NO HOLDING BACK: Jonzi D champions hip-hop (photo: Belinda Lawley)
AS LONG as there is life in his body and he has the wherewithal to get it done, Jonzi D says Breakin’ Convention will always be a part of the Sadler’s Wells calendar.
The renowned festival returns to take over the iconic theatre and the Lilian Baylis Studio with its annual celebration of hip-hop next month.
Hosted and curated by Sadler’s Wells associate artist Jonzi D, the festival offers the chance to watch high-calibre breakin’ crews, innovative popping, creative krump and soulful house dance.
Talking to Life & Style, Jonzi D, who viewers of the BBC’s Young Dancer 2019 will see in his capacity as a cross category judge throughout this month and next, said, as usual, he was looking forward to this year’s event and the personal satisfaction he gets from its continued growth.
“I love this thing you know. It’s a lot to do with being the artistic director of something that has lasted 16 years and counting,” he enthused.
“You don’t normally get that much longevity with anybody in the hip-hop game in particular and to have an event that has run on for such a long time is a lot to do with having the unequivocal support of Sadler’s Wells. On a personal level, I think there were big massive doors that had to be broken.
“I think I’m most happy about that. These doors are not just about establishment, these doors exist within the hip-hop community, they were questioning me, looking at me side-eye, thinking, ‘where is he going with this theatre thing?’.
“I’ve always felt that with us as black people we are quick to hold ourselves back, block our blessings, so for me to worry that we are going to be presented on one of the highest art venues in the world and we’re doing hip-hop there, that’s something that needs to be celebrated.
“I love this culture big time. I’m not going to do anything to destroy it. If anything, I might propose it go in a certain direction, but that direction does not negate where it is at the moment.”
He was reluctant to be pinned down on who he was especially looking forward to seeing perform, but he did have a list of acts that he implored fans of hip-hop theatre to come and see.
“It’s a tricky one because it means I am going to have to identify specifics, which I don’t like to do because I am very proud of my programme in that there are many highlights.
“If pushed, what I would say is I am looking forward to doing WorX again, mainly because it’s the most riskiest piece.
“We’re dealing with an over 21s audience for this work. There is going to be some nudity, there’s going to be lots of suggestion.
“Breakin’ Convention is usually known as a family event, but I’ve always thought it’s important to acknowledge that hip-hop is for everyone. If we are going to look at it as a family event, then there are elders in the family that might want to see something and leave the kids at home.”
PICTURED: Geometrie Variable
Geometrie Variable, B-boy Junior and Kalliopi Tarasidou also get a special mention from Jonzi D, as do one of this year’s biggest overseas attractions.
He added: “I have to say Jinjo Crew, they are the current world champions of Breakin’. I saw them very recently in LA, where they won a two-on-two champions at something called Freestyle Sessions, they are both Koreans.
“I saw them at the Battle of the Year two weeks later in Montpellier, where they won the crew battle outright, so for me, I think Jinjo Crew are the undisputed champions of today. “This is the first time we’ve had a Korean crew that hasn’t been made up of the best, this is a first, I’m excited about them.”
The love for what Jonzi D does and continues to do by way of championing hip-hop theatre is obvious.
If he had one gripe though, it’s the lack of seats he’s able to provide in order to ensure as wide a demographic as possible get to experience the festival at one of London’s great historic venues.
Asked specifically if enough black people get to attend Breakin’ Convention, he’s unequivocal in his answer: “No!”
He adds: “I think it is about more [black] people signing up to Sadler’s Wells.
“In as much as there might be 10 or 12 shows that you are not into, trust me, that 13th or 14th one you will like. It’s not just Breakin’ Convention, there are other things that exist in this building that I think that we would like.
“Also, the more of us that attend stuff in this building puts pressure on the programming department of this building to acknowledge that they have to observe the crowd coming in.
“Another problem is this, the speed of which the tickets get taken up. We’ve already sold half of our tickets for the event. More often than not, black people don’t book tickets that far in advance.
“Last year we sold out a week before it started and that’s when people start thinking about attending. To stop this happening, I need people to sign up.”
This year, the fresh, diverse and electrifying line-up includes a number of Breakin’ Convention debuts and pieces programmed as a result of Breakin’ Convention’s development initiatives.
Organisers have promised that attendees will experience hip-hop culture in a unique way, with a variety of taster sessions, workshops and free activities throughout the entire Sadler’s Wells building.
Breakin’ Convention takes place May 3-6 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Tickets can be bought at sadlerswells.com.
The weekend’s performances are as follows…
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Saturday, May 4
Perry Louis’ JazzCotech Crew
Sunday, May 5
Gulf Dance Company
Agnes Sales & Hector Plaza
Company Même Pas Mal – Junior Bosila Jinjo Crew
Lilian Baylis Studio (during Sadler’s Wells intervals)
Saturday, May 4
Olly Engele Kloe Dean
Sunday, May 5
Joshua Vendetta Nash
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.