Breakin Convention 2021
This past weekend, I attended the eighteenth year of the UK’s premiere Hip Hop festival, ‘Breakin’ Convention’. The world-famous theatre festival has been hosted by Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Islington since 2004. Now that Breakin’ Convention is part of the Sadler’s Wells artistic programme, and Jonzi D is an associate artist at Sadler’s, there is never any doubt as to where the festival will be held. This year, despite a half-empty theatre (or half-full, depending on your outlook), no cyphers in the foyer, or mingling in the lobby – the festival managed to retain its trademark energy and charm.

The disadvantages began before the theatre doors even opened. Due to ‘international travel guidelines, quarantine and visa restrictions’ two of the international acts had to cancel. Dey Dey & Manuela and Compagnie Niya were both set to perform in the weekend’s showcase, in addition to Compagnie Niya being billed to have both the prior Thursday and Friday night’s to themselves. Both latter shows were completely cancelled, and the two acts were replaced in the main showcase by ‘Antonio Bukhar Ssebuuma’ (an act from Uganda who luckily was already in the country), and the Columbian raised, UK based, ‘Spin and S.I Stature’. The festival is famed for its trademark mix of homegrown and international acts. As Jonzi D puts it ‘the best from around the world and around the corner’. This year’s festival was more ‘around the corner’ than ever before. However, when the ‘corner’ is London’s dance scene – this is not the worst thing.
The showcase featured some solid work. Some of the highlights included ‘We Ain’t Regular’ – a young group of elite performers, well known for performing with Stormzy at Glastonbury, who turned the stage into a concert for a short high-impact showcase. ‘Spin & S.I Stature’ and ‘Bagsy’ both presented technically impressive works which they developed at Breakin’ Convention’s supporting programs, not only harnessing their seasoned skill-set, but also exploring their artistic range. Gemma Hoddy presented a quartet of female dancers who performed a stylish version of her pre-existing solo piece including popping, waacking, house, and locking. This was particularly impressive as she choreographed and developed the entire thing without ever leaving Dubai.
The most spectacular work of the night came as Spoken Movement performed ‘Family Honour’, an incredible piece of work which uses fast paced and intricate movement to display the subtext of the relationship between a pair of people opposite each other at a table. The piece stood out amongst the others as a refined and developed piece of work, having been developed years before this weekend’s festival.

The show was interspersed with screenings of films between each live performance. This was done, potentially partially to make up for the lack of international performers, but mainly because the entire stage was cleaned in between each piece. The films were courtesy of Breakin’ Convention’s competition ‘Next Day Delivery’ in which a dancer and writer are given twenty-four hours to create an entire short film. In addition to this, ‘Birdgang’, who are no stranger to the show, premiered a short film utilising their trademark illusionary style alongside a classical pianist. A Breakin’ Convention produced film ‘Power to the Pixel’ was also premiered, featuring a rapper expressing frustration with many topics surrounding COVID-19.
Patience J closed the show (a responsibility which usually rests on the shoulders of the absent Boy Blue Entertainment), and did the job well. Fast-paced, vibrant, upbeat – it was exactly what we have come to expect from a Breakin’ Convention closer.

Overall, the Breakin’ Convention team put on a fantastic show, considering the circumstances. Many events in Europe are still cancelled right now – but this organisation chose to power through and create what they could. Whilst this was a stripped back version of Breakin’ Convention, it was still Breakin’ Convention. This is a testament to the formula they have created over the last eighteen years, the sheer will-power of the team, and the strength of our home-grown UK performers. However, despite all the praise I have for them, I do look forward to putting this type of performance behind us and returning to events with international acts and a complete audience. I am excited to see Breakin’ Convention return at full strength in 2022.
Written by Luke Lentes
Back to Top