Dutch b-boys bring a rugged edge to Sadler’s Wells

The Ruggeds

The Ruggeds - Credit: Archant

Ahead of the dance venue’s annual break dancing festival, Alex Bellotti spoke to Niek Traa from The Ruggeds.

Featuring dazzling, high octane performances from some of the world’s biggest break dancing talents, Sadler’s Wells’ critically acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre, Breakin’ Convention, is back for 2015.

Running over the May bank holiday (Friday May 1 – Monday May 4), the event will transform the Islington venue through live DJs, freestyle dance jams, graffiti exhibitions, workshops from top international artists and live aerosol art.

This year’s line-up includes three sets of twins: international duo Les Twins, famous for touring the world with superstar Beyoncé; London’s identical b-boy (break dancing) twins Twin Peak; and America’s first generation b-boys The Legendary Twins.

Alongside them will be acts including Boy Blue Entertainment, Gator and Dutch b-boy crew The Ruggeds, who became known to British audiences last year after winning the UK B-Boy Championships World Finals (think “Wimbledon but with headspins”).

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Niek Traa, one member of the eight-strong crew, says that before they formed in 2005, he was a “hyperactive kid” and that people often believed he had ADHD. After becoming swept up in the Netherlands’ break dancing boom of the early 2000s, he began practising moves – even though he lived nearer to the countryside than the city. He hasn’t looked back since.

“I think breaking has a lot of stages in it,” he explains. “When I started out, I saw someone do a back flip on the floor and I couldn’t believe it.

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“At first that’s what you want to learn, but once you get into it more you start to understand the culture behind it and the real challenge of the dance.

“It sounds crazy, but learning to do a dance trick isn’t that difficult – to find a unique style and to be on the music, that’s the real challenge.”

In comparison to France or New York, the Netherlands isn’t as known for its break dancing scene, yet Traa believes the country has developed its own ‘flow’ which defines the group’s style and adds that working closely with music is key to their ethos.

He welcomes the efforts Sadler’s Wells make every year to promote the dance genre, but also believes London could take a few lessons from The Ruggeds’ native Eindhoven.

“I noticed a lot [in London] that the city government doesn’t do so much [on break dancing], because there’s so much else happening that maybe they don’t appreciate it as much.

“I know there used to be a big, big free-styling spot in London and I think they closed it down when there were so many people using it. That kind of stuff wouldn’t happen in our city because they are so supportive of us and what we want to achieve.”

Breakin’ Convention ‘15 takes place at Sadler’s Wells and Lilian Baylis Studio on Friday May 1 until Monday May 4. Visit sadlerswells.com

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