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Breakin' traditions of dance.

Byline: By Tamsin Lewis

An acclaimed Hip Hop dance festival is breaking out of London and into Newcastle as organiser Jonzi D explains to Tamzin Lewis.

It will probably be the first time that locking, popping, beatboxing, and DJing takes over the Theatre Royal. Breakin' Convention is the aptly named showcase for some of the world's best Hip Hop dancers at Newcastle's historic theatre tomorrow. (WED).

The night has been preceded by theatre workshops introducing DJ skills and Hip Hop dance styles, films at Side Cinema and classes today (TUES) at Dance City with performers.

Breakin' Convention will be hosted by Hip Hop pioneer Jonzi D, who is intentionally bringing the dance style into a theatre environment.

He promises to give the Theatre Royal a makeover with DJs cutting and scratching in the foyer.

Jonzi D says: "Ultimately we will help save the future of the theatre because a lot of young people don't go to there as they feel it doesn't relate to them.

"Nightclubs and concert halls represent modern day culture, music and ideas, and a lot of productions in theatres don't do that. It is important for theatres that we have something a lot of young people can relate to and develop an artistic discipline in."

Breakin' Convention is a special breakaway tour of Sadler's Wells' internationally acclaimed Hip Hop Dance Theatre Festival, now in its fourth year.

This is the first time that the festival appears outside of London and performing in Newcastle are Electric Boogaloos from Los Angeles, Brazilian Frank Ejara and Franck II Louise from France.

Jonzi D, a Sadler's Wells associate artist, says: "These artists really sum up the Breakin' Convention ideals and it is important that these three acts are part of the first tour. Electric Boogaloos are pioneers of body popping, Frank Ejara has a clever theatrical approach to dance, while Franck II Louise explores a futuristic landscape freeing itself from the constraints of a restrictive society."

Appearing from the North-East will be Bad Taste Cru and Eye of the Fly with guest DJ/MCs including Ken Masters & Pacca Merchants and human beatbox Mr Breaks.

Jonzi D says: "The point of Breakin Convention is to connect the global dynamic with the local and it is great that crus like Bad Taste Cru can connect with pioneers who are coming from outside the country. It's not just about sitting down and watching, it is about participating. What is important is that anyone can do this if they work hard enough."

Jonzi D, who first got into Hip Hop in 1982, has been making dance theatre since the early 90s. He explains that Hip Hop dance goes back to the early 70s but became global in the early 80s.

"Hip Hop was first associated with funk on the west coast of America," Jonzi D says. "Locking and popping were prevalent during the soul train period and B-boy dance styles were linked to artists like James Brown. B-boy jams today still play 70s break-beat music and of course a lot of Hip Hop music uses James Brown beats.

"The popularity of Hip Hop grew in the 1980s and it was still diverse but it has smoothed down and got slower over the last 10 or 15 years with R&B."

Jonzi D explains that Hip Hop developed from its funk roots into a more political and controversial arena in the 1980s with pioneering bands like Public Enemy. In the 1990s gangsta rap became predominant and now commercial Hip Hop is characterised by rappers like 50 Cent.

Purist Jonzi D says: "There is a broader issue of the segregation of elements of Hip Hop culture over the years. Record companies started to steer Hip Hop in a particular direction and the media has turned a culture which did have something to say about community into something which is marketing corporate America's ideals. It has become more about gangsterism and bling bling represented by MTV.

"We are seeing less and less of the true essence of Hip Hop. What we are trying to do is redress the balance."

* Breakin' Convention is at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle on Wednesday. Tickets start at pounds 5. The box office is 0870 905-5060 or

There are Breakin' Convention workshops at Dance City today with Electric Boogaloos and Frank Ejara,
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 8, 2007
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