• Breakin' Convention workshop spreads message of hip-hop and hope

    by John Moore | Nov 03, 2017
    Breakin' Convention in Denver

    To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter

    Breakin' Convention's French hip-hop stars work up a sweat with local breakers at Denver's Bboy Factory

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The aptly named French hip-hop star Salah stood before two dozen breathless breakdancers on Wednesday night practicing what he preaches: Joy. Taking just a one-minute break from an aerobic 90-minute workout worthy of a gleeful boot camp, Salah smiled widely through his sweat.

    The featured performer at this weekend's Breakin' Convention international festival of hip-hop dance theatre at the Buell Theatre told the assembled dancers of widely varying ages, genders and skin colors that, yes, technique and precision are just as important in hip-hop dancing as they are in Broadway or ballet. But hip-hop not only allows for a dancer's individuality to make itself known, he said — it demands it. 

    "You know what makes you a memorable dancer is having fun moments while you are also showing your abilities," he told the dancers who flocked to Denver's Bboy Factory dance studio in Globeville for a first hand-look at the longtime French star of Moroccan and Algerian descent whose last U.S. appearance was eight years ago. His name means "Muslim prayer," but not just any prayer — Salah refers to a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship. Not unlike his dancing.

    "I am an Arab man," said Salah, who won the fourth season of a hit TV show in France literally called Arabs Got Talent. He says letting his infectious joy for dance shine through has helped him to eradicate preconceived ideas some people might have about Muslims.

    (Story continues below the photo)

    Breakin Convention. Lisa Engelken. Photo by John Moore.


    That point hit home with workshop dancer Lisa Engelken, who has been studying Saleh's dancing for many years. "Now I get it," she said. "He's goofy. And he's really being himself when he dances. From now on, when I watch him dance, I'll know exactly why he dances like that."

    Salah. Breakin Convention. Photo by John Moore. Though Engelken proudly rocked her "Ladies of Hip-Hop" T-Shirt, she grew up taking classes at Denver's internationally renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, where she now teaches. And while relatively new to what she calls the world of street dance, she's part of two crews that will be featured this weekend at Breakin' Convention, the world's biggest annual festival of hip-hop dance theatre.

    She's appearing with Nasty Kidz at Saturday's 303 Jam — a full afternoon of free performances and activities in and around the Buell Theatre featuring live DJs, workshops and demonstrations. Then on Sunday, Engelken will take to the Buell Theatre mainstage with Malika — three women whose like-minded intention "is to bring good energy to the masses."

    Salah's workput was followed by another 90-minute aerobic whirlwind led by Bee D, co-founder of France's multidisciplinary dance group Yeah Yellow, another Breakin' Convention headliner along with Protocol (U.K.), Soweto Skeleton Movers (South Africa) and Popin’ Pete (U.S). In all, five members of Yeah Yellow burned through Bee D's workout, right alongside Bboy Factory's breakers in training.

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    Teaching dance combinations to the students made Wednesday's calorie-incinerating master classes look not all that different from a Broadway rehearsal, with two key differences: The fashion — and the individuality. "The thing I really like about hip-hop is you can create your own moves," Bee D told his dancers. "It's not like classic dance. In hip-hop, it's very important that you NOT look like the person next to you. You have to be you."

    Ian Flaws has hosted many of hip-hop's greatest icons since opening  Bboy Factory in 2012 with a stated mission of preserving traditional hip-hop culture. He said other forms of dance, from Broadway to ballet to modern, could stand to take a cue from hip-hop, which is much less constricted in its rules. "Hip-hop allows for so much range of movement and expression and exploration and creativity," said Flaws, whose clientele ranges from children to adults, from beginners to high-level artists,who come from as far away as Boulder and Aurora.

    He said Breakin' Convention is a unique opportunity for the larger metro population to get a taste of what hip-hop is all about — especially if for the first time.
       
    "It will be a great introduction to hip-hop," said Flaws. "And when I say hip-hop, that usually brings an automatic assumption that we are only talking about rap music. Hip-hop is really a big, vibrant culture that includes dance, art, food and music. And this weekend, all of that is going to be represented on one of Denver's biggest stages. Hip-hop is a culture that comes from the street, and I think Breakin' Convention will be a beautiful introduction to everything that is positive in hip-hop culture."

    Engelken first saw Breakin' Convention at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and she still can't quite believe Denver was chosen to be just the fifth North American city to host it. So she feels it is especially important for a wide swath of Denverites to come out and represent.

    "I hope people just come out and experience the true spirit of hip-hop, which is childlike play and just having fun," she said. "I think Breakin' Convention will be a good tool to demystify some stereotypes. I think people will be happily surprised. Just come and try it out."

