Although he would (hopefully) disavow it, a great deal of the energy and charm of Breakin’ Convention comes from the personality of Jonzi D. He’s been working within both theatrical dance and hip hop since the 1980s – a time when most perceptions of hip hop focused on the rappers - and has become a vital supporter of hop hop theatre, from the lyric-based solo shows that proliferate across England to the increasingly sophisticated fusions of locking, breaking and crumping with Modern Dance.
Open Art Surgery is an appropriate finale to the Traverse’s dance season: six short works, all from Scottish artists presented as works in progress after a week of mentoring in Dance Base at the hands of Jonzi and Curious Seed’s Christine Devaney. From Claricia Kruithof’s opening, claustrophobic solo to Big Tajj, Drew Taylor and Christina Gusthart’s finale three-way of dance, beat-box and poetry, Open Art Surgery is a quick survey of a dynamic scene that can incorporate the expected techniques of hip hop while welcoming other approaches.
With all six pieces still under construction, the territory is frequently more sketched out than completely mapped. But there are healthy signs of artists willing to push beyond boundaries: sweeTe performs a straight up rap but by constantly changing costume reinterprets her rhymes through homely, aggressive and theatrical modes. Jackin’ The Box get sinister for Piece of Mind and Ready Ready Sauce mix it up with Black Swan Dance Theatre is poke at Facebook: Steven Fraser (Heavy Smokers) and Will Thornton (Product) have an already brooding duet in Diamond Life,
All of these pieces – along with the two untitled works that began and finished the showcase – deconstructed the idea that hip hop is limited in its vocabulary. Topped and tailed by Jonzi’s enthusiastic cheerleading (and a DJ set by the UK DMC champion Ritchie Ruftone), Open Art Surgery is a testament to a dance scene that sometimes thrives beneath the radar, and a happy statement that choreography need not be confined to obscure ideas.