Breakin’ & Makin’ Moves: The b.supreme Story

Ooh, a women-only hip-hop festival at the Southbank Centre? Yes please!

b.supreme comes back to London town this Easter for its fourth year at the Southbank Centre.

The ‘b’ stands for ‘break’, as the festival focuses mainly on the break dancing element of hip hop. And as an all-female event, b.supreme exists in defiance of many things:

For one thing, it rejects the stereotype of women in hip-hop as scantily clad booty-shakin’ objects for male consumption. Secondly, the women involved dare to come out of the shadow of the b-boy crews, for whom the female breaker is often a token member, rather than a headliner. It also shows the unifying and creative nature of hip-hop culture at a time when it’s otherwise so closely associated with violence, crime and cash.

And probably my favourite thing of all is that the title doesn’t tentatively play with the idea of female empowerment. It doesn’t just suggest that maybe we could do as well as the blokes. It tells us, quite definitively, in simple terms to be supreme. To be the best.

Holly McCartney, one of the founders of the festival, explains that the aim of the b.supreme is to provide a platform for “strong, confident and amazing women and create strong role models for young women”.

Back in 2005, she and fellow founder Judi McCartneywere both frustrated with the machismo involved in the hip-hop dance scene, and after doing some research, they saw that there actually wasn’t much of a platform for female dancers to showcase their work.

Coming up with the idea of a female-only hip-hop event was the easy part. They both knew it’d be an uphill struggle. After tonnes more research, and persuading – even begging! – mixed dance groups to give up their b-girls, Judi and Holly secured some funding for the first year. They were able to bring together a repertoire of female hip-hop dancers who were incredibly good at what they do, and just as dedicated as the men in their field despite the lack of real support.

One of the most invaluable contributions has been from the dancers themselves. “We’re very lucky,” explains Holly, “that the artists we’ve worked with see the wider potential for the festival and its message and have dedicated their time and talent for not much money.”

Five years on b.supreme is putting on its biggest event yet. Featuring female breakers from the UK as well as all over the world, the weekend is an ideal opportunity to learn more about the hip-hop discipline of break dancing, to take part in workshops, and see some of the best women in the world battle it out on the dance floor.

Kicking off on Friday 2 April, the weekend-long festival will include highlights from The Waackers; an all-girl beatbox performance including the girls from Southbank Centre’s Youth Forum in Residence, SE1 United; and the first UK screening of the film All the Ladies Say, which will be followed by a Q&A session with the director and one of the featured dancers. Brit and MOBO award-winner Ms Dynamite, who is openly supportive of the festival, will be there on the closing night for a free performance. (Read more about her career and much anticipated comeback here.)

For me the main attraction is the UK female break dancing talent that will be on show. The UK’s contribution to hip-hop goes far beyond the mainstream examples of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and, er, Tinchy Stryder, and flourishes in the darkest pockets of the underground. So I’m thrilled that these dancers are getting the spotlight. More important is the fact that they’re women showing younger females that, as Holly puts it, they can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it. (Yeah!)

So if you find yourself wandering the riverside this weekend, you should definitely check out one of the events.

There’s more info at the Southbank Centre website.

And I’ll leave you with a trailer for the “All the Ladies Say” documentary.

By: Roshni Goyate, 28.03.2010 | Comments (1)
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  • vikstar
    May 19th, 2010
    8:20 am

    I went to this event, came across it by accident, whilst in london for a weekend with 5 girlfriends. It was incredible. we enjoyed the 1st day so much , we went back for more the next day. The B girls were amazing, venue fabulous. Great time was had by all. Keep up the good work.

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