Breakin’ Convention – International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre

Breakin' ConventionThe international hip hop festival – Breakin’ Convention – will run from 1-4 May at Sadler’s Wells and Lilian Baylis Studio. Breakin’ Convention has firmly established itself as one of the major highlights on the British dance calendar and one of the world’s greatest celebrations of hip hop culture. 2015 will see performances from UK and international companies and crews, the 12th year of this hugely popular Sadler’s Wells Production, hosted and curated by Associate Artist Jonzi D.

While Breakin’ Convention is an event for the whole family, for the first time this year there will be an adult-only evening of entertainment in the Lilian Baylis Studio, an intimate show blending stylish cabaret, circus, live music and burlesque with hip hop. The main festival on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May sees Sadler’s Wells’ foyer transformed with live DJs, freestyle dance jams, graffiti exhibitions, workshops from top international artists and live aerosol art. Participatory activities will take place pre-show and during the interval. Full line-up to be announced 12 March 2015.

Artistic Director of Breakin’ Convention and Jonzi D Projects, Jonzi D has been actively involved in British hip hop culture in clubs and on the street since its genesis in the early 1980s. Since graduating from the London Contemporary Dance School, he has been committed to the development of hip hop theatre, in his former role as Associate Artist at The Place and by creating and performing dance theatre pieces worldwide.

Breakin’ Convention is committed to celebrating, elevating and supporting hip hop dance theatre: the company works with the most respected, innovative and inspirational hip hop artists in the industry. Through its world-renowned international festival, professional development, youth projects and educational programme, Breakin’ Convention seeks to position hip hop dance alongside more historically established artforms.

Breakin’ Convention Launches BCTV

Breakin' ConventionSadler’s Wells’ hip hop dance project Breakin’ Convention has launched an online video channel, BCTV, to capture the full range of Breakin’ Convention’s work and the artists it works with, on Friday 2 May 2014.

Breakin’ Convention is one of the world’s leading hip hop dance organisations, delivering a dynamic programme of events, performances and projects, working with some of the world’s finest hip hop artists. It will present Breakin’ Convention, its critically acclaimed annual festival of hip hop dance theatre, at Sadler’s Wells from 3-5 May 2014, ahead of a UK tour to venues such as Doncaster, Kings Lynn, Inverness, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Blackpool and Bournemouth.

The hip hop community boasts many talented emerging film-makers, but opportunities to train, develop and receive mentorship are limited. Unpaid work and internships are financially unsustainable for most, which makes entry and progression within the industry difficult. Breakin’ Convention therefore aims to plug this gap by offering training and mentorship coupled with paid, creative film-making briefs. Through providing access to quality equipment and mentors, tailored training programmes and bridging relationships with other film production companies, BCTV is not only a fantastic opportunity for film-makers to make dynamic content but a gateway to the larger industry.

The project is part of Sadler’s Wells’ work to ensure a strong legacy beyond the tour. In addition to BCTV, this will include engaging local urban cultural ambassadors who will provide the link between the venue and the local hip hop dance, graffiti, rap and DJ communities in order to highlight lesser-known projects to a wider audience.

BCTV features everything from live performances to interviews, short documentaries, video diaries and conceptual videos, and provides an insight into the world of hip hop dance.

Sunanda Biswas: A Credit To Hip Hop

Sunanda BiswasOne of UK’s foremost B-girls and founder of ‘FLOWZAIC’, the UK’s first all-female breaking crew, Sunanda has performed, judged and hosted at some of the biggest Hip Hop and B-Boy events from UK B-Boy Championship, Nike Dance Clash to BOTY and B-Supreme women in the Hip Hop festival at the South Bank Centre.

She was the co-choreographer for the NHS segment of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and is now Associate Director of ‘Grounded’ which gave its début performance at Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention’s 2013 tenth anniversary.

When did you begin dancing, where and why?

I began dancing when I was three years old, doing ballet and tap, but then also trained as a gymnast from six years old. I then went to Lewisham College at 16, and then London Studio Centre.

What were your early years of dancing and training like?

I remember copying dance moves from old hip hop videos, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Madonna, and there was a guy at my gym that used to do a UK version of Locking, so I used to copy his routines! I also loved breaking back in the day, but never learnt it properly until the late 1990s. My training was good; I had to do basic ballet, contemporary, and Matt Mattox jazz that really enhanced my dance career.

What does dance mean for you?

I guess it’s my life as this is what I have done as a living since I left college, but it is my passion also and I love the history involved in dance, and the social side of it.

How long have you been working as performer and choreographer? How did it begin?

