Global Hip-Hop Comes to the Apollo

June 15, 2013

At first I was worried, because why would NYC need hip-hop to come from London? But the Breakin’ Convention, which has been happening annually at that enterprising dance house of London, Sadler’s Wells, brought its global reach quite happily to the Apollo for a four-day festival. As I’ve mentioned before, Harlem is heating up as a spot for all kinds of dance. The audience on Saturday night was integrated both racially and generationally. And, although it got people dancing and hooting from their seats, it wasn’t only for dancers.

American artists appearing included Rennie Harris Puremovement from Philly, the all-female group Decadance from Brooklyn, Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie (a 2007 “25 to Watch”) from NYC, FootworKINGz from Chicago, and The WonderTwins from Boston.

But what made this a rare occasion was to see a glimpse of the innovation from around the world. Jonzi D, a black dancer from East London (and a graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School), contributed a witty solo about going around the world to find his roots. The artistic director of Breakin’ Convention, he also emceed the evening, which placed it in an inclusive mindset of cultural mashups.


Jonzi D. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian, Courtesy Breakin’ Convention.


Performances from Brazil and Korea were studded with gasp-inducing physical and musical feats. The head-spinning morphed into twirling handstands or sideways somersaults. One of the guys from the Korean group Project Soul Collective even did a double tour en-lair—horizontally!


Project Soul. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian, Courtesy Breakin’ Convention.


But the most affecting artistically was Sébastien Ramirez (from France and Germany) and Honji Wang, in an audacious yet subtle, unhurried but sharp duet. If undercover spies from two opposing governments did a hip-hop/ballet hybrid of a tension-filled love dance, this would be it. There were moments when he and she gave the illusion one would pass through the other, and other moments where you felt the danger of one approaching the other. It kept you on the edge of your seat, not because of stunts but because of the suspense it built, and its sheer choreographic brilliance. The duet, called AP15, is a short version of Ramirez’s Amor & Psyche, which you can see here on vimeo.


Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang in
AP15. Photo by Dirk Korell, Courtesy Cie SR.