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Breakin’ Conventional Dance Wisdom

By Stephanie Harris

October 1, 2015

Time to add poppin’ and lockin’ to your schedule; Breakin’ Convention is busting into Charlotte for the weekend of October 9! No matter whether you’re a certified b-boy or you barely keep a steady beat on the dance floor, Breakin’ Convention and Street Jam, the festival celebrating the convention’s arrival, will give you the type of inspiration that makes you think you have just what it takes to get up on stage yourself.

The convention is London’s renowned international hip hop festival, a production of the Sadler’s Wells Theater. This critically acclaimed, award-winning festival brings together respected, awe-inspiring artists from around the world and puts hip hop theater center stage.

Only two U. S. cities are being graced with Breakin’ Convention this year: NYC and CLT. When you think of hip hop, New York likely pops in your mind as a probable location for a convention that encompasses break dancing and related culture. But, Charlotte? Not so much.

So, how is Charlotte lucky enough to have such a huge event stop through to give its residents a chance to witness the work of top b-boys, aerosol artists and choreographers in the biz? Blumenthal Performing Arts Center President, Tom Gabbard, saw the show and was determined to bring it to the Queen City. His determination paid off.

“We have a three-year commitment with Sadler’s Wells for this [festival],” says Michelle Youngs, education programs manager at Blumenthal.

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Sadler’s Wells Theatre, a performing arts venue located in the London Borough of Islington.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to have people from other performing arts centers around the country come to this event, and that they’ll want to bring it to their cities in future years, as well.”

Other centers that choose to jump on board and share an inside look at hip hop dance through Breakin’ Convention will need to be ready for all of the preparation required. The Blumenthal has been working for a year-and-a-half to make sure that the event, paired with the Street Jam, delivers all of the interactive events and exciting shows that you would expect from two days of immersion into this innovative artistic expression.

“It really has been a lot of work. But it’s so wonderful to bring the hip hop community together,” Youngs says.

Hometown representatives will be joining the international lineup of dancers and artists at Breakin’ Convention and Saturday’s Street Jam. Local hip hop dancers, b-boys, waackers, aerosol artists, beat boxers, drummers and other performers will display their talents throughout the day.

One local group getting in on the breakin’ action is the Nouveau Sud Project. The group will be performing on Saturday night at the ticketed event, and they’re amped to show audiences the art form at its best.

Breakin Convention front of house Breakin Convention audience shot CREDIT BELINDA LAWLEY
Photo by Belinda Lawley

“This is an avenue that a lot of b-boys in the area need,” says Maf Maddix, of the Nouveau Sud project. “Exposure tends to be limited outside of the b-boy community. Thus, opportunities are limited. Something like this increases visibility and helps extend creativity and collaboration to the community so that we can continue to use our talents.”

The group exudes the energy and creativity that are part of the Charlotte’s hip-hop dance community. A new collaboration of circus arts, acrobatics, various styles of hip hop and theater language, the Nouveau Sud project brings a fresh approach to dance and displays diverse talent.

“Our work, I think, helps to reach people and the community through art,” adds Professor Carlos Cruz, the Nouveau Sud project director. “We’re responsible to affect change through our art form.”

The Nouveau Sud project isn’t the only local group involved in the event. Other artists performing at the evening shows include Aquaboogy, Breakers for Life, NC Dance District, Reliablebrother #TwinNation, collectiveUth, Queen City Bittys and The Vongolas.

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Throughout the two-day event, the line between audience and artist will disappear. At Saturday’s free Street Jam, visitors can join in drum circles, dance workshops, graffiti activities, a spoken word workshop, a DJing workshop and other interactions with artists from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All of the happenings are slated to take place in the parking lot, alley and surrounding area of Spirit Square, with some workshops happening inside the Knight Theater.

Interested in giving more focused attention to your dance moves? Take advantage of the workshops offered by some of Breakin’ Convention’s international artists for $10.

When hunger hits, as it’s bound to do while expending so much energy, attendees can stop by the food trucks to chomp on tasty offerings before hopping back in to the action.

Jonzi D. credit Paul Hampartsoumian
Jonzi D, the artistic director of Breakin’ Convention. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian

The weekend is exciting for both the hip hop dance community and the entire city. It provides an opportunity for a group of often disregarded artists to show off their skills, and a chance for Charlotte residents to see the art form on display and experience the brilliance of it all firsthand.

“For a lot of these artists, the dancers and graffiti artists, this event acknowledges that their work, things they’ve been doing their whole lives and maybe got in trouble for doing, is art,” says Youngs.

So, go ahead and pull out your old Breakin’ VHS while the kids watch breakdancing videos on YouTube to brush up on moves, then join the pros for some fun and entertainment at Breakin’ Convention. A little dancin’ never hurt nobody.

Check out more on the Breakin’ Convention Oct. 9 – 10.

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