I have been working professionally for about 20 years and some of my first jobs were doing commercials, videos, teaching and performing in a casino in Italy!

What is a ‘typical’ day like?

I always try to get up and do yoga and pilates exercises at home before I go and either teach, choreograph or do a job. Some days I don’t have work so I train or take other people’s classes as it’s always good to keep up with the knowledge.

What’s the best part of dance for you?

I love training but the performances are great, also battling and free styling as you can be yourself and have your own character.

What would you say was your greatest dance achievement to date?

It has to be choreographing and performing in the London 2012 opening ceremony in the NHS section: myself and my long-term dance partner, Temujin Gill, got to work with Danny Boyle and create our own choreography and style, and also got to perform on the night!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the dance industry?

I think you have to be motivated and work hard, it’s not always easy but if you put enough time into it, you can achieve what you desire, Also, be versatile and learn different styles, but it is good to specialise in one or two so you can really shine and be different.

What’s next for you?

I am currently doing a research and development project with my dance company Grounded where we are exploring ideas to create a new show. We are working with the styles of lindy hop, breaking and tap, and training up more dancers throughout the process.

Blazing Ivan Blackstock

Ivan BlackstockIvan Blackstock is a well-respected hip hop artist within the dance theatre world, the commercial world, as well as on the hip hop battle circuit. He undertook training at two prestigious dance conservatoires, namely the Urdang Academy and London Contemporary Dance School, during which he took a gap year to join The Pet Shop Boys on their world tour.

Ivan has worked with many well-known names of the dance world, such as Arlene Phillips, Jasmin Vardimon, ZooNation Dance Company, Kylie Monogue and Breakin’ Convention, in addition to working as part of the BirdGang Dance Company creative team. Here he shares stories of growing up with dance and his life as part of Blaze…

When did you begin dancing, where and why?

I have always been dancing since I can remember. I have always been a fan of Michael Jackson, MC Hammer & Bobby Brown but I took my first dance class at the age of eight in a dingy hall in south London, after seeing my cousin performing and opening for a well known US boy band at the time.

What were your early years of dancing like?

Very crazy; I remember travelling from my old home in Old Kent Road
to Battersea at 10 or 11 years old twice a week to make rehearsals and training by myself. My Mom would drop me off when she could but she was juggling two jobs and my younger sister.

How long have you been performing? Did you start young?

My first performance was quite soon after I joined my cousin’s dance crew but professionally it started at 17 years old, and I was on a world tour with the Pet Shop Boys at 19.

How did you train and what was a typical day like?

I trained with many established street dance companies and teachers in London, from Sisco Gomez to Boy Blue Entertainment. I also studied dance at a few schools… Lewisham College, Urdang Academy and London Contemporary Dance School.

My typical day was getting to ballet for 8:30am, taking various dance technique classes and also contextual studies until about 6pm, then taking a street dance class or rehearsing with my dance company BirdGang from 7-11pm. I would get home and be in bed for about 12:30am and would then repeat.

What is a typical day like now?

My typical day now is prepping for the next choreographic project. Having meetings, writing emails, seeing shows. Very fun I must say.

Do you still take classes? How do you keep on top of your technique?

Yes, I always take class when I can. When you get older you have a lot more responsibilites so it’s not so easy to commit to dance classes as you would when you are younger. Wednesday is the day I religiously take time to take class and I also try to train by myself at home: I find it therapeutic.

Do you prefer choreographing to performing?

I love both to be honest, but at this stage in my career I prefer choreographing. I like working with different types of people as I find it really stimulating – each project is very different from the last. Also seeing the birth of my ideas from my head actually come to life with people paying to come and see it and walk out satisfied. That really does it for me.

What’s the best part about performing in Blaze?

Working with such a diverse pool of talent. Everyone brings something unique and special to the table. Also, my colleague from BirdGang Kendra Horsburgh is resident choreographer and dance captain and she is doing a great job putting the show together.

What would you say was your greatest achievement to date?

Winning the Guardian & Hospital Club 100 award. Being a winner alongside Steve McQueen, The Rolling Stones, Helen Mirren, I feel very honoured especially as it was a public vote. So I must be doing something right!

Which part of dance do you enjoy most?

This might sound selfish but the feeling when I hear music that touches my soul. It’s very self indulgent. I can’t really explain it but that’s the best part of dancing, I feel.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the dance industry?

The road is long, the road is tough, but if you have patience, perseverance, humility, and foundation you will reach your destination.

What’s next for you?

Working with my dance company BirdGang on future projects such as Breakin’ Convention and a few shows in Europe. Secondly I will be working with Dance Umbrella and the Young Vic in October.

