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Hip hop festival Breakin' Convention returns for 17th year

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN unmissable date in the annual hip hop calendar, Breakin’ Convention returns to its Sadler’s Wells home for its 17th anniversary on Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3, 2020, before embarking on a national tour until Saturday, June 6.

This influential festival of hip hop dance theatre features unparalleled line-ups of both local and international performances, curated by UK hip hop theatre legend, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and Breakin’ Convention Artistic Director, Jonzi D.

Offstage, Sadler’s Wells is transformed to feature dance workshops, graffiti, DJs and freestyle sessions spilling out all over the building.

Showcasing local talent alongside global sensations, international artists include South Korea’s gravity-defying Jinjo Crew – the first to achieve Grand Slam status after five major international wins – and French hip hop company Géométrie Variable, who explore the popping technique of tutting with a style resembling the inner mechanics of a timepiece.

UK-based acts include Spoken Movement, led by Artistic Director Kwame Asafo-Adjei, following a performance of Family Honour at Dance Élargie: Dance Expanded at Sadler’s Wells in October 2019. In 2018, the piece won first prize at Dance Élargie in Paris, following wins at the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition (RIDCC) and the Copenhagen International Choreography Competition earlier this year.

Of the line-up so far, Jonzi D comments:

“We’re extremely excited to be inviting Jinjo Crew, Géométrie Variable and Spoken Movement back to Sadler’s Wells and on tour with us this year.

“Jinjo Crew’s members have won every major breaking competition in the world, including the UK B-Boy Championships. Expect jaw-dropping power moves and inventive combinations, such as using tracksuits as skipping ropes.”

“Géométrie Variable integrates impressive clarity of form into tutting technique. Angular gestures, slot, slide, fold and open to reveal a myriad of 2D shapes. Like swans paddling under calm waters, the dancers’ bodies reveal the intricacies and engine behind the choreography’s kaleidoscopic result.

“Spoken Movement’s Kwame Asafo-Adjei uses popping and krump vocabulary in narratives that trace his Ghanaian roots, exploring environmental issues, and themes of family and race. His choreography has developed into something potent and unflinching.”

In May 2019, Sadler’s Wells was awarded £630,660 as part of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants funding programme. Using this funding, Sadler’s Wells’ Breakin’ Convention team continues to build on the learnings and legacy of 16 years of successful hip hop theatre development with an ambitious new programme, Breakin’ Out.

Breakin’ Out encompasses three distinct and connected strands, one of which is Grass Routes partnerships, supporting the practice of hip hop artists engaged with their local communities through collaboration with national organisations, providing training, masterclasses and mentorship. Two further strands comprise artist development, including Breakin’ Convention’s Open Art Surgery professional development project, and performances as part of the programme’s national tour.

Following the festival at Sadler’s Wells, Breakin’ Convention tours the UK, taking in venues from Plymouth to South Shields. The festival has previously toured globally; in 2017 alone, it presented a total of 32 shows in 16 cities, visiting venues including the Harlem Apollo and The Sony Centre, Toronto.

Breakin’ Convention will tour to Doncaster, Poole, Plymouth, Blackpool, South Shields, Nottingham, Brighton, Norwich, Birmingham and Canterbury.