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    Breakin’ Convention 2017 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre

    Breakin' Convention: Ticket Information

    • Nov. 4-5
    • The Buell Theatre and surrounding areas
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    • Special student performance at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3
    • Breakin’ Convention officially kicks off with the free 303 Jam from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov 4 at The Buell Theatre. Enjoy free activities and performances including live DJs, workshops, free demonstrations and performances by DJ Cavem, The Reminders and more. Free fun for the whole family.

    Breakin' Convention: The international lineup

    • Yeah Yellow (France) - An explosive b-boy crew from France, YY brings agility, creativity and invention to the BC stage. Bodies create orifices to dive through, and reform physical shapes with muscular alchemy. Recently performed at BOTY16.
    • Protocol (U.K.) - Lanre Malouda directs as well as performs in this duet that explores racial dynamics. Popping and tutting techniques, as well as text and physical theatre is used to present ideas that reflect the tensions in our community today.
    • Salah (France) - A living legend in the world of hip-hop dance, Salah returns to the Breakin’ Convention stage after an eight year hiatus. This consummate performer is a master popper, locker, b-boy, clown and all around entertainer. Known for his amazing battle abilities, Salah will present his theatre piece The Sickness.
    • Soweto Skeleton Movers (South Africa) - From the most notorious township on the African continent comes the Soweto Skeleton Movers. The audience highlight of Breakin’ Convention 2016 returns with a brand new show. Experts in a particular form of pantsula dance developed by Skeleton Mover pioneer Jabulani, the crew use comedic contortionism, frenetic footwork, and magical hat tricks. 
    • Popin’ Pete (U.S.) - Also known as Timothy Earl Solomon, Popin' Pete is an American dancer, choreographer, innovator, one of the originators of the "popping" dance style and member of the Electric Boogaloos. His career has spanned 30 years developing funk culture as a whole.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Breakin' Convention:

    • Breakin' Convention to bring largest festival of hip-hop dance theatre to Denver
    • Breakin' Convention promises to bring authenticity, local artists to DCPA
    • Video: Our talk with the one and only Jonzi D of Breakin' Convention
    • Denver's DJ CaveM: Saving lives one healthy beat, and bite, at a time
    • Video: Denver Arts Week is off to a hip-hop start
  • Video: Our talk with the one and only Jonzi D of 'Breakin' Convention'

    by John Moore | Oct 25, 2017
    British dancer, spoken-word artist and director Jonzi D is the most influential advocate for hip-hop theatre in the world. In the video above, he talks with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about 'Breakin' Convention,' coming to the Denver Center from Nov. 4-5.) Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and intern Avery Anderson.


    The champion of hip-hop dance theatre says there will be something for everyone at Breakin' Convention in Denver

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Breakin' Convention, coming to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts from Nov. 4-5, is the world's biggest festival of hip-hop dance theatre, showcasing the very best from around the world and around the corner.

    Jonzi D 800. Breakin' Convention. Photo by John Moore It is curated and hosted by British hip-hop pioneer Jonzi D, who talked with the DCPA NewsCenter about what festival-goers can expect, and who Breakin’ Convention is for.

    “Theatre is missing out on a brand-new vision and voice and audience,” Jonzi D said. “This is a chance where you can bring your children and your grandchildren to something which will hopefully bring the whole family together and also demystify maybe some of the stereotypes that people have about hip-hop," he said. (Look for the full written text of the Jonzi D video interview at the bottom of this report.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The major ticketed events will be two public performances in the Buell Theatre featuring four international hip-hop dance acts, one national act and local crews that were chosen from auditions held in Denver over the summer The lineup includes Machinez Remainz, Nasty Kidz, Block 1750, Rennie Harris Grass Roots, School of Breaking, Malika, The Freak Show and DJ A-L, with pre-show demonstrations and performances from DJ Lazy Eyez, Asia One and Queenz of Hip-Hop and DJ Thred.

    Jonzi D started Breakin’ Convention in 2004 and first took his creation across the pond to Charlotte two years ago. It comes to Denver in now both to fill a void and open a door here. 

