Theatre Review: Breakin’ Convention 2011 at Sadler’s Wells

Electrifying break dancers from across the planet set the stage alight at another storming BREAKIN’ CONVENTION at Sadler’s Wells.

BREKADANCING has come a long way from its humble roots in 1970s New York.

The name itself comes from the “break” in old funk and soul records, essentially a drum solo which was considered the best part of the song to dance to. It began as very much a solo art form that involved the protagonist throwing themselves in a variety of gravity-defying shapes in order to show off their skills. This extrovert and battling culture was a far cry from traditional stage craft, but over the year’s hip-hop theatre, a medium which uses breakdancing to tell narratives and express ideas, has developed and become a truly global phenomenon.

This worldwide appeal was very much in evidence at the eighth Breakin’ Convention at Sadler’s Wells theatre, where dancers from as far afield as Korea, the United States, Japan and Uganda came together for this festival of freestyling. The three-day programme featured live graffiti exhibitions, dancing workshops, forums on the finer points of breakdancing and DJ demos during the afternoon, with some of the finest breakers on the globe performing in the evening.

The line-up for the final night on Monday was dripping with gyrating talent. London’s Unity Dance Company performed Mandem Unite, which featured razor sharp choreography and dealt with issues of homophobia and rejection. Next, some astonishing acrobatics were on show from Breakin’ Nest, four youngsters from Bristol and Korea. Then Uganda’s Tabu Flo told the traditional African myth of the night dancer, while a romantic duet from Clash 66, hailing from France and Korea, left the audience captivated.

Later on in the evening, Chicago Footwork showed some frenetic moves to the new musical form Juke, Korea’s Morning of Owl brought a multimedia experience with their performance of Harmonize and finally Breakin’ Convention favourites Boy Blue Entertainment celebrated ten year’s in the game by reworking their classic piece, Klockz.

The most extraordinary performance of the evening, however, was from Birdgang, a UK crew whose story of conformity and rebellion set in the world of cyberspace was a triumph of creative set-design and soundtrack. The combination of story-telling and dance is of course nothing new, but add the dynamics and modernity of breakdancing and it is a compelling mixture.

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Breakin’ convention continues to go from strength to strength, before this year they had showcased 3030 performers to a combined audience of 70,000. On tonight’s evidence, long may it continue.

* Breakin Convention was held at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, EC1, from April 30 to May 2.