photo Amy Hetherington
My vision comes from my background as a b*boy and my long term involvement in hip hop culture. My experience of being a dancer was formed through competing in battles, being in crews and stepping into Cyphers. When I started creating performances I was really going on instinct and using virtuosity to make short, entertaining pieces. I have always been interested in hip hop as a culture with it’s different elements of Breaking, MCing, DJing and Graffiti art. My involvement with the Milpirri project in the remote Indigenous community of Lajamanu helped me to start thinking of hip hop as my culture, my way of expressing and telling stories through dance and music. I started to look at the rituals of hip hop such as the battle and the Cypher – the dance circle that forms at breakdance jams. During my Australia Council residency in Paris in 2012 I was exposed to the thriving European hip hop dance theatre scene. I went to performances, battles, festivals, discussions and met and observed some of the leading choreographers in the form. The work I saw seemed to generally fit into two different aesthetics. The first was hip hop showcases, a style that incorporates sycronised choreography, virtuosity and big tricks. The other was using hip hop styles in a contemporary aesthetic, sometimes with a clear narrative, sometimes abstracted. Being exposed to these shows helped to make clear in my mind what I wanted to make. My vision is to create work that is rooted in hip hop culture, that gives an audience insight into the depth of our form using it’s rituals, language and energy to communicate and challenge. I want to push the boundaries of my form while coming from a place of understanding and history within it. Breaking was born out of battles, block parties and cyphers, it has a raw and wild energy. This is what I’m interested in.
A Cypher is the circle that forms at breakdance jams with dancers vying for the open space in the centre to dance their set one at a time. It is hip hop’s most important ritual, a space where style, rivalry and community exist and evolve. In the performance four battle hardened b*boys push the boundaries of their artform using the movement, gestures and energy of the Cypher to challenge, communicate and celebrate the culture of hip hop.
I auditioned the dancers for the show. I was really looking for high level b*boys or b*girls who had lots of experience in battles and cyphers but could also adapt to a theatrical context and process. The dancers I chose, Stevie G, Akorn, Blue and Taz have all won major battles and each have their own unique style and flavour. As the show goes for around 50 minutes and the audience is in the space with the dancers they really get to know them up close and personal. The audience is directly engaged by the dancers throughout the work.
About the Tour
From the Kiasma Theatre in Helsinki to the Basketball court in the remote Indigenous community of Lajamanu. This tour is a reflection of a diverse practice and a connection to culture and communities.
photo Amy Hetherington
The tour will then move onto Footscray Community Arts Centre who have a long history of supporting hip hop culture through workshops and performances. This is the perfect home for Cypher. We will do a week long season as well as a series of workshops.
I’ve had a long-term connection with the Northern Territory through Tracks Dance particularly with Darwin and the remote indigenous community of Lajamanu. My work in the NT has been about creating through connection with community. This tour will continue and extend that connection. The first stop is Alice Springs for the Alice Desert Festival. In the lead up to our performance season in Alice I will hold workshops with young dancers from a local High School to create a short showcase performance, which will happen before “Cypher” each night of our season. The week will finish with a Block Party, which will flow on from the final show and feature performances by Alice Springs’ local hip hop artists and dancers at the festival club. This is a great example of the community engagement that can accompany a hip hop work such as Cypher. I can use my skills and experience as a workshop facilitator and hip hop event director to bring different elements of engagement to the performance season, working with young people, engaging the local hip hop community and presenting a dance theatre work with all these elements feeding into each other.
From Alice Springs we head to Tenant Creek for a short performance season and series of workshops. Working with Barkly Arts to build on existing long term programs which use hip hop dance styles to engage and create opportunities for young people in the region.
One of the highlights of the tour will be taking the work to Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert. I have been working in Lajamanu since 2005 through Tracks Dance and the Milpirri project. Milpirri is an intergenerational performance featuring over 200 dancers from pre school right through to the elders of the community. I work with the young men and boys in the community to create choreography using hip hop styles that reflect the traditional dreamings of the Warlpiri people. These young people are not yet allowed to do traditional dance as they haven’t gone through that level of ceremony so hip hop is a way of giving them the opportunity to be part of the performance, learn new skills and to connect with the themes of the work. I have taught hundreds of young people in Lajamanu and having the opportunity to share my own work with the community is very exciting and special. In true community style the work will take place under flood lights on the concrete, outdoor basketball court. A great contrast from the Kiasma Theatre in Helsinki where we start the tour. I can’t wait to see what happens!
After the performance and workshops in Lajamanu we head to Katherine for more shows and workshops.
The tour will finish in Darwin, which is like a second home to me. I have been creating work there since 2005 with Tracks Dance and Darwin Festival. For the past five years I’ve run a Block Party at the Festival club featuring local hip hop artists and the D*City Rockers b*boy crew. We also premiered Cypher at Darwin Festival last year, nice to come full circle. And I love Browns Mart Theatre as a venue, old polished wood floor in a sandstone building. I have to thank creative producer Britt Guy for all her hard work in making this tour happen.
photo Prudence Upton
Nick Power is a Sydney based b*boy and independent choreographer. He is one of the leading hip hop dance artists in Australia, working professionally for the past 17 years. Nick started dancing in his hometown of Toowoomba, training alone and testing his skills against rival dancers at school socials. After moving to Brisbane Nick became prominent on the national battle scene with his crew, Gravity Warriors. During this time he set up his own dance space and organization, Channel Direct. Through this organization and his skills and connections within the hip hop community he facilitated workshops, performances, community cultural development projects and large-scale events with organizations such as Brisbane City Council and Contact Inc. Since moving to Sydney in 2006 Nick has focused his energy on creating hip hop performances and gaining skills as a choreographer. He has choreographed three shows for Stalker Theatre, all of which have had national and international success. He has worked extensively with Tracks Dance since 2005, as guest choreographer on four of their Darwin Festival shows and on the Milpirri project in the remote indigenous community of Lajamanu. Nick was founder and Artistic Director of Platform Hip Hop Festival held at Carriageworks from 08 – 2012. More recently Nick has become interested in making his own independent work. In 2012 he received a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris through the Australia Council. This residency led to the development of his first full-length independent work, Cypher, which premiered in 2014 and will undertake a national and international tour in 2015.
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