South Bank Centre
Fri 22 Sep 2006 - Sun 24 Sep 2006
Reviewed by Natasha Bunbury
b.supreme, a 3 day festival for women in Hip Hop was held at London’s South Bank Centre in partnership with Independance and Greenwich Dance Agency and is the first of this kind to be held in the UK.
Being that, my first question was, why do we need a festival dedicated to women in Hip Hop?
Do women really have something to contribute or could this be another newly packaged strategy to tap into the booming and lucrative Hip Hop theatre-going market. Apparently not! b.supreme can be summed up in one word…Empowerment.
As part of the debate, discussing the issues of the girl-girl (the original term applied to a b-girl) was an impressive panel of women from different skills in the field. Visiting from the USA were, Ana “Rockafella” Garcia - a prominent breaker, dancer, teacher and co-founder of Full Circle Productions, B-girl veteran Asia One - who trained and danced with the best of the boys such as Zulu Nation and Rock Steady Crew (Asia one is also the curator of the highly successful event ‘The boy-boy Summit’, a major 3-day international Hip Hop Conference in the USA).
Also there were award winning choreographers Ciceley Bradley and Olisa Thomson, purveyors of their own unique dance style referred to as Nu-Style. Besides winning “Choreography of the year” and earning a nomination at the “7th annual American Choreography awards” for choreographing Rapper Missy Elliot’s music videos, they have worked many major music artists including Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston and Mario.
From the UK, contemporary black music specialist and cultural critic, writer, broadcaster and lecturer are just a mere few of Jacqueline Springer’s (UK) talents. Official Nike spokesperson and a true UK Hip Hop beloved Kymberlee Jay, who featured in Madonna’s music videos and famously rocked n’ popped in the Nike Street Dance ad. Other panellist included Jude Kelly, Director of the Royal Festival Hall and UK b-girl Sunsun from the early days of UK Hip Hop.
The panel brought true meaning to the phase “when you teach a women, you teach a nation” as the festival set out to change the common view that only the men / b-boys are the breakers or into break dancing. Not only can girls do it, but also they have been doing it for years. The panel shed light on the hidden history of the b-girl and challenges she faced being accepted by society and her peers
Also discussed was basic opinions on the fundamental principals in Hip Hop that are held by the majority, such as the root of Hip Hop dance started with the b-boy. However at points in the discussion it became slightly preachy (and there actually was the odd “Amen” coming from the panel) about what real Hip Hop dance truly is and should be. This unfortunately left the home-grown Street Dance audience members feeling a little homeless and somewhat unaccepted since dancers from the UK Street Dance culture, may not be extremely proficient in many old skool styles, and original repertoire. This is largely due to access to teachers with those styles.
The debate and discussion could have continued forever, as it was highly intriguing and informative, and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Unanimously it was agreed Hip Hop is a form of expression and ultimately artists will be all judged by their work and art.
Main Stage Performance
Making full use of the new face of the South Bank during main performances were girls from various schools and youth groups performing and really enjoying themselves on the festival riverside walks and Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer. Whilst on the main stage with host Kymberlee Jay, the all female line up started with Cicely and Olisa.
They gave us a sample of Nu-Stylz and why they are world-renowned super hot choreographers. Dynamically these girls are fierce, precise and totally awesome. It was a music video performance without the editing and cover up. Disappointingly it was too short a performance.
Choreographer Tony Adigun’s claim to “Innovate and never replicate” made the Avant Garde Alpha (UK) performance a highlight of the main stage acts. Amazing high-energy dancers with impeccable timing showed little street lock and breakin if you were looking for original repertoire, but you could not fault them for it. Their unique Street Dance style made a simply fantastic performance. Besides Rowetta Deletant’s mesmerising Raggy Doll (UK), Plan B (Holland) and Mersey Mizbehavin Crew (UK) both had area’s of their work that needed more development. This really left the performances line up overall a little short.
The show ended with Envoke (Switzerland) with a special appearance from Asia One. This b-girl group gave us the most old skool styles of the performances, watching Asia One there was a realisation of how far her art has come and a deep respect for her contribution to Hip Hop men and women all over the world. Contrastingly, the female movements Envoke performed during that show, highlighted the fact that feminine sexuality pales next to the raw beauty of them breakin.
The International Freestyle Battle hosted by Asia One and Kymberlee Jay was perfectly staged and judged Cicely and Olisa plus Rowdy from Flowzaic b-girl crew. Legendary DJ Sarah Love played the music. The competing dancers had to win the vote of the judges in order to face another round and avoid being knocked out.
The now passionate and interactive audience were holding on to their seats as raw energy filled the room. The girl on girl battle heated up with each knock out, absolutely no sissy fighting here.
It became especially dirty with the entrance of one dancer called Suzette. She was ruthless and aggressive but true to how battles really go down. Suzette was extremely good but could not win the affections of the audience. This left me wondering, how ready are females to drop the typically non-aggressive pleasant view of a woman in favour for the rawness of a b-girl after all?
b.supreme highlighted the roles of women in Hip Hop dance, the difficulties faced making it in a male dominated arena, and to show there is more talent to see in the b-girl than the stereotyped female image of the ornamented Hip Hop Honies and Bootie shakers. This was an intelligent well thought out event attracting many women, but mostly it was an excellent dance event of high quality and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves Hip Hop.