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.

Post date: 21 September 2011

Imagine a holiday resort for breakers in the middle of a small Dutch city where b-boys and b-girls turn up in scores. Or Breakin’ Convention taking over a quiet country village. The Notorious IBE took place in Heerlen, Netherlands, last weekend and is a pilgrimage of breaking culture for dancers and spectators alike.

BBoy Lilou at IBE 2011Now in its 11th sell out year and with ten different cyphers over three days, the Notorious IBE was a weekend of making choices between catching a battle from beginning to end, taking a masterclass with a superstar breaker or choosing to sit and listen to the many talk shows like The Story of Lilou (picture, right)

What looks like an average European high street in a former mining town in the Netherlands had its quiet atmosphere interrupted by the squeaking of sneakers upon cobblestone, enterprising hip hop clothing companies selling their wares in the town square market, and curious breakers getting ‘smoked’ in conspicuous looking coffee shops.

Breakin’ Convention's action is packed into the space of Sadler’s Wells Theatre; controlled chaos. At IBE, with cyphers spread across the town of Heerlen within five minutes of each other the action spilled out onto the streets with spontaneous throw downs popping up in car parks. Come midnight the town square was transformed into a massive public party as tourists mixed in with the locals enjoying their night out.

We even caught up briefly with Soul Lo who we met at Red Bull BC One Ireland and part of Floor B, who had brought over the winner of the Soul Sessions cypher in Belfast. She wasn’t the only BC One entrant around. El Nino, Kid Glyde, Morris, Ducky, if they had done a big competition then the world of b-boy was there to strike up a conversation on a plate. Heerlen was a breaking resort, and if you wanted to tell your b-boying idol how much you admire them over a Bavarian ale, you could.

Battle, battle, battle!

IBE plays host to some amazing high profile battles and international qualifiers. We B*Girlz, the annual battle only for female breakers curated by photographers Martha Cooper and Nika Kramer, was the first major battle on Friday night which will culminate at the next We B*Girlz festival in Berlin. The seven to smoke, Octogon, and let's not forget the kids battles, showcased the high standards and abilities dancers can reach when pushing themselves to the limit.

The UK B-Boy Championships European qualifier was also the last chance for lockers, poppers and crews to make the final line up for the finals at Brixton Academy in October. While they had already qualified in the nationals, Soul Mavericks still entered the crew battles and made the finals.

Storm at IBE 2011

Although the emphasis of IBE was on the battles, one showcase performance that stood out for everyone we spoke to was ILL-Abilities, an international crew of breakers with physical limitations to their bodies, uniting to show off the illest ability to represent as b-boys - could this be possible BC material...?

Meanwhile, Storm was awarded European Appreciation Award after the Rock Ya Soul Cypher Session (pictured, above right) for his contribution to b-boying culture, something a long time coming considering how he spread the word in Europe while the media focused on the US.

Overall, IBE was an experience. Be that through losing feeling in your legs from sitting and watching an entire qualifier, learning from a legend or coming home deaf from the booming break beats playing all weekend, everyone took something home with them.

IBE is me: IBE is BC.

IBE 2011 highlights

The seven to smoke on the opening night: The energy jumped to a whole new level, the breaking was energetic and aggressive and some incredible power was pulled off in a battle format that tests even the best b-boy’s stamina.

All Battles All battles: This really was the cream of the world’s best b-boying crop. In these battles no crews won, but the sheer might of some of the moves was incredible

The Octogon: Alien Ness’ infamous battle within a confined space saw many a b-boy get to big for their Puma suedes, and for the cypher. By the top 16 the judges only had to call a couple of rounds, the rest of the b-boys fell victim to the Octogon.

Longest b-boy move: Air flares are impressive power moves in themselves, but doing 59 in a row is taking a holiday.

IBE battle and qualifier results:
Seven2Smoke: Niek - Rugged Solutions (Netherlands)
We B*Girlz Battle: Rose and Pauline - Styles Confidential (Netherlands)
3on3 Generations Battle: Momemtum Crew (Portugal)

UK BBoy Championships qualifying crews:
Rugged Solutions - Netherlands
La Smala - France
Illusion of Exist - Russia

Post date: 18 September 2011

Bad Taste Cru of Omagh and Lithuania and based in Newcastle has been shortlisted for the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest again – their second time since they made the final ten in 2009.

Their piece, Tribal Assembly, is competing against nine other shortlisted submissions from around the world to perform at Sadler’s Wells next January.

