Break time in Mi­ami this week­end

Fes­ti­val of hip-hop dances into Knight Con­cert Hall

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - ON STAGE - By Rod Stafford Hag­wood

Break dancers from all over the world will con­verge at Mi­ami’s Knight Con­cert Hall this week­end for “Breakin’ Con­ven­tion Mi­ami 2017,” which is be­ing billed by promoters as the world’s largest fes­ti­val of hip-hop dance.

“Hip-hop dance left Amer­ica and went around the world,” ex­plains the event’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Jonzi D. “And what we are do­ing at ‘Breakin’ Con­ven­tion’ is bring­ing back to Amer­ica how the rest of the world has per­ceived hip-hop dance in the the­atri­cal con­text. I feel like we’re re­turn­ing the gift.”

Jonzi D is a hip-hop pi­o­neer in the United King­dom who started the first “Breakin’ Con­ven­tion” event in Lon­don in 2004. This is the first Amer­i­can tour and has i ncluded Char­lotte, Den­ver, Har­lem and now Mi­ami.

The East Lon­doner of Afro-Caribbean de­scent paints a pic­ture of what at­ten­dees will ex­pe­ri­ence at the free block party from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Satur­day: “They are go­ing to see, as they come to the the­ater, graf­fiti artists and dee­jays spin­ning out­side. They’re go­ing to see small cir­cles of dancers freestyling and im­pro­vis­ing in the mez­za­nine area.

“As you go in the the­ater [for the tick­eted evening shows Fri­day and Satur­day], you’re go­ing to see a the­atri­cal B-boy and B-girl dance ex­trav­a­ganza — not just break­ing, also pop­ping and ab­stract break dance the­ater. There will be dancers and crews from South Africa, the U.K., France, L.A. You’re go­ing to see things from around the world and from South Florida.”

One of the cham­pion lo­cal crews per­form­ing be­longs to Ser­gio Gar­cia, a 19-year-old who lives in The Roads neigh­bor­hood in Mi­ami and owns the Ser-Gym Dance School in Hialeah Gar­dens.

“[‘Breakin Con­ven­tion’] hosted a com­pe­ti­tion, a three-on-three,” says Gar­cia, re­call­ing a dance bat­tle staged at the Ar­sht Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in July. “We saw it, me and my crew saw it. Then we won the three-on-three. The win­ner gets a spot in the the­ater show.”

Gar­cia, who says his dance stu­dio is solely for break danc­ing, de­scribes the in­ten­sity of his crew’s per­for­mance in con­text: “Some peo­ple don’t re­ally un­der­stand what you’re do­ing. They ex­pect peo­ple to dance for 10 min­utes straight, and that’s nearly im­pos­si­ble. We do a three-minute show that’s ex­plo­sive from be­gin­ning to end, with two of the best dancers in the world. That’s not brag­ging. We ac­tu­ally ranked. We’re three and two.”

The Cuban-Amer­i­can, who is the youngest B-boy to be spon­sored [by Mon­ster En­ergy Drink], went on to say that he has been fo­cused on and ded­i­cated to hiphop dance from an early age.

“I started danc­ing at 2. Well, not ex­actly break­ing. I was im­i­tat­ing Michael Jack­son and what­ever I saw on TV. I got into break­ing at 13 or 14,” he says. “I was play­ing basketball, but then I felt that danc­ing was what I wanted to do. Now I train at 5 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. You got to treat it like a sport. Peo­ple think it’s an art form, but you have to train like it’s a sport.”

Jonzi Drec­og­nizes that Mi­ami’s hip-hop scene is very much on the as­cent.

“I’ve been aware of the Mi­ami hip-hop scene for many years now,” he says. “When I was here dur­ing the sum­mer, it was amaz­ing. I got a chance to con­nect with the crews in the re­gion … and what’s in­ter­est­ing is there are a lot of amaz­ing hip-hop artists from around Amer­ica who have moved to Mi­ami ... from the west coast, New York. What’s ex­cit­ing for me is that there’s a strong cul­ture here. Peo­ple re­ally do live hip-hop.”

In 2011, Jonzi D fa­mously re­fused the con­fer­ment of an honor from Buck­ing­ham Palace (Mem­ber of the Most Ex­cel­lent Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire or MBE) and two years later turned the ex­pe­ri­ence into a crit­i­cally ac­claimed solo the­atri­cal show called “The Let­ter: To Be, Or To MBE?” The show de­nounced the be­stow­ment as a legacy of the in­jus­tice of em­pire and colo­nial­ism and was one of the first hip-hop in­flu­enced shows to tour the United King­dom. That ex­pe­ri­ence gave Jonzi D’s danc­ing, mim­ing and mimicry a strong the­atri­cal nar­ra­tive. But he cau­tions on how he in­ter­prets that word “the­ater.”

“When I say ‘the­ater,’ I mean the space,” he ex­plains. “That’s the first mean­ing, not to be con­fused with drama. Of course there is drama in it, but we’re not re­stricted by a par­tic­u­lar the­atri­cal form. If any­thing, with hip-hop in the the­ater we are reach­ing out to ar­eas that con­tem­po­rary dance … has been, par­tic­u­larly with ab­stract story telling. I think the term ‘the­ater’ is a lot broader that it sounds. We’re push­ing boundaries. We’re break­ing con­ven­tions ac­tu­ally.”


A dancer from the Soweto Skele­ton Movers, who are part of “Breakin’ Con­ven­tion: In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Hip-Hop Dance The­atre.”

Jonzi D

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