Hip Hop Connects: Interview with Nick Power
Cypher by Nick Power is a new production by leading Australian hip hop dancer and choreographer Nick Power. Bringing together some of the most exciting b-boys in this highly anticipated show, Cypher is more than just a battle.
We spoke to Nick about his dance practice, and how he used hip hop as a tool to bring communities together.
Can you describe your dance practice?
I started out in my hometown of Toowoomba in Queensland. I would practice alone, learning off old school breakdance movies such as Beat Street (1984) and testing my skills against rival dancers at school socials. Since those glory days, I spent many years as a battle b-boy representing my old crews Gravity Warriors and Rapid Fire. I have also been teaching in various contexts since the late 90’s, often working with a specific community, using b-boying and hip hop as a tool to connect. Over the past ten years I have been focusing on creating performances using breaking and hip hop dance styles.
My vision is to create work that is rooted in hip hop culture, that gives audience insights into the depth of our form using its rituals, language and energy to communicate and challenge. Breaking was born out of battles, block parties and cyphers, it has a raw and wild energy. That’s what I’m interested in.
Can you tell us a bit about Platform Hip Hop Festival?
Platform is an event the hip hop community is proud of. For me this is the festival’s greatest achievement. It was a large scale event and at its peak, ran for over three weeks. It featured some of Australia’s most established and recognised hip hop artists in all elements as well as international guests. Festival events included a graff battle, photographic exhibitions and movie screenings, b-boy, b-girl and popping battles, International hip hop theatre shows, music events, workshops and an Indigenous hip hop jam at ‘The Block’ in Redfern, Sydney. People came from around Australia and the world.
For me it was about getting all the elements of hip hop together under one roof and giving them a Platform to shine, showing the wider community who we are and what we do. The festival was held at Carriageworks from 2008 – 2012.
How did you come to create Cypher?
Cypher was inspired by my history as a b-boy stepping into that circle for the past 20 years. I wanted to pay homage to this ritual that has given me so much. The idea came to me during my residency in Paris in 2012. I went to this underground jam called “Just for Rockers” and there were over 300 b-boys and b-girls all jamming in cyphers. Everyone was a participant, there wasn’t an audience as such. This wasn’t about a big-time battle where there were judges or the winner would get the cash. This wasn’t a slick showcase, this was about the community — a sharing with your peers.
I started to think about how important the ritual of the cypher is to our community and the language that exists within it. It really grew from there. I’m very proud of the show and I got to work with most incredible b-boys to create it.
Your work has a focus on community engagement. Can you describe why Hip Hop seems to speak to a diverse audience?
I think hip hop gives a voice to those who otherwise might not have one. A way of expression where you don’t have to conform to a definite structure, whether that be a dance studio or a classroom. It gives you that freedom to create. There is a strong foundation and history but really it’s about your style, your story and what you can bring to the table. Beyond this, hip hop is just an incredibly magnetic artform. Take breaking for example, there really aren’t many people who wouldn’t want to watch a high-level b-boys or b-girls throw-down.
Myself and the crew are looking forward to rocking our show Cypher at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Hope to see all you good people down there. It really is a lot of fun.
Cypher by Nick Power opens Thursday 27th September at Footscray Community Arts Centre Performance Space.
Nick and his crew will also be running cypher workshops on Saturday 29th August.
Image supplied by Nick Power