Urban dance competitors from around the world will converge on Madison from May 9 to 13 for the ninth annual International Festival of Urban Movement: Breakin’ the Law & Breaking Ground, gathering at venues from the Capitol square to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
In true Wisconsin tradition, the international urban dance competition started as a challenge to the status quo and is still growing in the grassroots network of breaking-edge art and culture.
The 2003 push to bring an alternative dance form — break dancing — to a broader array of venues led to the dance festival’s name, Breakin’ the Law. Co-founders and UW-Madison alumni Jarius King, who graduated in 2009, and Henry Gomez, who graduated in 2007, challenged city ordinances that didn’t allow local clubs to host events featuring hip-hop dancing, music or dress through the Associated Students of Madison’s Legislative Affairs and Diversity Affairs Committees.
“Now Breakin’ the Law is an international festival of urban movement that consists of workshops, films, panel discussions, and the annual urban dance styles competition like popping, break dancing and freestyling movement,” says King, who is a full-time performing artist in Chicago and continues to co-direct the festival with UW-Madison graduate student Katrina Flores.
Hosted by the UW Breakdance Club, it started as a very local festival. But because break dancing and hip-hop international phenomena, the Madison-based annual dance competition mushroomed into an international affair in 2006 and now draws upwards of 3,000 participants.
At the 2006 festival, with the collaboration of the UW-Madison Multicultural Student Coalition, competitors from Hong Kong and Macau came to their first battle ever in the United States. It has since drawn performers from Japan to England and Panama to South Africa, and this year’s five-day festival again will have essential international participation, Flores says.
This year, Professor Peggy Choy from the UW-Madison Department of Dance is bringing her “Breaking Ground Project” to the festival and will present an excerpt from her latest work, “The Greatest! A Tribute to Mohammad Ali’s Life.”
“The dynamic energy of the event along with the physical creativity of the dancers is amazing at every show and workshop,” Flores says. “Typically, access to the world-class facilitators available would not be free.”
Festival organizers are committed to working with communities on the grassroots level, using urban movement and dance as a way to reach out to youth with other positive educational services, Flores says. Groups participating in Breakin’ the Law gain knowledge and develop a network to reach out and build the movement in their home communities.
“We provide a broader opportunity to come, learn and compete regardless of the resources or support the participants receive,” she says. “As a result, the grassroots involvement, and most importantly service to youth, has grown exponentially.”
The art is now being tied to science by exploring the physics of break dancing, and youth are coming from campus and local youth centers, and from as far away as Texas, California and Pennsylvania.
“Hip hop was created by youth and is being recreated and driven forward by youth,” Flores says. “Hip-hop is an important communication method for youth and because hip-hop now has a lot of ‘elders,’ it’s important to support and reaffirm the roots of the culture.”
In fact, the entire event is family-friendly, King says, with family-oriented dance workshops and competitions.
This year’s festival is co-sponsored by the PEOPLE Program, WUD Late Night Grant, Multicultural Council, Wisconsin Experience Grant, Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives, King’s Eye View Productions, WUD Music, WUD Performing Arts, UW Dance Department, Wonders of Physics, Physics Learning Center, Peggy Choy Dance Company, Red Bull BC One Cipher, Odworxxx, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity.
All of the events are free and open to the public.
For more information on Breakin’ the Law, including a schedule of events, visit http://www.facebook.com/events/287323577955193/ or send an email to email@example.com.