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Review: Jonzi D - The Letter and Other Works at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells

15:42 01 November 2012

Jonzi D. Picture: Paul Hampartsoumian

Jonzi D. Picture: Paul Hampartsoumian

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Hip hop maestro Jonzi D explores his rejection of MBE in first work in decade

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Hip hop maestro Jonzi D returned to his creative roots with this performance of his first new work in 10 years.

For many years Jonzi has been the face of the hip hop dance revolution in the UK, primarily for his work in Sadler’s Wells festival Breakin’ Convention, where he is an associate artist.

Now he has returned as a creator of some sharp, relevant and poetic new dance theatre.

Working with a small team of performers, and a live band lead by Kwake Bass, the evening encompassed music, poetry, movement, politics and wit; offering a rare insight into this pillar of UK hip hop dance.

The first half included an introduction by Jonzi, followed by some work by performance poet OneNess Sankara (who has been nominated for a BEFFTA award for Best Spoken Word Artist and Best Female Act).

She delivered a bleak piece on gang rape, followed by a light, uplifting song Orange Wednesdays. The highlight of the first half had to be energetic Ugandan dance troupe Tabu Flo.

The second half focused on a solo piece performed by Jonzi: The Letter. It’s an exploration of the responses Jonzi encountered when offered an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list. The Letter is an eloquent and touching story as he agonises over the various comments colleagues, friends and family gave to him, acting out all the characters himself, before he can make his final decision – should he embrace the proposed MBE that would recognise his life work, or reject it on its implications and roots in the colonial past? The Letter comes to a head as the family come together at Christmas Day and Jonzi is nervously awaiting their reaction to his decision.

* The Letter and Other Works was at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, EC1

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