HARLEM — For its first global festival, the Apollo Theater looked to the next borough and then across the pond.
The Breakin' Convention, a London-based international dance theater festival, will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the Apollo Theater this weekend. Breaking, one of the four elements of Hip Hop culture, was founded 40 years ago in the Bronx.
The festival, normally held at London's Sadler's Wells Theater, will bring together artists from places as diverse as Brazil, Germany, France and South Africa.
Together, they will turn the Apollo into a hip-hop temple with DJs in the lobby spinning classic hip-hop anthems, graffiti artists producing artwork in the lobby and b-boys doing backspins underneath the marquee.
"I feel honored and humbled by this amazing opportunity to share the evolution of hip-hop dance culture with New York City," said The Breakin' Convention's artistic director Jonzi D, who will serve as master of ceremonies along with hip-hop legend MC Lyte.
"The Apollo Theater is without comparison the most hallowed stage in the world, and Breakin' Convention will represent."
The Apollo's Executive Director Mikki Shepard called the convention part of a "new vision" for the theater. She envisions hosting a global festival at least every other year.
"It has been a music house, now we are expanding the vision to include dance, theater and spoken word," said Shepard
But the Apollo is no stranger to either hip-hop artists or breakers. The theater has hosted some of the greatest names in hip-hop history such as Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Eric B. and Rakim. The Rock Steady Crew, one of foremost b-boy crews in the world, began performing at the Apollo in the 1980s.
"We are bringing hip-hop back to where it started. You hear many hip hop artists say they get more respect abroad than at home," said Shepard.
But breaking has grown to the point where it is now influencing contemporary dance, said Shepard.
"It may not have the same recognition and visibility as in street dance but the movements have been absorbed by these dance companies. It's there but it has become a part of the general culture," said Shepherd.
At the Breakin' Convention, artists are adding new dimensions to breaking with routines that tell stories just like modern dance performances. Jonzi D, a graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School, has been developing hip-hop theater since the 1980s.
"In terms of relevance, anyone that sees the program will connect. Even though it's a Korean artist or dancers from Brazil it looks like someone dancing on 125th Street," said Shepard. "The artists have taken to another level and they are telling stories through the work."
The Breakin' Convention will launch tonight with a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Lenox Ave., and continue through the weekend with varying events.