Breakin’ Convention 2018
with performances by BirdGang, Zeljko Bozic & Miljan Nojic, Elsabet Yonas, UMA, Room 2 Manoeuvre, Compagnie Amala Dianor, The Locksmiths, The Ruggeds, Mufasa & Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Boy Blue Entertainment
London, Sadler’s Wells
6 May 2018
Jonzi D’s hip-hop dance festival reached its 15th birthday this year and its quinceañero was – eventually – a raucously joyful coming-of-age. The first half of this marathon evening followed the usual hit-and-miss pattern, though; an eclectic mix of performers, some of whom didn’t really live up to their big-stage moment.
The BirdGang crew – BC veterans – took a while to get into their stride, with the choreography for its 20-odd young performers often looking like too many small, staccato movement on too big a stage.
The Slovenian duo Zeljko Bozic and Miljan Nojic constructed a short family-friendly comedic piece around moving six cardboard boxes, which all felt a bit Slovenia’s Got Talent. Elsabet Yonas provided a commanding, sweeping work about female empowerment and solidarity; Lee Putman and Luke Lentes from the Watford-based UMA crew gave a technically competent display of popping marred by a blurry, angsty storyline that for no discernible reason ended in a fight.
The Edinburgh group Room 2 Manoeuvre went for humour, depicting the trials and tribulations of a b-boy practice session, with all the grouching and clashing egos – although the central joke of doing hip-hop moves to classical music wore thin quite quickly.
The best of the bunch was saved til last. French b-boys rarely put a foot wrong and the three members of Compagnie Amala Dianor performing the 20-minute New School were exceptional. Link Berthomieux, Sandrine Lescourant and Admir Mirena presented a style that the programme termed “abstract” – in practice it was a stunning dismantling of classic b-boying, in which moves could be suddenly slowed down, requiring astonishing levels of control, then resumed with fluid-limbed authority. The purity of technique and almost insouciant dominance of the stage that the three presented, moving as though held in each other’s gravitational pull, was absolutely inspiring.
The second half of the programme shook up the format. The floor was given over to five acts familiar to regular Convention-goers, but their performances segued into each other without introductions, all backed by the 15-strong Jazz Re:Freshed orchestra (also marking 15 years together), which took up the back of the Sadler’s Wells stage.
It gave this last hour a welcome propulsive force, starting with an exuberant burst of colour, loosely funky house moves and liquid locking from the London collective The Locksmiths, and dipping only with a burst of spoken word from Jonzi D. The Ruggeds, from the Netherlands, were on boisterous back-flipping form, teaming with the beatboxer Hobbit for a playful, increasingly frenetic showcase of cheerfully laddish street-dance skills, in which some killer moves (such as a perfectly executed series of handstand windmills) produced deserved gasps of appreciation from the audience.
A rippingly sensual duet between the French dancer Mufasa and the cellist/singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson was an unexpected delight. Then finally we had Boy Blue Entertainment, who flooded the space with nearly 30 dancers and staged what appeared to be nothing short of the Haitian revolution. To an African percussion-heavy score, the dancers powered through a jubilant revolt against oppression, with Kenrick Sandy’s stamp clearly on the fast, dense, forceful choreography; then moved into what looked like a voodoo ceremony celebration, with individuals breaking out, as if possessed by the loas, with strong solos of krump-style grandiosity. Truly, a loud and proud way to go out.