Moves from Germany in Dublin A Different Kind of German Lesson

Break-letics with Peter Sowinski: the mix of acrobatics, dance and music requires intensive physical rigour
Break-letics with Peter Sowinski: the mix of acrobatics, dance and music requires intensive physical rigour | Photo: Dublin Dance Festival

The hip-hop masters from the German dance collective Renegade mix it up at the Dublin Dance Festival with Moves from Germany and introduce 36 Irish teenagers to the art of breakdancing. By Deirdre Mulrooney

They’re called Renegade, they come from the Ruhr region and travel to Dublin with the promise: “We will make your muscles burn.” That’s exactly what three dozen Irish school-kids want from them, because it’s not everyday that they get a chance to take part in a workshop by the hip-hop masters Peter Sowinski, Pia Grohmann, Janis Heidmann and Youngung Sebastian Kim. Selected from over 80 hopeful applicants, 18 pupils each are chosen by a lottery system from St. Louis girls’ school and their neighbouring boys’ school, St. Mary’s in Dublin.

The members of the dance collective from Herne divide these lively boys and girls who collaborate annually on musicals (next year it’ll be Calamity Jane) into three groups. The working language is German because the workshop is part of Moves from Germany, the German strand in the 2015 edition of the Dublin Dance Festival, organized by the Goethe-Institut.

The open-air festival takes place on a sunny May weekend in Ireland’s capital city and presents an impressive potpourri of contemporary dance. First the young all male quartet Company B charm the crowds with Inclusion of Exclusion, a choreography created by the boys themselves. Conveying the gamut of emotions that might be going on in a 15 year old boy, they unleash synchronised jumps, intense solos, rugby-scrum head-locks, tug of war hand-balancing, coming together, drifting apart, and joyous free-wheeling star-jumps. Next the intense 15-minute choreographic short story by La Macana overflows the confines of the stage as Caterina Varela finally slides off, snail-like onto the concrete, with her partner balancing on her back, to the beat of Einstürzende Neubauten.

Janis Heidmann with “Uptown Funk” Janis Heidmann with “Uptown Funk” | Photo: Dublin Dance Festival Amid grunts, groans, and a fair bit of nervous giggling, in the gym of St. Mary's the Renegade workshop teens attempt press-ups, sit-ups and what look like yoga poses. The tough core exercises comprise more variations of push-ups than the young dancers ever imagined. The first session is “break-letics” with Peter Sowinski and Sebastian Kim. Here, the students discover that breaking and hip-hop – a mix of acrobatics, dance and music – requires intensive physical rigour.

“We incorporate yoga, martial arts, and all kinds of forms,” explains Kim. Hip-hop originated in New York, influenced by Kung Fu films, tap dancing, salsa, rocking, popping, locking, yoga, martial arts, urban dance, and is now infiltrating mainstream contemporary dance. The Pina Bausch dancers Regina Advento and Nayoung Kim have also collaborated with Renegade.

In the next session, with a mirror to check that their moves, rhythm, and coordination are in synch, Janis teaches the determined teenagers the choreography for Bruno Mars’s music video “Uptown Funk”: “Die Beine raus; Knie nach vorne; Hüfte nach vorne; ride the horse; slide; give them a kiss; step, turn, step, turn, wave…”. Learning German was never so much fun.

Pia leads the third and most rewarding session, getting the group down low on the wooden floor to learn the A-B-Cs of basic “foot threading,” “body wave” and the impressive looking “baby freeze.” The longed-for break-dancer transformation is not going to happen overnight, but baby freeze is an achievable beginner’s semi-inverted pose that halts all body motion, as if on ice, head on the floor, legs kicking up. The girls in particular are rather good at this choreographic sequence.

At the end of the festival the b-boys and girls are rewarded by the grand finale, when the much-anticipated hip-hop jam lands as their teachers from Renegade perform – sometimes solo, sometimes with All-Ireland Hip-Hop Champion Tobi Omoteso. With graffiti-inspired, quirky crab style jumps and headstands, they show that they can also make their own muscles burn.