Review: Breakin' Convention 2015 - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 2 - 4 May 2015
Reviewed by Siobhan Murphy - Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Ruggeds

Performance reviewed: May 3 2015

Sadler’s Wells’ annual metamorphosis for its celebration of hip hop dance theatre is always an invigorating experience, with its eclectic, overwhelmingly young crowds and impressively varied, multicultural line-ups. It also feels very much like a hip hop family affair, especially now that, 12 years in, so many Breakin Convention offshoot alumni, from the likes of Open Art Surgery and Future Elements, feed back into the main event and get noisy audience support. By Sunday evening, master of ceremonies Jonzi D was somewhat subdued after two days of raucous noise-making, and a very late night courtesy of Mayweather’s boxing masterclass. But the acts offered an exuberant, supremely energetic mix of styles.

Duwayne Taylor’s Buckness Personified crew blended krump with neo-classical music in the four-minute Conform, which seemed to offer scope for a larger piece: the performers’ explosive energies were marshalled into tight, staccato movement to intriguing effect. Lloyd’s Company from Holland presented Tagg 2.0, pitting Xisco Riboch and Rabani Sayed in a b-boy face-off that harnessed Sayed’s silky agility and Riboch’s muscular power, its intricate groundwork punctuated by jaw-dropping moves that elicited gasps of admiration from the crowd. A shame that rather over-enthusiastic lighting effects sometimes obscured the action.

Saran Kohli and Co went heavy on cool humour but the choreography in Molecules Of A Dream could have been a bit less reductive; still, fashion designer Kohli’s costume designs were eye-catchingly hip. Meanwhile, French popping star Gator was mesmeric in the eight-minute Explicit, with granite-like core strength offsetting a gorgeous fluidity.

The Soul Footwork Collective switched up the pace with a tremendous display of fast-footwork house dancing before the mighty Boy Blue Entertainment took the stage with The Dojo, a piece inspired by the crew’s full-length The Five And The Prophecy Of Prana. Melding hip hop dance with martial arts kata moves certainly makes for thrilling spectacle, and BB flooded the stage with 25 dancers for this high-energy, chop-socky-film-influenced tale of bringing elements into harmony, creating something arguably more entertaining than the baggy piece that spawned it.

The main stage interval offered a chance to nip off to the Lilian Baylis Studio for a triptych of more personal, spoken-word driven pieces. Berkavitch and Ed Spoons wistfully explored the theme of fatherhood through dance, poetry and live illustration. Xena Gusthart’s I Cannae Weight offered a girl’s perspective on her relationship with her disabled brother. But Josephine ‘Realitie’ Rolling’s Invisible Scars was on another level entirely. A gut-punch performance-poetry depiction of bullying tearaway Marilyn, victim of mental and emotional abuse by her mother, is so powerfully rendered by Rollings and young, hugely talented dancer-performer Tolu (who at one point manages to krump while sitting down) that it leaves you speechless.

Back on the main bill, France’s Antoinette Gomis channelled Nina Simone for an elegant study of the the fraught issues around female black beauty – in truth, possibly a bigger subject than this piece could comfortably engage with, although dancer, choreographer and model Gomis has a compelling stage presence and sets her long limbs into blistering flurries of movement. Protocol Dance Company took, as a counterpoint, male identity and how bound up it is with aggression for their piece, Manhood. They probed ideas of bonding and confrontation with playfulness and humour, incorporating a rough-edged street dance aesthetic that complemented their thematic concerns.

Germany’s Flockey offered an attractive if less coherent piece: Slave Of Your Own was a slick showcase for his gangly solo skills, and his interplay of fast and slow movement was highly polished, but the narrative didn’t really catch fire. Show closers The Ruggeds, meanwhile, had no need of narrative: their world premiere performance of Adrenaline was a scorching display of superlative b-boy skills, with a hurtling energy, bubbling sense of fun and inventive staging that provided fabulous show-stopping moments. Whether working as solo performers grabbing centre-stage to display varied solo skills, or as a crew producing firecracker group b-boying, the renowned Eindhoven crew proved they were entertainers through and through – their climactic segment using fast-moving spotlights to highlight individuals in dizzying, dynamic sequence was one of the most energising things I’ve seen in a long time.

Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer and editor, who also contributes to Dancetabs and Time Out. Find her on Twitter @blacktigerlily

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