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Jonzi D: keeping it real

Jonzi D’s latest piece looks at how hip hop has changed in 30 years. We sort the old school from the new

When B-boy, MC and director Jonzi D discovered hip hop in the early 1980s, it was a strictly underground culture. ‘There was a sense of exclusivity back in the day,’ he says. ‘It was such a marginal thing. It was almost like a secret society.’ Thirty years later, hip hop dance is thoroughly mainstream, all over primetime TV and used to sell everything from mobile phones to mineral water. In the meantime, Jonzi has pioneered UK hip hop theatre, a hybrid form of dance, music and spoken word, and his latest show features a new piece, ‘Broken Lineage’, that looks at the break between hip hop’s older and younger generations. For example…

Old school: Dancing on a square of lino in Covent Garden and being scorned by all the ballet and jazz dancers from nearby Pineapple Dance Studios.

New school: Teaching packed hip hop classes at Pineapple Dance Studios, which all the ballet and jazz dancers want to join.

Old school: Tracksuits, Adidas shell toes (with fat laces), Kangol hats and Triple F.A.T. Goose leather puffa jackets.

New school: Skinny jeans, visible bum cracks, leather kilts (thanks Kanye). And tattoos. Everywhere.

Old school: Popping, breaking and classic moves like the Running Man, the Fresno and the Cabbage Patch (think Carlton from ‘The Fresh Prince’, and if you get that reference you’re definitely old school).

New school: Routine-based ‘street dance’ – a generic term scoffed at by purists – which snatches elements from locking, popping, breaking, waacking, vogueing, krumping, house and anywhere else.

Old school: James Brown, James Brown, James Brown. The Sugarhill Gang – ‘Apache’. Extra T’s – ‘ET Boogie’.

New school: David Guetta. Trap music (dirty 808-heavy EDM). Pop and R ’n’ B.

Old school: Working a day job. Or going to college. Hanging out in east London dancing in shopping centres and youth clubs.

New school: Working on ‘The X Factor’. Or a Cheryl Cole video. Hanging out in east London dancing in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

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