From Artists4Artists to Artists4Growth: What the Artists think

From the outside it may seem that Hip Hop has come of age. It’s on TV, in West End Shows, is promoted by Breakin’ Convention and aspects have been adopted and adapted by many of the big name music stars. From the inside this is far from the case. Those involved are only too aware that, while perceived as successful, their art form is still developing, and although controversy rages about the extent to which ‘underground’ dance (as opposed to mainstream hip hop) should be acknowledged and supported, everyone agrees that it is imperative to share skills and experience and document the genre’s development.

Jade Hackett's piece, as performed at Artists4Artists. Not my photo, contact Jade for more info.

Jade Hackett’s piece, as performed at Artists4Artists. Not my photo, contact Jade for more info.

Recognising this, the super-productive and multi-talented Lee Griffiths, Joseph Toonga and Emily Crouch launched the first Artists 4 Artists weekend last year, an artists-led networking event designed to upskill and champion hip hop theatre artists, providing professional development, initiating debate, introducing new audiences to the hip hop theatre world and providing a platform within which programmers and artists could mingle. Their next, Artists4Growth is on February 13th.

Artists4Artists, the inaugural event of a series organised by and for those in hip hop, is part of a 10 year development process. It differs from Breakin’ Convention in the location and approach supported by Redbridge Drama Centre and by the hip hop theatre community itself.

Artists4Growth is looking good. It is looking good and would be impossible to cover everything that occurred to the depth that the last inaugural weekend jam-packed with discussions, classes and a great range of performances deserves, so in keeping with philosophy of the event, here are some of the participants speaking about the last Artists4Artists experience themselves.

Kofi Mingo's piece as performed at Artists4Artists. Not my photo, contact Kofi for more details.

Kofi Mingo’s piece as performed at Artists4Artists. Not my photo, contact Kofi for more details.

Kofi Mingo,  choreographer of Searching For God, Episode 1; “The biggest thing it provided was access to 3 different types of learning platforms; with our mentor, with the other artists and the ability to perform and get critique feedback from professionals and other peers. The organisers are like us, they have a good grip on who is current who is mature and they’re honest and good about the way they say that”

Jonny Siddall, Head of Redbridge Dance Centre; “Over two years we have slowly developed our relationship with hip hop artists. Coming from physical theatre, we find the new approaches they are producing exciting, the community really supportive and we’re able to work collaboratively. Obviously we’d like to carry on being involved and I am looking forward to a conversation with Lee, Joseph and Emily to see where they want to go.”

Chris Reyez, choreographer of Caravan; “It has really opened up avenues to me as an artist and as a professional human being. By providing more knowledge in terms of [stage]craft and the hip hop theatre world, being a platform for peoples’ different views as to what hip hop theatre is, and discussing cultural and historical approaches also helped me develop my understanding of the industry.”

Tyrone Isaac Stuart in Umbrella Man. Not my photo, contact Tyrone for more info.

Tyrone Isaac Stuart in Umbrella Man. Not my photo, contact Tyrone for more info.

Tyrone Isaac Stuart; “It was great to have both direct mentoring and peer mentoring and an eye-opener to hear the debates about the origins of hip-hop and understand a little more about how people perceive power in the hip hop theatre arena. As a young artist working to fuse different disciplines it has given me food for thought, a lot to think about and initiated friendships and interactions that are exciting and thought provoking.”

Rachel Kay, mentor to Jade Hackett; “I have admired Jade’s work from afar for quite a long time, so when I was told I would be mentoring her I was very happy to invest in her and her vision. As two females together we are quite strong and have clear ideas of what we want to achieve in our work. Together we made a great partnership and I felt I learned as much from her as I gave to her. I’m not really from the hip hop culture, being ore of a contemporary artist, although I was trained by Kenrick Sandy and hip hop is very much a part of my life. This provided a great insight into the world and the need to move it forward.”

width=”300″ height=”200″ class=”size-medium wp-image-10083″ /> Jade Hackett’s piece, as performed at Artists4Artists. Not my photo, contact Jade for more info.[/caption]

Ella Mesma, workshop leader; “Lee arranged 5 different generations of artists, some who had an intense month of creating work who performed on the Saturday, on the Friday were people who were able to present something they had already developed. I guess we were peer mentors, we had been on the scene a bit longer and it was really nice. It’s quite empowering to realise that you can mentor someone, but at the same time Tyrone helped me, as I got him to see my work too. Jade’s piece made me quite emotional, and it is really inspiring to see someone so young know so clearly what she wants to do. They also offered us little private talks and meetings with different first generation hip hop artists. It is important, having as mentors those people who founded hip hop. Maybe we haven’t looked after them enough or got them to look after us. That respect is really important and will make a difference in the work that is created.”

Joseph Toonga, co-organiser; “What motivated me to work alongside Lee and Emily was the realisation that while the Hip Hop community has a lot of voices, we need to communicate our enthusiasm and concern to the rest of the community. We need to start forging something for the future. There are so many talented artists out there and we need a platform to share thoughts and ideas. As a community we have so much power and talent and ability and we can make a difference to the dance community. Artists4Artists is an environment for us to network and really help each other. On a personal level, what I got out of it was knowing that yes, this is a start. It helped me learn how we can go about developing artists and what can I do next as one of the people who really want to help us get to the next step.

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