Ahead of their performance at Front Row Festival, we sat down with award-winning collective 155- eenvijfvijf, a band of misfit friends who combine their two loves: motorbikes and breakdance. Catch them at Skatecafe for a genre-bending show exploring masculinity, machinery and life on the open road.
Hey guys! So let’s start at the top. How did you meet each other?
155 met in our hometown of Wageningen. We started dancing together as part of a breakdance crew there, and are now still creating, touring performances and other work with those same people. We have been together now for about 18 years.
The movement and music let us transform from masculine to feminine, disordering the binaries and associations. We’re strong, but also fluid and vulnerable
And why “155”?
Basically, we were called “iLL Skill Squad” (which we found to be gangster haha) and started shortening it to ISS. Then when we started splintering off more and more from the original iLL Skill Squad we changed ISS to 155, which you can kinda read the same way.
So what exactly do you have planned for us at Skatecafe?
Last Summer we took 8000 km journey through Europe, riding our motorbikes together with a speaker and some costumes, going to festivals, campsites and cities, where we performed a short breakdance/theatre show called Trip, an excerpt of Motors, (our 75-minute theatre show that we’ll be touring around the country). Trip is about us and our manly hobbies (breakdancing and motorcycling) but it’s is also an exploration of childishness, being wild and free.
We’re a bunch of guys approaching thirty, having to make choices in terms of babies, career, love and money … becoming more different every year, and growing up without realising
Wow, it sounds so romantic: the motorbike, the open road. How was it?
It went really well! Actually, we’ve been doing road trips for years now. So we have lots of experience with vehicles breaking down, people breaking down, and finding a way to fix both of them. It is not always easy, because we often combine business and pleasure. The performances partly finance these trips. With great travelling power comes great responsibility, and we have to film, dance and build to make it all happen. But once you’re out on the road, there’s a tremendous amount of freedom. All you have to worry about is where the next camping-spot will be, hopefully, one with a mountain lake, stars, deer and enough wood for a campfire to roast your freshly caught fish (ok, the last one is a lie! We have never caught a fish haha…)
There’s a tension between fragility and power in your work. Is this a comment on masculinity?
Yeah, that’s a really central part of Trip. We try to present a good balance of ridiculousness, and depth and seriousness, centred around the themes of authenticity, group vs individual, imaginary vs. “real”. The movement and music let us transform from masculine to feminine, disordering the binaries and associations. We’re strong, but also fluid and vulnerable. We probably have the same insecurities and doubts about ourselves that every man does. Are we “manly” enough, do we exhibit self-confidence and leadership like the men we look up to? 155 is a space where everything is accepted and nothing is taboo; we’re powered by love and friendship, and that helps us to not get stuck on self-image, or being “cool”.
It’s about carrying forward that playful approach to the world
How did you establish the link between breakdance and motorcycling?
In the same way that we establish links in all our shows: they are both part of our lives! Motors is about riding motorcycles, but it is also about where we are now in life, partly in, and partly outside of the system. We’re a bunch of guys approaching thirty, having to make choices in terms of babies, career, love and money, wanting to stay children, wanting to stay together, but also wanting a life for ourselves, becoming more different every year, and growing up without realising.
So, what do you want your audience to take with them from Trip?
We hope that we inspire people with essential ingredients of our shows that are always there: fun, truth, authenticity, movement and togetherness. And we hope those elements will stay in people’s minds and bodies because they are things we always search for; the things we think are missing in our world and are very important. That’s why we also make shows for our generation, and those who are younger, the people who might be able to make a difference someday and create space for other people to experience. It’s about carrying forward that playful approach to the world whilst reflecting on your circumstances and questioning where you want to be.
Front Row Festival takes place on 28 September at various locations in Amsterdam Noord. Free for Subbacultcha members.