BENGALURU: It may have been 10 years since Shane Mendes took up breaking but scepticism from loved ones is still something the dancer battles. This, however, need not be the story that other b-boys and b-girls (dancers who participate in breaking) may have to face, says the 29-year-old who arrived in Bengaluru from Goa in 2012.
Mendes is referring to the recent announcement by the International Olympic Committee about breaking making an official entry in the competitive lineup at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. “Maybe down the line, the coming generations will have many more opportunities and less resistance towards taking them up,” says Mendes, who besides being a full-time b-boy, also runs a venture, Streetfitmovement, which combines breaking with fitness.
The announcement, though new, is one the community has been looking forward to for some years now, especially since it debuted at the Youth Olympics Games in 2018. With it now being included for the 2024 games, b-boy Naser Al Azzeh hopes the recognition doesn’t just give breaking attention, but the right kind of it. “Sometimes you see videos where they use the wrong terms for breaking or moves associated with it. There are also reality shows where judges who don’t even know the art form critique a participant performing it,” says Azzeh, who is also the co-founder of one of the city’s first breaking crews, The Black Ice Crew, which was formed in 2008.
Breaking, explains Johanna Rodrigues (b-girl Jo), is the movement element of hip-hop and combines aesthetics, art, style and technique. Its inclusion in the Olympics can only be a win-win situation for everyone, says the 24-year-old. “The Olympics committee wanted a youth-centric event and for the dance form in India, this stamp of approval might help increase professional opportunities and provide dancers with another mode of income,” says Rodrigues, who is the co-founder of the studio space Break Brahma.
She was also the winner of one of the RedBull India B-girl Cypher in 2019. While no accurate count exists, Rodrigues estimates the number of b-girls in the competitive scene to be very few and hopes the tally goes up with breaking gaining more legitimacy by the International Olympics Committee.
Dancers in India can now get over three-and-a-half years to practise, but this by no means is an easy feat. “It may seem like fun but there’s a lot of time, effort and consistency one will have to bring in to compete at such a level,” says Mendes. Rodrigues adds, “Skill wise, the Olympics is well within our reach, India has many dancers who are genuinely good. But where we could use support is nutrition and physiotherapy. With breaking entering the Olympics, maybe we can get more resources for this.”
Back to the beginning
Breaking was born in the Bronx borough of New York City in the ’70s. Started by those in the African American and Latino communities, the dance form was an outlet for the youth to stay away from violence, crime and drugs. “Breaking may have influences from different genres of dance and martial arts but it has its own DNA as well,” explains b-boy Naser Al Azzeh. A breaking battle usually has a face-off between two dancers, who are judged on musicality, character, style, difficulty of movement, etc. Though competitive, the winner at the end of the day, is the spirit of community, he says. “We may battle each other but at the core of breaking lies principles of peace, love and unity. We just want to have fun and celebrate hip-hop,” adds Azzeh.