News: Funding boost for hip hop dance theatre

Tuesday 8 September 2015 by Carmel Smith

Breakin' Convention 2015, The Ruggeds. Photo: Paul Hampartsoumian

Hip hop dance has been given a huge funding boost by Arts Council England as Sadler’s Wells international festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation Dance Company, (also a resident company at the theatre) have together been awarded over £1 million in funding as part of its Strategic Touring Programme.

The two companies are amongst 13 organisations who will receive a total of over £4.8 million from Arts Council England, enabling them to tour throughout the UK over the next two years. Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to be able to support Breakin’ Convention and ZooNation Dance Company through our Strategic touring programme; it is a clear illustration of the breadth and quality of work that we value and support. These tours will not only showcase some of the best hip hop dance theatre in the world, but also support the professional development of emerging hip hop dance talent and leaders across England.”

In twelve years, Breakin’ Convention has established itself as a world leader in hip gop dance theatre, through its annual festival – and ZooNation has produced several hit shows characterized by inventive story telling, including Into the Hoods (returning to the stage later this year in a Remixed version) and Some Like it Hip Hop.

“There is no underestimating the growth hip hop as a dance style has been experiencing in recent years, exploding from the streets onto the stage, but also on TV and through fashion and advertising”, said Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive. “Its enormous success stems from its ‘each one teach one’ approach to knowledge-sharing and its ability to continuously evolve and develop a highly original vocabulary – a language that is dynamic and current, and speaks to ever increasing numbers of young people.”

In total, Breakin’ Convention has been awarded £562,783 for a two year project that will see the festival tour throughout May 2016 and May 2017, marking the first time the organisation tours nationally for two consecutive years. Through previous tours it has developed a successful model of programming over 400 local artists per tour to perform alongside international artists. The touring activity will be complemented by a programme of professional development activity, pairing up artists and future hip hop programmers. There will be a new spoken word professional development strand – Moving Rap and a continuation of the film-makers mentorship programme.

Professional development is of key importance for Breakin Convention’s Artistic Director, hip hop artist Jonzi D, who welcomed the ‘excellent news for the sector’. “This allows Breakin’ Convention to support the professional development of hip hop dance theatre even further,” he said, “providing skills, knowledge and platforms for the plethora of emerging dance crews following in the footsteps of ZooNation, Boy Blue, Southpaw and Birdgang. The lyrical dexterity of UK emcees will now have a space to develop theatrical devices within our Moving Rap workshop strand. Arts Council England has shown commitment to the creative phenomenon that is hip hop culture, at a time when peace, love, unity, and fun is much needed.”

ZooNation Dance Company’s award of £499,471 is for a major large scale tour of Into the Hoods: Remixed, the newly revamped version of the award-winning production, throughout the UK from spring 2016. Performances of the work at regional venues will build on the show’s track record of bringing more diverse and younger audiences into theatres, something that it successfully achieved during previous runs at Sadler’s Wells, the Edinburgh Fringe, Southbank Centre and in the West End between 2006 and 2010. Into the Hoods became both the first ever hip hop dance show in the West End and the longest running dance show in the West End’s history, with a five month run at the Novello Theatre. The cast of Into the Hoods won the 2009 What’s On Stage Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance. The much-loved show has been updated for 2015 with new choreography, a remixed soundtrack and new designs, and has its first performances at The Peacock (23 Oct – 14 Nov) before embarking on national tour in spring 2016.

An audience development project, ZooResidence, will accompany the show across the country, supporting and encouraging venues and their local partners to build audiences for hip hop dance theatre in new ways. This includes a series of projects for reaching thousands of young people, culminating in the creation of pre-show curtain raiser performances at each of the five partner venues.

Kate Prince, Artistic Director of ZooNation welcomed Arts Council England’s “really exciting and bold move”. “This gives us the chance to work with venues more closely will really release the potential of our work to reach more people and connect new audiences to regional theatres. This investment of over £1 million pounds between ourselves and Breakin’ Convention also makes a statement about hip hop dance and its cultural importance and artistic currency. We are over the moon that the Arts Council is supporting us to take our work around the UK and to be part of developing hip hop dance nationwide.”

Full tour details will be announced on and

Into the Hoods: Remixed
23 October – 14 November

Breakin’ Convention present
Wild Card: Botis Seva
24 & 25 September

Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang
2 & 3 October

Photo: The Ruggeds at Breakin’ Convention 2015 – Paul Hampartsoumian

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