Bristol Colston Hall review: Breakin’ Convention 2016

Vivienne Kennedy reviews Breakin’ Convention 2016, an international festival of hip hop dance, which visited Bristol’s Colston Hall for one night only on Tuesday 10th May 2016.

Tipped off by the Colston Hall’s website, we arrived more than two hours early for Breakin’ Convention on Tuesday 10th May and in time to watch around 30 children and adults taking part in a hip hop workshop led by b-boy Sunni, one of the UK’s most talented break dancers, who just happens to hail from Bristol.

This was just one of several activities taking place ahead of the main show, including a dance performance by Saf White, a set by DJ Moneyshot, a graffiti vinyl workshop, and live painting from local street artists Sepr and 3Dom.

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life”

The voice of Prince opened the main show, guaranteeing huge applause for hosts Jonzi D and Remzsta as they took to the stage to introduce the first act, performers from The Youth Dance Academy – Urban Programme at Swindon Dance who started the evening off in style with a slick seven-minute routine performed to funky classical strings.

They were followed by two more local acts – trio Jam!, who performed a routine inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and Jodelle Douglas, a graduate of Swindon Youth Dance Academy who recently competed for the title of BBC Young Dancer 2015 (Jonzi D thinks he should have won) – before the first of the Breakin’ Convention’s international acts, Iron Skulls Co from Barcelona, performed a dark and very dramatic routine set in a post-apocalyptic world. They merge hip hop with acrobatics and contemporary dance very effectively, their 15 minutes on stage passing in a flash.

After the interval, Act Two was opened by Hype Dance Company who were followed by French dancer and choreographer Antoinette Gomis, performing a strong routine to music by Nina Simone. Bringing the show to a close were The Ruggeds, a b-boy crew from the Netherlands who were joined by Sunni (remember him from the opening paragraph?).

Their routine was incredible; entitled Adrenaline, it is described in the programme as having “a drive so strong that it allows you to push the limit of what’s physically possible”, and boy, didn’t they do just that! How they don’t go home with broken ankles, at the very least, after every performance I don’t know – bodies surely aren’t meant to bend into some of the positions they managed to achieve.

Much as I loved The Ruggeds, I have to return to Hype Dance Company for my favourite performance of the night. The 26-strong troupe, aged from six to 16, are based in Bristol but come from a diverse range of cultures, which were reflected in a routine that quite took my breath away. Combining styles such as bangra, carnival calypso and African dance, it was highly energetic and a thing of joy to watch. Best of all, you got the impression that they were having just as good a time as their enthusiastic audience.

In the interval and after the show some of the young kids that we’d seen dancing in the workshop couldn’t wait to try out their moves again and I suspect some of them will have found it quite hard to wake up for school this morning. They weren’t the only ones feeling inspired, I know that my +1, a teacher at Twist-o-Flex, one of Weston-super-Mare’s newest dance schools, which specialises in street and hip hop, can’t wait to show her students some of the crews on YouTube and she’s already planning to organise a school trip to the Colston Hall if Breakin’ Convention returns in 2017.

All in all, it was a great night and if Jonzi D and his team do return next year I would wholeheartedly recommend booking tickets.

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Photo: The Ruggeds, from the Breakin’ Convention website.

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