Breakin' Convention, Sadler's Wells, London

Reviewed by Zoë Anderson
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The Independent Culture

At Breakin' Convention, the Sadler's Wells festival of hip-hop dance, performance spills happily off the stage and right through the building. Children try out steps in the aisles, DJs play in the foyers, workshops and performance sessions crop up everywhere. "How do you spin on your head?" asked host Susan Reynolds, awed by some onstage acrobatics. "You get on your head and spin," said a helpful voice from the audience. Then he got on stage and showed us.

There were spectacular acts on this year's bill. My favourites were the Japanese locking duo Hilty & Bosch, a near-identical pair in baggy suits and trilby hats. They move with the boneless fluidity of cartoons, bodies folding and waggling, limbs springing back into place.

Their timing is phenomenal. Hilty & Bosch will start a duet in unison, limbs pumping. Keeping the rhythm going, they start to do contrasting moves, snapping in and out of the shared pattern. The speed and intricacy become funny: these dancers are so precise that they start to seem unreal.

French group Phase T were casually astonishing. One soloist flips onto his head and slides, travelling fast and upside down. Spinning on the spot, he twists and jerks, legs scissoring. Dancers bounce along on one hand, shoulders knotting as they flip into new poses.

Danish company Big City Brains had more comedy hip-hop, with dance as optical illusion. Phax is an astonishing slow-motion performer. He looks like slowed-down, flickering film. His colleagues push towards slapstick, their bodies matching the soundtrack's sound effects.

Breakin' Convention also showcases more experimental hip-hop. In the Lilian Baylis Studio, Compagnie Mira act out a relationship, from acrobatic showing off to flirting and arguing. Having got together, they do a witty unison walk one in front of the other, matching strides and swapping places.

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