Kloé Dean: No Rest For Dancers!

Kloé Dean (c) Hugo GlendinningKloé Dean, is a passionate and unique hip hop dancer, choreographer and freestyler; as part of one of the UK’S leading street dance companies, Boy Blue Entertainment, Kloe also leads her own all-female Dance Collective ‘Myself UK Dance’. She is currently a cast member of the street dance sensation BLAZE.

Kloé has performed in numerous productions, showcases and competitions in the UK and around the world and has performed as well as showcased her own choreography at the International Dance Festival Breakin’ Convention at Sadler’s Wells.

Here Kloé talks about her unconventional but admirable training and her life jam-packed full of dance…

When did you begin dancing, where and why?

I began dancing from a young age, around 3, just copying what I saw on TV and music videos. When I was around 11 I started a class at a small performing arts school, and participated in various creative after school clubs where I grew up in South East London. At the age of 15 I took my interest in dance, Hip Hop/Street dance especially, a little more seriously. I dedicated the majority of my time to dancing in my crews at the time “Millitree”and “Vortex”. I then went on to audition for Boy Blue Ent and have been dancing with the company ever since. That also inspired me to create my own company, Myself UK Dance. I was inspired to dance as I felt I could freely express my emotions and put my all into it. I loved the feeling of working hard and seeing the outcome of rehearsing for weeks.

What were your early years of dancing like?

My early years of dancing were fun, they consisted of hundreds of rehearsals in car parks, back gardens, outside shopping centres, anywhere we could dance. We were always inspired by other crews and dancers but all had healthy competition and wanted to be the best!

How long have you been performing? Did you start young?

I started performing at primary school in weekly assemblies, at the age of around 7 or 8 years old.

How did you train and what was a typical day like?

I mainly trained in hip hop crews put together by fellow dancers and trained myself. I attend many (and still do) open classes in various hip hop disciplines and freestyles at clubs, battles and jams. I started training at WAC performing arts College but was unable to finish my studies unfortunately.

What is a typical day like now?

A typical day can differ everyday! Some days will be made up of training, teaching, and rehearsals. Or teaching, training, auditioning, rehearsals. Or training, rehearsals and performing. Or travelling, training, teaching, performing. It!s crazy sometimes!

How do you keep on top of your technique?

By training and sharing with others. Competing, showcasing, performing and practicing.

Do you prefer choreographing to performing?

I love both.

What’s the best part about performing in Blaze?

Dancing with the amazing cast, learning from them, being able to tour different countries and share your craft!

What would you say was your greatest achievement to date?

I think it would be performing at the Sydney Opera House with Blaze, doing the Olympic opening ceremonies in London, and seeing my own choreography on the Queen’s stage at Buckingham Palace for Coronation celebrations.

Which part of dance do you enjoy most?

The feeling of doing a good job on stage and banging out some good choreography.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the dance industry?

Work hard. Don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your goals and keep going! Never Give Up!

What’s next for you?

Blaze Taiwan! Also, my own company, Myself UK Dance, will be holding our show ICON, celebrating International Women’s Week on Friday 21 March 2014 at Stratford Circus. Then I’m off to Brussels to perform with my company for a project called 7 Steps.

ZooNation’s New show!

ZooNation Dance CompanyZooNation, the hip hop dance company founded by Kate Prince in 2002, will perform the world premiere of new production Groove on Down the Road at the Southbank Centre in London this summer. The new show is written and directed by Prince, and has been commissioned by the Southbank Centre, described as a “unique twist” on The Wizard of Oz.

Prince’s production will include music from the 1978 film The Wiz, and will be re-mixed with current hits by DJ Walde. The cast will comprise dancers under the age of 19 and two 11 year-old dancers, Arizona Snow and Portia Oti, will share the role of Dorothy, taking to the stage and unleashing their talents. This cast is born from the ZooNation Academy of Dance, which Prince trains each week, an admirer of their capability and talents at such a young age. The dancers have had huge amounts of access to hip hop dance and the culture which surrounds it, and the wealth of information that comes too. As a result of this, the group is made up of a whole new breed of dancers who have a raw, authentic and fearless skill and passion for dance.

The show marks the return of the hip hop dance company to the venue after it last performed there in 2010 with smash-hit Into the Hoods, a take on the musical Into the Woods. Into the Woods was created in 2005 and was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells to be performed for the first time in 2006 at the Peacock Theatre. The show then opened on the West End in 2008 and therefore became the first hip hop dance show on the West End and the longest running dance show in the history of Theatreland.

Groove on Down the Road will run from August 10 to September 1 at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.