The May Bank Holiday may have been wet and bitterly cold, but Breakin’ Convention hasn’t lost its bounce. Now in its ninth year, the festival of hip hop dance theatre has a solid history, covering everything from rising youth groups to international acts. The weekend festival will be followed by a UK tour; today’s performance will be streamed live online.
All the members of ILL-Abilities, who will dance on the tour, have some form of disability, from deafness to an amputated limb. Their show puts the disabilities front and centre, with voiceovers introducing each man, explaining his physical limitation then showing him driving into dance in spite of it.
They hurl themselves into the aggressive virtuosity of hip hop dance: if their legs won’t support them, they hop on their hands or spin on their backs. Bboy “Lazylegs”, who has a condition affecting his bones and muscles, dances on crutches, then dives right off them to dance on his hands. The show catches the inspirational tone of much hip hop – believe in yourself, follow your dreams – but provides remarkable achievement to back up the motivational slogans.
The kids got the festival off to a strong start. Da Bratz, the youth company of Boy Blue Entertainment, showed sleek discipline and punchy energy. Buckness Personified, an all-female crew, danced krump, a hip hop style more associated with men. The women bring a juicy toughness to the pumping, convulsive moves.
In AP15, the dancers of French-Korean duo Clash 66 go from gentleness to explosions of speed. Sébastien Ramirez and Hyun-Jung Wang curve around each other, move serenely to opposite ends of the stage – then one will spring and pounce onto the other, a martial arts tackle that somehow turns into a duet.
Old school crew PT.3000 show off Strutting, a style launched in Los Angeles in the 1970s. “A style y’all ain’t seen because you weren’t born yet,” he cheerfully tells the audience. The patterns are tight and intricate, though the sets and costuming are flimsy.
Reverie, by Ivan Blackstock of BirdGang, is an insomnia dance. As the hero lies awake, his girlfriend twitches in her sleep, relentlessly taking all the covers. The comic timing is lovely: none of the duvet-stealing looks intentional, but it goes right on happening.
My favourite number came from US dancer Storyboard P, who moves in impossible, silky lines, as slippery as an optical illusion. Floating in slow motion, he reaches back to flutter his t-shirt, so that everything’s moving in time.
At Sadler's Wells until tonight; box office 0844 412 4300. On tour until 2 June. www.breakinconvention.com