nelson (France)

Post date: 09 October 2011

This competition is now closed - why not see how the UK B-Boy Championships went here?

Breakin' Convention has three pairs of tickets to the UK B-Boy Championships for you and a friend to give away, plus an official B-Boy Champs New Era 59FIFTY snapback cap, exclusive Asics sneakers and a copy of the brand new book, B-Boy Championships: From Bronx to Brixton, by DJ Hooch.

To win these prizes, all you have to do is answer the following question before 6pm on Tuesday 11 October:

Who is the only female winner in the popping category to win the UK B-Boy Championships?

Hint: This dancer has also performed at Breakin' Convention

Send your name and daytime telephone number to info@breakinconvention.com with the subject 'B-Boy Champs Competition'

Prize details:
The winner's prize pack include the following:
- A pair of VIP tickets to the World Finals on Sunday
- A token for a New Era 'B-Boy' Cap to be collected at the event
- Official B-Boy Champs t-shirt
- A copy of the B-Boy Championships 'Bronx to Brixton' book

Note:
We will add you to the Breakin' Convention email list, from which you can unsubscribe from at any time. Breakin' Convention will not pass on your personal details and will only use your phone number to contact the winners. Breakin' Convention operates and is registered in accordance with current data protection legislation, as per our terms of use.

Post date: 02 October 2011

Over the past year Ben Hammond has been rounding up people of all abilities in all styles of dance to join him for a record breaking 131 hour silent disco. From lessons from Flawless to preaching evangelically to flower sellers while getting on board massive media brands, his goal is to get all of London dancing for Free to Dance, on 11-16 October.

Ben describes himself as an ordinary 33 year old teacher living in south-west London who can’t dance but loves the feeling of freedom it gives him when he lets the music control his feet.

After spending a year teaching at a refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Burma, a country known for its violation of human rights, he soon realised that he wasn’t ‘free’ – his students and their parents were displaced citizens forced to leave their homes and jobs and move out of their towns and villages.

“I didn’t know what this place was, what was going on, but discovered in the year that I spent there that wasn’t free,” said Ben. “I thought ‘that’s not right in the 21st Century, how do I raise awareness of what’s happening?' I needed a symbol of freedom.”

“The times that I’ve actually felt free in my life are when I’m dancing,” he reflects. “I dance really badly, but I don’t care who’s watching and what’s going on, I’m at one and doing what I enjoy doing and I’ve got a massive smile on my face.”

Ben will be sharing his passion at the Scoop amphitheatre outside the Mayor of London’s office to raise awareness for Learn Burma while attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest ever dance by an individual, with the intention of getting 10,000 people down to dance with him over the six days, and raise £1 million.

The 131 hours Ben is going to dance could be compared to a one man dance marathon: Where did he come up with such a challenging idea?

“I thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to get a nice angle if we did something to do with a world record that would generate a whole load more interest for this cause?’ I was flicking through the world record books and all the dance world records are really difficult.”

But he persevered with his search: “Then I came across one that was ‘the world’s longest dance,’ so I thought ‘I can dance for a long time, just really badly.’"

And he likes to emphasise that because he dances badly (and also that he doesn’t care), Free to Dance will be accessible to anyone, even those with two left feet and so-called 'dad dancers.'

“The only thing you need to do is have a little bit of courage to start that dance, because it is in a public venue, outdoors, in front of everyone,” said Ben. “We’re encouraging as many people to come down as possible so that people don’t feel incriminated. It’s like taking back the streets and being free. As our tagline says “let the streets be your dance floor this October.”

Free to Dance group shot

In preparation he has danced across the country from John O' Groats in Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall, danced the London Marathon and danced for 72 hours non-stop throughout Glastonbury Festival to build up stamina for the big event. Ben even performed on the Breakin’ Convention tour last year, surprising visitors at with an impromptu performance during the closing ceremony at Brighton.

His biggest challenge for Free to Dance is staying awake throughout. For health and safety reasons he is allowed a maximum of 20 minutes off for every four hours during which he can eat, go to the toilet and for about 10 minutes, sleep.

"Its actually the staying awake that’s the hard thing. So I’ve been trying to practise sleeping like that and I’ve gone 90 hours, but it’s an unknown as to whether or not I’ll be able to do it," said Ben. "I remember back to Glastonbury and WOMAD, I remember the blisters all over my feet and all pain in my knees and my hips and back, and that was half what I’ve got to do this time."

Nevertheless his heart remains fixed on his objective while his thoughts remain with Burma, and is determined, with the backing of his audience's support, to make it to the end.

Breakin’ Convention is free to dance – if you are too, sign up now at free2dance.com/join-in. You will need to sign up in advance in order to donate and receive your silent disco headphones on time, so don't leave it to the last moment!

If you can’t make it, you can text ‘FREE’ to 70777 to sponsor Ben £5 (of which at least 87% goes direct to LearnBurma, depending on which mobile provider you have for visit the Free to Dance Just Giving page.

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