CELEBRATING FOUR WOMEN CHANGING THE FACE OF HIP HOP

The world’s most prestigious annual hip hop theatre festival is bringing the best hip hop talent from around the world to our audiences for the 17th consecutive year in May. Breakin’ Convention’s 2020 edition promises to be the biggest yet, with a wide range of performers hailing from across the globe – from the UK to Canada, France, the Netherlands, South Korea and, for the first time, Peru.  

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of the exceptional female dance artists featured in this year’s line-up. We showcase their journeys within a traditionally male-dominated field and look at the ways in which they are changing the face of hip-hop dance.

A.I.M Collective (UK)
A.I.M Collective. Image: Dave Barros

This year’s festival features A.I.M Collective, a London-based collective of female poppers. A.I.M, which stands for Artistry In Movement, includes some of the strongest choreography and freestyle-based dancers in the UK. The group was established in 2018 by prominent UK dancer and choreographer Shawn Aimey. At Breakin’ Convention 2020, it will present a new piece entitled My London.

A.I.M Collective member Victoria Shulungu is fluent not only in popping, but in a variety of hip-hop styles, including Krump. She also produces for dance company Spoken Movement, has worked with Sadler’s Wells’ New Wave Associate Hetain Patel and is a member of the hip hop theatre collective Far From The Norm, led by artistic director and Olivier award-winning choreographer Botis Seva.

Why is your dance style unique to you?

Popping has been a style that I have always loved. I love exerting power and force but also being able to control what’s been shown by creating an illusion. Krump has grown on me now more than ever because it allows you to feel the most explosive feeling. The reason why I do these styles is because I love playing with tension and release. There’s no better feeling than that!

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

Within the hip hop community, being a woman can be a blessing or a curse. I get tired of having to always differentiate the experience of being a woman. We have to do this all the time in our everyday lives. I aim to not always project this when dancing, but instead allow the power to speak through my movement and the energy I possess.

Victoria Shulungu (right) in Hetain Patel’s Don’t Look At The Finger. Image: Nick Matthews

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I look forward to being inspired by the performances. I’m also looking forward to having conversations with people I may never have crossed paths with. I just want to be a sponge in many different ways so that I can give back the same energy when I’m performing. Each one teach one – I guess that’s fair to say.

Yeah Yellow (France)

Yeah Yellow is an award-winning multidisciplinary hip hop dance crew. It was founded in 2012 by choreographers Camille ‘Kami’ Regneault and Julien ‘Bee D’ Saint Maximin. They  performed as part of Breakin’ Convention’s national tour in 2017 tour and were part of the Sadler’s Wells Sampled festival in 2018. To this year’s Breakin’ Convention festival, they bring their duet Dos au Mur (Back to the Wall). Accompanied by live musicians, the piece explores the concept of human evolution and the constant correlation between us and the society we shape.

Yeah Yellow choreographers Julien ‘Bee D’ Saint Maximin (left) and Camille ‘Kami’ Regneault (right). Image: Dan Aucante

Self-taught in hip hop dance, Kami began her career as a gymnast before setting her sights on the world of breaking. Since then, she has competed at several national and international battles and has gone on to win a number of major championship titles. She won the French B-Girl Champion title three times, in 2013, 2015 and 2016. 

Why is your dance style unique to you?

I like the performance side of breaking coupled with the search for originality. This discipline allows me to always seek ways to surpass myself physically, but also creatively.

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

I do not necessarily seek to have a place as a woman in hip hop, but rather to have a place as a good dancer. I don’t want to be strong ‘for a girl’, but just strong. It’s really important to me. I want to show that nothing is impossible when we remove the psychological barriers that we, or society, have created.

Image: Camille Regneault.

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I would like to make people dream and show them the strength of Love. I speak here of Love with a capital L. For my part, the love of dance changed my life and allowed me to flourish. I think it is never easy to do what we love and believe in our dreams. I would like to inspire the courage in others to do just that. It’s an honour to do it at Breakin’ Convention, which is a must-see place for hip hop dance.

Paradox Sal (France)
Paradox Sal, Queen Blood. Image: Willow Evann

This all-female crew from Paris presents a powerful house dance piece entitled Queen Blood. Performed with grace, fluidity and power by eight dancers, it explores the concept of femininity. Queen Blood reflects a variety of moods and emotional states and fuses afro-house and hip-hop dance styles with music varying from pumping house beats to the dulcet tones of Nina Simone. The work is choreographed by Ousmane ‘Babson’ Sy, one of France’s first generation of house dancers and member of iconic hip hop dance crew Wanted Posse.

Choreographer and Paradox Sal member Linda Hayford said:

?My fundamental style is popping. I like it because it allows me to create supernatural universes, using body control. From creating a living robot to slowing time, the effects you can create are endless but nonetheless grounded in sound and music. Popping is where I find the inspiration to develop a body language I have been working on since 2015, which I call ‘Shifting Pop’. It combines the popping technique with my own research on metamorphosis and its particularities. 

Linda Hayford. Image: Thibault Montamat

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

Being a woman in hip-hop culture for me means giving yourself the place and space to build and own your identity – as a human being, as a woman and as an artist. It is about figuring out who you are now and who you want to become, which I think is the same intention for both men and women in hip hop alike.?

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I have never been to Breakin’ Convention, so I do not really know what to expect! But I have always heard good things about the good vibes and performances there, so I expect to have a great time and meet amazing people.

Spoken Movement (UK)
Spoken Movement members (l-r) Catrina Nisbett, Kwame Asafo-Adjei and ‘Boogie’.
Image: Dave Barros

Spoken Movement is a UK-based company that blends elements of street dance and contemporary dance to create their own movement vocabulary. We invited its founder and artistic director Kwame Asafo-Adjei to curate an evening in our Lilian Baylis Studio as part of the Wild Card series in 2018. Within the programme was duet Family Honour, which went on to win international choreographic competition Danse élargie the same year. The company brought the work back to our stage last autumn, when as part of our FranceDance UK season we programmed Dance élargie: Dance Expanded, an evening showcasing a selection of previous finalists and winners from the competition.

Spoken Movement members (l-r) Catrina Nisbett, Kwame Asafo-Adjei and ‘Boogie’.
Image: Dave Barros

Performed by dance artist Catrina Nisbett and Asafo-Adjei, Family Honour explores religious and cultural taboos in a Ghanaian family through the charged relationship between the two characters. They perform the piece on our stage for the third time at the Breakin’ Convention festival.

From a young age, Catrina trained with a number of London-based street dance groups, including Avant Garde Dance and Definitives. Well versed in a number of hip hop styles, she now studies contemporary dance at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Why is hop hop dance important to you?

I fell in love with hip hop culture from a very young age, and was influenced a lot by older family members and peers. Growing up in the area that I did, the young people used to dance in the local community centre. I know for a fact that hip hop saved us. Now other styles such as popping, krump and contemporary inform my movement, but hip hop will always be my first love. 

Showreel video. Video: Catrina Nisbett.

On breaking down barriers in the art form:

To me being a woman in hip hop is about challenging the typical stereotypes of both women and men. I have never allowed my gender to define whether I can do something – within the art or otherwise. Even though initially it was subconscious, it is important that gender was, and is, my way of being honest and audacious in my expression.

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I am particularly looking forward to seeing how performing Family Honour multiple times a week will affect the piece – what new developments we may discover both within the piece and in ourselves as artists.

Breakin’ Convention is an integral part of Sadler’s Wells’ artistic programme. The festival takes place at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May 2020. Tickets are available here.

Main image: Catrina Nisbett. Photo: Dave Barros

澳门新银河平台官网