Every spring, Sadler’s Wells has a mayfly moment. For one weekend, its foyers fill with youngsters and newcomers. The reason? The Breakin’ Convention festival, which transforms the theatre into a house of hip-hop. Programmed and compered by Jonzi D, it is a refreshingly inclusive platform, hosting companies “from around the world, and around the corner”, as eager to show off hip-hop’s dance credentials as it is willing to challenge them.
All-male combo Peridot are the slickest outfit on the opening-night programme, fine-tuned to every scratch, slide and skip in the music. The detail is incredible, and they seem to be able to pause and rewind at will. Their set is chock-full of sharp choreographic ideas, too; it’s almost overstimulating.
Legends of the Underground, meanwhile, is simply too much. A 3D film (we all wear special specs) shows CGI superheroes zooming over the stage, while hordes of dancers rush across it – all overwhelmed by relentless set pieces, a portentous storyline and whizz-bang special effects. Less, please.
Veteran New Yorker Ken Swift and his company bring a demonstration of old-style rocking to 70s music. If they can’t match the astonishing technical heights of today’s youth, their fun and funkiness impart a welcome human touch. Another American old-timer is Mr Wiggles, a master of musical mime, each bodily ripple telling a rhythmic story.
French Compagnie Revolution round off with a piece of arty contemporary dance zinged up with hip-hop inflections, which clearly mystifies some of the audience. Sometimes it works well – three dancers twining into a single, many-tentacled beast; sometimes, as with the Martha Graham-style floorwork to Ravel’s Bolero, it really doesn’t. But it’s breaking convention, and it belongs here.