    Breakin' Convention: The international lineup

    • Yeah Yellow (France) - An explosive b-boy crew from France, YY brings agility, creativity and invention to the BC stage. Bodies create orifices to dive through, and reform physical shapes with muscular alchemy. Recently performed at BOTY16.
    • Protocol (U.K.) - Lanre Malouda directs as well as performs in this duet that explores racial dynamics. Popping and tutting techniques, as well as text and physical theatre is used to present ideas that reflect the tensions in our community today.
    • Salah (France) - A living legend in the world of hip-hop dance, Salah returns to the Breakin’ Convention stage after an eight year hiatus. This consummate performer is a master popper, locker, b-boy, clown and all around entertainer. Known for his amazing battle abilities, Salah will present his theatre piece The Sickness.
    • Soweto Skeleton Movers (South Africa) - From the most notorious township on the African continent comes the Soweto Skeleton Movers. The audience highlight of Breakin’ Convention 2016 returns with a brand new show. Experts in a particular form of pantsula dance developed by Skeleton Mover pioneer Jabulani, the crew use comedic contortionism, frenetic footwork, and magical hat tricks. 
    • Popin’ Pete (U.S.) - Also known as Timothy Earl Solomon, Popin' Pete is an American dancer, choreographer, innovator, one of the originators of the "popping" dance style and member of the Electric Boogaloos. His career has spanned 30 years developing funk culture as a whole.

    Related events before and during the festival:

    Denver's Bboy Factory will conduct master classes on Wednesday. Nov. 1, at 6401 Broadway. To sign up, call 720-771-2667 or email Ian Flaws at ian@bboyfactory.com

    • 7-8:30 p.m.: Salah - Popping, Animation, Boogaloo and Effects
    • 8:30 – 10 p.m.: Yeah Yellow - Breakin, Top Rock, Footwork and creating your own style


    Breakin’ Convention officially kicks off with the free 303 Jam from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov 4 at The Buell Theatre. Enjoy free activities and performances including live DJs, workshops, free demonstrations and performances by DJ Cavem, The Reminders and more. Free fun for the whole family.



    Freestyle Hip Hop with Steve Lelong takes place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, 1400 Curtis St. The cost is $20. This will be a lively freestyle hip hop workshop from world champion winner of Juste Debout. Steve Lelong (Yeah Yellow, France) has developed a unique technic of improvisation that mixes mixing hip hop gesture and contact technique, drawing from his experience of working with choreographers from varied dance disciplines.


    Breakin' Convention (inside the Buell Theatre) will present a special student matinee at 11 a.m. on Friday, November 3. Contact groupsales@dcpa.org for more information.



    Breakin' Convention: Ticket Information

    Breakin’ Convention 2017 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance TheatreNov. 4-5
    • The Buell Theatre and surrounding areas
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    • Special student performance at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3

     

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Breakin' Convention:
    Breakin' Convention to kick off Denver Arts Week in November
    Breakin' Convention
    promises to bring authenticity, local artists to DCPA 


    Photo gallery: Breakin' Convention community roundtable

    Breakin' Convention in Denver

    Photo gallery: Last summer, about 35 members of the local artistic community attended a local community roundtable at the Denver Center to get the conversation about 'Breakin' Convention' started. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.



    The Jonzi D video interview: The complete text

    My name is Jonzi D, and I am the Artistic Director of Breakin' Convention , the international festival of hip-hop dance theatre.

    Breakin' Convention is hip-hop dance in the theatre. I always felt that there was a gap in the culture in that there is this amazing dance form that is very contemporary that's spreading like wildfire around the world. And why is it that theatre is a little bit behind in actually saying, 'Well, hey, there is an opportunity here.'

    I spoke to Alistair Spalding, who is the Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. And I said to him: 'We need to do a festival which brings together all of this work from around the world.' So in 2004, we did our first festival. We introduced artists from Korea, France, The Netherlands, Russia, and brought them all to London, and it was amazing. It sold out.

    We managed to carry on and keep doing it, and 14 years later, we are here now in Denver. I connected with the Bboy Factory, which is a local school here, and as always, I realized there was a lovely hip-hop community here. It was enough to know that Breakin' Convention would work here.

    We're gonna take over the theatre space at the Buell Theatre. We're gonna have graffiti exhibitions outside and inside the building as well. We're gonna have DJs spinning. Outside the theatre space, we're gonna be seeing some dancers basically ciphering. (A dance cypher is the area of the dance floor that is open to those who wish to dance in it.) So before you even buy your ticket, there will be activity. There will be workshops around the various international artists that will be part of it. Once you get into the auditorium, you're going to see an array of short pieces and very different approaches to the hip-hop genre.

    Theatre is missing out on a brand-new vision and voice and audience. This is a chance where you can bring your children and your grandchildren to something which will hopefully bring the whole family together and also demystify maybe some of the stereotypes that people do have about hip-hop. This is a chance to be in your local theatre and then you can really understand hip-hop. You can see  graffiti close-up. You can see the artistic disciplines that hip-hop calls at you. And also: You can have fun. It's probably the most joyous event that you will go to in your theatre calendar. Everybody's got something to be engaged with in Breakin' Convention. If you like graphic arts, you will be engaged with that. If you like music, you can be engaged with that. If you have a family, there is a lot that your children can be part of.

    Yeah, there are a lot of reasons to come.

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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.