Bad Taste Cru are Breakin’ Convention regulars having performed at Breakin’ Convention in 2008 with Council of the Ordinary and has since reworked and expanded their performance into a full length piece.

Tribal Assembly is an extended version of our piece Council of the Ordinary which we’ve performed at Breakin’ Convention and travelled around the UK and America,” said Paul Martin, aka P, member of Bad Taste Cru. “[The piece had] been commissioned for a consortium Without Walls who wanted us to create a piece that we could perform at street art festivals up and down the UK, so we took four characters from Council of the Ordinary to help the story a bit more so we’ve expanded to a 45 minute piece from a 15 minute piece.”

Tribal Assembly, featuring characters representing a homeless person, a business man, a chav, and a rocker, has since performed at festivals from Brighton to Bristol and back home in Omagh, putting considerable artistic weight behind their nomination.

If Bad Taste Cru win the Sadler's Wells Global Dance Contest they will receive a £2,000 cash prize and an expenses paid trip to London to perform in January 2012 at the annual Sadler’s Wells Sampled showcase.

“If we won it would be amazing. The last time we got shortlisted was when [other crew members] Robbie, Jelly and Rukus were working with another choreographer, Simon Williams, on IMREADYWHENUR. That piece did really well, so that nomination was really good for us,” said Paul. “But for this piece, because we’ve had such a hand in choreographing and we did the whole thing ourselves from start to finish, our idea has evolved so much and we really care about it.”

“The whole show has come from a strange source, I think with all the work we’ve put into it, we’ve travelled with it, we feel like we know the characters,” he reflects. “B-boying can again be taken to a different level.”

To vote for Tribal Assembly visit the Sadler's Wells Global Dance Contest website and click 'vote' under Paul Martin.

The deadline for votes is 2 November 2011.

Post date: 14 September 2011

Theatre Royal Stratford East has produced a contemporary version of A Clockwork Orange to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Anthony Burgess’ controversial novel.

In this new adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, New York University graduate Ed DuRanté captures Burgess' unique use of the English slanguage with a contemporary score composed by Stratford East associate artist Fred Carl, bringing whole new meaning to this modern classic.

The stage adaptation retains the gratuitous violence and cursing of the Stanley Kubrick movie, replaced with an all-black cast, and importantly includes the final chapter, notoriously dropped from American versions of the book, where protagonist Alex, realises his wrongdoings.

Breakin' Convention artistic director Jonzi D and Katie P has overseen movement direction for the production, set to Fred Carl's jazz-infused soundtrack.

A Clockwork Orange is now showing at Theatre Royal Stratford East from now until 1 October

Tickets are £10-22 and available online or by calling 020 8534 0310

Post date: 22 August 2011

Breakin’ Convention artists Jonzi D and Nathan Geering are involved in Kathakbox, an innovative new stage production from one of the UK’s most exciting and dynamic dance companies at The Public, West Bromwich.

Sonia Sabri Company, recently nominated for a London Dance Award, has combined the Indian classical dance form Kathak with street dance, beatboxing, spoken word and tabla vox rhythms (a traditional Kathak drum) for its new production of Kathakbox.

Kathakbox will see individual stories told through rhythm, movement, poetry and Kathak rap, known as Kavitt, in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

Breakin’ Convention heads will recognise Nathan Geering from his performance in The Last Dance in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Breakin’ Convention 2011.

He will be performing with internationally recognised tabla expert Sarvar Sabri, acclaimed spoken word artist and vocalist Marcina Arnold, and beatboxer Shan Bansil, with Jonzi D, artistic director at Breakin’ Convention in the role of artistic consultant, bringing a hip hop edge to the production and overseeing the renowned poet Zena Edwards as guest composer.

“Sonia Sabri Company is one of the most innovative dance companies in the UK so we are delighted that they will be performing at The Public,” said Linda Saunders, managing director of The Public. “Kathakbox has received exceptional reviews across the county so visitors can expect to be entertained with an inspirational and exciting performance.”

Kathakbox takes place at The Public on Friday 16 September at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10 and are available from www.thepublic.com or by calling 0121 533 7161.

Find Kathakbox in the Breakin' Convention calendar

Kathakbox UK tour is supported by Arts Council, England. Kathakbox is a co-production with mac and has also been commissioned by The Place, PRS Foundation, The Drum and Birmingham City Council. International residency is presented in partnership with ADACH, Abu Dhabi, and the British Council.

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