By David Hennessy
Breakin’ Convention has been producing the critically acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre at Sadler’s Wells since 2004. Bad Taste Cru, a crew of dancers all from Belfast, will be appearing at this event as it celebrates its tenth year, May 4-6. The Irish World caught up with Bad Taste Cru’s Robby Graham, AKA Raw-B, ahead of the event. Robby will also be there with his other crew, Kompany Rep: “I can’t wait, it’s exciting. It’s going to be a pretty intense weekend for me performing two pieces with two different companies and looking after the choreography of both. I’m excited about it.”
Now based in Newcastle, Robby has been breaking since he was 15. Bad Taste have long cemented their place in the UK’s bboy hall of fame having represented the UK at both The UK BBoy Championships and Battle of the Year world finals amongst many other accolades.
Involved with Breakin’ Convention since 2007, Robby explains how it inspired him: “2007 was the first time we did a hip hop theatre show. That was me hooked. I started breaking when I was 15, we all started together as mates, but when this whole new world opened through performing in a few hip hop theatre things, it was like: ‘Right I want to learn as much as I can and bring it as far as I possibly can’.
“With Breakin’ Convention then, we went to Battle of the Year and performed an Irish themed show, called Borrowing Heroes and it kind of took the piss out of the whole cliché of the Irishman that likes to drink too much and everything. It was all a bit of fun really, poking fun at ourselves but actually saying: ‘We’re not all lying about in pubs all the time, I think people are misinformed a little bit. Look at what we can do’. While poking fun at ourselves, we were showing our virtuosic skill with it. So we managed to get to the world finals of Battle of the Year with that in Germany which was fantastic. On the B-boy scene, it’s the biggest event in the world really. That was a dream for the whole crew.”
After such success, Robby asked what next and wanting to see a professional dance company operate, he toured for two years with 2Faced Dance Company. Robby has since worked with Ballet Lorent in a tour of La Nuit Intime and choreographed Faust for the Theatre Royal’s 175th Anniversary.
Wanting to incorporate elements from other disciplines into his choreography, Robby set up Kompany Rep who can also be seen at Breakin’ Convention. Robby explains that hip hop has given him a way to express himself: “To be honest it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know that’s little bit cheesy and it has been hard work. It’s not an easy thing to learn but I was lucky that I had a crew that was just dedicated to improving and getting somewhere. It struck a chord with us: Tried basketball, football, karate, gymnastics, I was into a lot of different things but none of them struck me as something I could run with. It’s given me a lifestyle, it’s given me a culture that I love, it’s allowed me to travel to places like Rio and Sao Paulo and all over Europe and over to the States, places I would have liked to have seen but I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity unless I was paying for a holiday or something. It’s always been my passion but it’s become my livelihood and everything that I do now.”
Robby choreographed his first piece in 2008 Incognito, which was followed by Council of the Ordinary in 2009. In 2010, he was commissioned to create Aftermath for the Place Prize, a piece informed by experiences of growing up during the Troubles in N. Ireland. He has also choreographed Riots on Bad Taste youth company Battalions which was selected as the YDE wild card and most recently created his first solo, All or Nothing as part of Open Art Surgery 2012.
So what is next for Robby? “I just want to continue learning as much as I can and developing as a choreographer. I look at the big choreographers and people whose work I really appreciate. I want to get to that level. I’m not there yet but I’m hoping that I’ll get there in the next few years.”
Breakin’ Convention is at Sadler’s Wells May 4-6. For more information on Robby, Bad Taste Cru or Kompany Rep, you can go to: http://www.breakinconvention.com/.