Two of the leading names in the Plymouth street dance scene are coming together in May for the ground-breaking festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention.
Audiences can expect jaw-dropping performances from internationally celebrated poppers, lockers, b-boys and b-girls, alongside talented local performers and groups.
Chris Gilchrist and Drew Shears are reps, helping to shape and promote the two-day event which is being held at TRP from 23–24 May.
Chris was the founding member of Plymouth’s first street dance crew Beat-Breakers in 2002, and later, Devon and Cornwall’s first dance studio dedicated to street dance styles, Rhythm City.
Drew has been teaching street dance in the South West since 2009. He currently runs The Groovement Project Dance Company, which has grown to be one of the most successful dance companies in the UK. His crew have won more titles than any other in the country.
Chris never thought that he would have a career in dance.
“It was just a hobby, it kept me out of trouble and I enjoyed it. Getting into dance kept me away from all the negative stuff. I would train and put all my effort into dance.
“Then I started teaching some young kids in the local park where we used to train. I got hooked on teaching and passing on knowledge so decided to open a safe space where people could come and learn.”
Chris has won numerous local and national awards for his work and was also selected as one of the Queen’s baton bearers for the Commonwealth Games. He was also a Pride of Britain Award finalist in 2017.
“Through dance I grew in confidence and people skills. I never knew how to gauge myself when speaking in different environments. It’s the same with a lot of the young people we work with. They don’t just grow as dancers, they grow as people.”
Whilst Drew has always enjoyed dance, it wasn’t something he thought about for a career either.
“I’ve danced since I was six years old. I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and my parents took me to a dance class. I later got into Ballroom and Latin which helped my street dance too.”
Since October 2020, Drew has also been a member of the world-famous Chicago footwork crew Creation Global. He is one of just two members based in the UK and is one of only a few leading ambassadors for the whole of the European Chicago footwork scene.
“I never thought that dance would an option for a career to be honest but if you find a passion and can have it as a career, that’s definitely something to pursue. Even if I tried to escape dance, I think it would always pull me back in.”
Chris said teaching youngsters to dance has been very rewarding.
“Our students have gone on and opened their own dance schools and run their own projects, and it’s been great to see them keeping the scene alive.
“They don’t always become dancers. We’ve got people who are police officers, doctors, dentists, vets, social workers.”
Drew’s internationally recognised dance school The Groovement Project currently has around 80 students and he’s often teaching six days a week. His students have trained with world leading dancers in Los Angeles and performed at Disneyworld and Universal Hollywood.
“We’ve also had people go onto be in the West End, and UK tours of shows like Matilda. One of the girls we teach is going to be in a Hollywood Disney film soon.
“But it’s more than just teaching, we do a lot of pastoral work too. A lot of young people are struggling with their mental health at the moment, so we try and be there for them as much as possible.”
Chris remembers the first time he came to TRP, when he watched a show in The Drum.
“It was when I first got into breaking and there was a show called Skate. It was a hip hop piece. They had some break dancers in it, some MCs, a DJ. It was really cool and the first thing I experienced here.
“The next time I got involved with the theatre was the first time Breakin’ Convention came to the city back in 2009. Now to be involved as a rep is great, it shows the evolution of what we do.”
Drew also performed at the first Breakin’ Convention in Plymouth.
“I was just a performer in the first one, but it was a really enjoyable experience. It’s great to bring so many people together and it just helps to build community and promote the scene in Plymouth.”
Chris added: “It’s always good to see my friends from all over Devon and Cornwall get on stage and perform and have that opportunity to showcase what they’re all about.”
This is the 20th year of Breakin’ Convention, and tickets for the two-day festival at TRP are on sale now via the website.
Beyond Breakin’ Convention, street dance fans have something else to look forward to, as at Paris 2024, break dancing will be an Olympic sport for the first time.
Watch Chris & Drew’s video: