Eric B and Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique” was blaring from the boombox. It was a hot summer afternoon and graffiti artists had just painted a couple of murals in a neighbourhood parking lot. Two B-Boys stared each other down then jumped into the circle. They performed strings of steps, dove into windmills and ended with a climactic freeze. This is how Marisa Hoicka, a studio arts student at Concordia, remembers the day she first she felt the pull of breakdancing.
“One person kinda insulted the other to bring him into the circle,” Hoicka said. “I just loved that call-and-response, the exchange.”
Today, approximately five years later, Hoicka is bringing the dance-off to Concordia. She is re-launching and revitalizing the Concordia Breakdancing Club (CBC), this semester, with an expanded agenda that promises members challenging forms of communication, and also offers an in-depth look at the culture and history of B-Boying.
B-Boy Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli originally founded the group in the fall of 2005. Because of a lack of practice space, they stopped organizing events sometime during the following year. A devoted member of the CBC since its inception, Hoicka has decided to restart the group this year with the help of the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA). She has a slightly different focus.
“We want to educate people about the breakdancing and B-Boying culture,” she said. “Besides workshops, we’ll be holding movie nights and battles so that people can get a sense of what it’s really all about. It’s a demanding art form that builds your creativity, your character, and your self-esteem. It’s more than just fancy dance moves, it’s a lifestyle and there’s a history.”
Breakdancing, or B-Boying, as it used to be termed, is believed to be a convergence of three separate dance styles; up-rocking, a kind of non-contact mock martial art; pop-locking, a mixture of strutting and robotics, and body-popping, a dance that developed on the West Coast.
In its earliest stages in the 1970s, it was a way for rival gangs in the Bronx to mediate differences. They would meet in neutral areas the night before a rumble to perform a ritualistic dance-off. The winner was the one who came up with the most original moves, ones the challenger could not match. The winning group would choose the location for the rumble. Superior B-Boying moves require agility, speed, endurance, balance and strong upper bodies: the qualities of a threatening street fighter.
Hoicka pointed out that anyone who wants to understand Breakdancing and B-Boying, as it exists today, must focus on DJ Kool Herc, the American hip-hop artist and DJ widely recognized as being the father of hip-hop. As violence was quickly becoming a defining characteristic of B-Boys in the early seventies, Herc used music to spread a positive message and promoted an alternate, peaceful, B-Boying existence.
“I liked playing lyrics that were saying something. I figured people would pick up [a positive message] by me playing those records, but at the same time I would also say something with a meaningful message,” Herc said in a 1989 interview with rap/hip hop journalist Davey D.
He promoted solidarity through song and dance with free parties in and around the Bronx in the mid 1970s. Herc invited his B-Boying friends to attend. At these parties he used two copies of the same record to create a climatic break in songs; breaks that B-Boys would fill with their dance moves.
The term “breakdancing” refers the movement that accompanied these breaks. As one record reached the end of the break, Herc cued the other to the beginning, extending a small part of a record into what Davey D called, a ‘five-minute loop of fury.’ The break gave dancers an opportunity to enter the circle; a place where they could display their talents to friends and peers. Breakdancing was transforming into a communal display of artistic expression. The battles were, at this point, being preformed in a social, unthreatening atmosphere where the call-and-response aspect of B-Boying replaced a menacing pre-rumble ritual.
Hoicka says breakdancing is not easy. Besides the physical challenges needed to preform powermoves, it requires confidence and self-esteem to enter “the circle.” This is one of the focuses and challenges of the Concordia Breakdancing Club.
Hoicka said that if dancers are thrown into a circle and forced to dance in front of friends and strangers, they’ll quickly get over any insecurities.
“It really pushes your limits in so many ways,” Hoicka said. “When I first started, I was kinda shy. But now, I’m very comfortable with everyone. Guys, too.”
Hoicka said that the majority of interested beginners showing up at events have mostly been female. That is why, in order to support the rise of women in B-Girling and to give more opportunities for B-Boys and B-Girls to work together in groups, the CBC will organize a mixed-gender 4-on-4 battle on March 21 at La Sala Rosa. They are also looking for hip-hop artists, visual artists and performers to display their work at the event.
Break Out Events
March 4, 8 p.m.
Documentary: The Freshest Kids: A history of the b-boy.
Large screen showing in the EV building, Rm. 1.615
March 21, 9 p.m.
Breaking it Down, For the Love of Art and Hip-Hop:
A Major Breaking Battle/Arts Event at La Sala Rossa, 4848 St. Laurent.
A mixed gender 4-on-4 battle.
March 25, 8 p.m.
Canadian B-boy History Night w/ Scramblelegs:
A Screening of b-boy/b-girl videos from all over Canada over the Past 10 years. Large screen showing in the EV building, Rm. 1.615
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org