Breakin Convention – photo supplied
Sadly my days at the cutting edge of contemporary youth culture passed by about 29 years ago, and I was pushing it then.
I would not normally head for an International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre, but I am so glad that I did this weekend.
Host of the evening and director of the show is Jonzi D, who had his dreadlocks bundled into a rather fetching lilac wooly hat. A graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School he also revealed that he can still make a few moves himself when challenged by a lively audience.
We were introduced to a mix of local and international performers, with a long interval where we could try our breakdance skills in the foyer. In deference to the excess demands already placed on our local A&E I opted to watch rather than participate.
The two local young companies performing on the Theatre Royal stage were the Parallel Dance Company and the Norwich based all male Legacy Dance Company. The Parallel Dance Company had an interesting take on bringing to life various computer games. They will make us look again at the moves of Mario and Donkey Kong.
Legacy were hits with the audience, who I suspect might have included one or two of their family members. They blended collective work with some impressive individual displays of their moves.
One of the more interesting crossover pieces – Fly No Filter – features BBoy Soupa Noodle, aka Roni, in a work that owes as much to mime as hip hop but references many other art forms. For older viewers I even spotted a couple of Norman Wisdom moves! He gave a moving and elegant performance depicting the struggles of a young man whose body does not quite work as it is supposed to.
The life-affirming Soweto Skeleton Movers from South Africa are a remarkably energetic group with eye popping contortionist skills, blended with fast footwork and some very quick and accurate moves and magic tricks. They do things with their limbs that just don’t seem possible. If you want to try one of their moves, just relax with your arms down, join your hands together, then jump clean through the hoop that you have just made with your arms. Easy? No!
Tentacle Tribe from Canada with ‘Nobody Likes  a Pixelated Squid’ are a stunning contemporary dance duo, Emmanuelle Lê Phan and Elon Höglund. They use the dance language of Hip Hop and many other styles integrated into one impressive and sensual dance where they work together as if one. They came together originally while both were working with the famous Cirque du Soleil.
Spectacular finishing act were rather underwhelmingly called Just Dance, who hail from South Korea. Their skill levels however are completely overwhelming, and drew gasps of admiration and disbelief from the crowd. They take Hip Hop skills to a new level of strength and dexterity, with unbelievable skills of balance and spinning and terrific speed. Masked and in head to toe black they are led by a Buddhist monk drumming traditional instruments. The masks represent happiness, anger, sadness, joy, hate, desire and love, all sentiments and feelings encompassed within their high energy moves.
With every spare corner of the Theatre Royal complex used for workshops and activities this was a high energy occasion that brought the next generation into the theatre. It may have been seen as bold programming, but a packed auditorium shows that it was a great decision. Next time anyone moans about the torpor of modern youth I will politely refer them to this enjoyable evening and the growing culture it represents.
©Julian Swainson