Breakin' Convention

19-20 May
The Lowry

Hip hop, and more specifically b-boying, may have originated in New York City within predominately black and latinx communities more than 40 years ago, but it has since evolved both stylistically and in its demographics. Breakin’ Convention - a great title with excellent wordplay - is testament to this.

Self-described as “an international festival of hip hop dance theatre”, Jonzi D’s Breakin’ Convention is now in its 14th year. The festival began in London at Sadler’s Wells and tours across the country, visiting nine cities, including Salford, before it goes global, with shows in Luxemburg and Toronto.

With a trio of international acts, as well as local ones, the programme delivered a range of performances, with some embedded in more ‘traditional’ b-boying styles than others. South Korean act Just Dance’s spectacular routine incorporated Korean music and aesthetics, but the dance itself had firm foundations within the fundamentals of b-boying, showcasing intricate footwork and an array of power moves, including hand stands and spins.

More experimental work was presented in the form of what Canadian duo Tentacle Tribe call ‘conceptual hip hop’ or ‘deconstructed street dance’. Their piece, ‘Nobody Likes A Pixelated Squid’, combines b-boy and funk styles, such as popping, with fluid movements familiar in contemporary dance. Also mixing styles within their performance was South Africa’s Soweto Skeleton Movers. Through the local dance style of ‘Pantsula’, which draws influences from jazz, tap, popping and locking, the Movers creatively use items of clothing, as well as seemingly anatomically impossible movements, which had the audience gasping in disbelief.

Performing alongside the international acts on Saturday were Lauren ‘Fidget’ Haywood with her solo piece ‘Exposure’, demonstrating her strength and emotions through dance; Evolve Dance Crew and their different interpretations through dance to the same song, ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain, showing the unity within hip hop community with Manchester collective Groovanometry; and Explosive @ LCC performed to a spoken word piece by Suli Breaks which questions the education system and the value of exam results.

These performances are further indication that b-boying has been transformed into something bigger than block parties in the Bronx, and has become a form of expression which allows b-boys and b-girls to adapt, reshape and utilise within their own localised contexts. This is the beauty of Breakin’ Convention.

Incorporating the other elements of hip hop - graffiti, DJing and MCing - the pre-show events were also entertaining. Sheffield artists Trik09 and Marcus Method showcased their graffiti skills live and local MC Martin Visceral hosted a variety of rap battles and cyphers, whilst DJ Khan Fu played some hip hop classics.

Mina Suder