The movers & shakers

Surekha Kadapa-Bose Mar 12 2018, 11:41 IST
Mumbai-based B-boying group freaknstyle

It's the current fad among teenagers and youth. All over the world, on the streets, in colleges, outside museums, in posh localities, slums, films and advertisements, you will find young boys and girls jumping, doing backflips, hopping on their arms, spinning on their heads and what not!

For a moment, you think, "They are a crazy bunch!" A second look, and you realise that they are anything but crazy. Ask them if they are gymnasts or acrobats, and they politely but firmly correct you, "We are dancers. We are b-boys (break boys) and b-girls (break girls)! We are breakers." And you say "Touché" and sheepishly accept being corrected.

Just like all teenagers, they are attired in casual loose trousers, long-sleeved tees and comfortable sneakers. Some might have funky hairstyles. They might sport tattooed arms but currently, the biggest trend among girls and boys is to flaunt their inked bodies.

What sets these kids apart is their swag, confidence, discipline and toned bodies. They move with a graceful gait to a silent beat of their own, and even when you call out, they whirl towards you in a very fluid movement.  They are not arrogant. Like any other teenager, even they use the present-day profanities when they are with their own people. But with others, they are courteous, helpful and warm.

Currently, this dance form has become almost a 'must' in every college fest, from IITs to other institutions. "We are invited to perform even at corporate events and as backup performers in film, TV and advertisement shoots,'' explains Mumbai-based 28-year-old
Valerian Ranpise, aka b-boy Virus, the co-founder of Underdog Kombat group.

Letting loose

B-boying/b-girling is the new form of the athletic kind of street dance which entered Indian shores about a decade ago. The dance form is known as 'breaking' and performers are known as 'breakers'. They categorically educate you that they are different from 'breakdancing' or 'break dancers'. Every performer adopts a moniker like b-boy Godhand, Wildchild, Evil Monk, Flying Machine, Virus, ET, etc, and if it's a girl, which is quite rare, then they use monikers like b-girl Jo, Ayumi and many others. There is another trademark of the breakers. They always dance in a gang and very rarely operate alone. Breakers usually battle! That is when two dancers from opposite groups try to outperform each other in turns. And these battles are competitive but friendly.

With a smile in his voice, another 28-year-old Bengaluru-based Naser Azzeh aka B-boy Nas of Black Ice crew, says, "Because of its worldwide popularity, this dance form is now included in summer Youth Olympics Games of 2018 in Buenos Aires."

The International Olympic Committee felt that this is one of the best ways to attract more youth in the age group of 14-18 years as the dance form has caught the attention of the youth the world over. And about clubbing the performance-based event in Olympic Games, they feel, "Breaking is a unique sport that embodies music and expression through movement to music."

Down on the ground

In fact, a couple of b-boys from India were also selected to try for the qualification rounds for this Olympics. They couldn't pass the muster. "In India, breaking is just 10 years old, whereas in the world, it's more than 50 years old.The pioneers in India like the Underdog Kombat, Black Ice and P.S.D. (Project Street Dance) crew were initially YouTube learners. Sometimes, we fell, sometimes, we got injured, but we learnt and now we have reached a stage where we have started teaching youngsters. We conduct workshops, classes, judge shows, and beginners watch our YouTube videos and learn," says Delhi-based Pranjal Rawat aka b-boy Godhand.

Breaking has four fundamental moves. 'Top rock' deals with swift foot movement in a standing position. Very rhythmic, highly co-ordinated, flexible enough for every dancer to present his or her own style. 'Down rock' is where the body is supported by hands, feet, and displays the expertise of the performer in the combination of footwork that he dances. 'Freezing' is halting all body movements, whether it's about balancing on hands, head, shoulder, arms or foot in a single frame between high-speed performances (it needs real expertise). 'Power moves' is the combination of all the three moves mentioned above at a high speed and is usually the centrepiece of any performance.

"Every breaker knows the fundamentals, but each of us innovates and expresses moves in our own way. In my case, I am a trained contemporary dancer and a yoga instructor. I try to give an Indian touch, especially when I freeze performing a hand mudra or holding my legs in an asana,'' explains Bengaluru-based Johanna Rodrigues aka b-girl Jo of Black Ice crew.

Others too have something unique like b-boy GodHand is excellent with his forearms hopping, b-boy Nas freezes in gravity-defying positions, whereas b-boy Virus is aggressive in his battles. "When we judge a breaker's battles, we see what unique touch the performer gives, besides the deftness of the foot movement, or the speed with which they move,'' says b-boy Virus.

For some reason, breaking hasn't yet become very popular among girls. Even the world over, there are fewer b-girls. The dance form requires strengthening core muscles of all the body parts, especially torso, legs, wrists, arms and neck. It's quite a daunting task.

Famous contemporary dancer, choreographer, TV dance reality show judge and actor Terence Lewis cautions, "Without proper training or practice, the injury levels are very high in this form. A bad fall on the back might have very bad repercussions. Training by watching on YouTube isn't one of the best and safe options."      

Even though this form has become a worldwide phenomenon, parents worry about the future prospects of their kids. "Where is the future for any performing artistes till they become famous?'' query the breakers. "We get paid for our performances at college fests, film or ad shoots, and when we judge events. Besides, now that it is gaining popularity slowly, even in India, sponsors are coming forward. By next decade, we will prosper as breakers!'' they all assure.

Also, many of them are employed simultaneously. They are all educated and earn their keep when they are not performing or practising. Some are accountants, engineers, yoga instructors, breaking teachers, etc.

So, the traditional classical and folk dance forms have got a tough competition from breaking. But we audience are the lucky ones!

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