Breakin' Convention 09, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

Breakin' Convention, the annual celebration of hip-hop dance theatre, is one of Sadler's Wells's great successes. The theatre was packed throughout the event with international and British acts, workshops and DJ demos. Vast security guards shepherded the crowds past crash barriers; children tried out steps in the foyers and in standing room. This year's show was the best yet.

The festival, now on tour, is directed by Jonzi D, who introduces acts from the stage. It mixes big hip-hop names with young British acts. Jukebox Juniors, a Cardiff troupe dance with punchy speed and dexterity, one boy sliding through some gorgeous robot moves.

Company Decalage mix in contemporary dance moves, particularly in a duet full of stretches and balances. Another soloist was inventively, scarily flexible. He spun on his hands, one leg swinging, which isn't unusual in this style, except that he also had the other foot tucked behind his head. The Breakin' Convention audience, always demonstrative, gulp audibly then burst out cheering.

Compagnie Salama are the first African crew to appear at the festival. Their show is framed by evocative film clips, a journey from Morocco to Paris. They sit in a line, rocking and shuffling, suggesting a boat travelling north. Paris has Edith Piaf music and flirty Parisiennes; the images are standard, but the performances are lively.

The French star Salah is one of hip- hop's most extraordinary performers, a human squeaky toy. He can send different rhythms ripping through his body, one arm rippling, the other robotically fast and spiky, head bobbing, feet swizzling. He can throw in acrobatic flips and backbends, without losing a beat or a sound effect. All this, while working the crowd with a master comedian's aplomb.

Breakin' Convention are eager to pay tribute to hip-hop pioneers, this time with the VII Gems Rock Dance Division. Energy levels drop here, as the dancers spend too much time acting out street life, with drug deals and traffic lights.

Korean stars MyoSung bring the temperature back up, with a demented show about dance surviving dictatorship. Their hip-hop is full of whirling gymnastics and in their final, exuberant dance, they flip right off the stage, dancing and shaking hands with the delighted crowd.

Touring to 30 May ( www.breakinconvention.co.uk )

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