The Lowry might seem an unlikely place to bring a touring celebration of Hip Hop theatre in its varied forms and as I approach a thriving cypher which is set on a outdoor stage it does seem rather peculiar. However not deterred by the location or in fact Manchester’s deceiving summer weather the audience are engaged, effusive and eager to sing and clap along with the professional dancers along with around ten young children who make regular appearances to the stage.
Once inside the main theatre Breakin’ Convention can begin- the evening is hosted by Jonzi D and Martin Visceral who enter the stage with a profound rap with various comments about the triggering of Article 50 not met with their expected reaction, however we soon move on to the performances.
Throughout the evening the young girl next to me says ‘wow’ at least 6 times per act and whilst not the most in depth critique it does perhaps show how awe-inspiring the calibre of the acts presented is. The performers themselves range from local to international artists and my personal favourites are the three international groups Soweto Skeleton Movers, Tentacle Tribe and Just Dance.
Soweto Skeleton Movers are a South African group highly practised in Pantsula Dance a fusion of many dance styles but most noticeably in their work is the terrifying bone breaking. If you imagine Charlie Chaplin infused with a South African funk you might come close to the slick fast-paced and witty style that Soweto Skeleton Movers embody.
The five South African dancers inventively combine canvas bucket hats into their act, twisting them through complex contortions, using them as footballs and controlling them to fly high before returning to their grip using just their breath.
Canadian Tentacle Tribe give the least ‘tricks’ based performance but this only serves to enhance what they do, set to an ethereal collection of sharp static noises placed at irregular intervals the dancers perform a mesmerising cycle of sudden pauses and then returning to life. As it develops the duet becomes more expansive through the space with dancers being lifted across each other, jumping into empty space and exploring tender relationships between one another.
Closing the second act are Just Dance, a South Korean B-Boy crew who I’m still not quite sure we’re real physical beings. Combining traditional Korean drums and voice with the delicate craft of their movement this work is undoubtedly the most thrilling of the night. The dancers hold seemingly impossible balances with ease, spin on their heads and hands until they appear blurred and dance perfectly synchronised incredibly fast complex sections.
Visceral concludes with the same message which he began “it’s not where you’re from, but where you’re at”. It now makes more sense to me – Breakin’ Convention celebrates the breaking down of boundaries with many cultures coming together and sharing joy in its purest form.
For more information on Breakin Convention click HERE