Breaking it right – Times of India

Chennai News

Chennai: Uvashree remembers when her life’s most defining moments occurred — her father’s sudden demise almost a decade ago, the diagnosis of her breast cancer in 2017 and the first time she started experiencing blackouts due to it. But the one thing she cannot recall is when she started getting drawn to breakdancing.
“I used to live near the Korean culture centre in Puducherry and I just remember watching back-to-back videos of Korean sensation Jungkook doing head spins. From a very young age, I knew this is what I wanted to do with life,” says the 20-year-old, who quit college about a year ago, came to Chennai and began learning the dance form from city breaker Bboy Sudeep aka Fanatic.
Now, she dreams of being able to compete at the international level. A dream that will hopefully come true soon as the International Olympic Committee announced last week that breakdancing will make its debut at the 2024 Olympics set to take place in Paris.
Uvashree’s commitment to breakdancing has only grown manifold since her health started deteriorating. “There are days when my body is in immense pain, and being able to dance gives me the determination to get back up on my feet,” says Uvashree.
Now, she has the clear goal in mind — to train every day and represent the country. Her trainer, Bboy Fanatic, runs the Freeze Academy of Dance and has been training her for a nominal fee. The team has, in fact, been uploading free tutorials in Tamil on YouTube for more than a year.
“Ever since we started, we have had a number of kids from poor backgrounds reach out to us to learn. With its inclusion in the Olympics, we are only expecting this number to grow and we also plan to conduct workshops and camps in government schools soon,” says Bboy Fanatic.
Breakdancing or breaking finds its roots in New York of the 1970s when black and Latino youth improvised a style of dance and gymnastics set to rhythm and blues music. It began as a language of their resistance and expression following the civil rights movement. Today, decades after it was born, breakers across the country believe that the street dance form with a spirited history may have gotten its due.
Dinesh Crusoe was part of the pioneering team of breakers at Chennai’s Fifth Element Dance Company in 2012. The team represented India at the Battle of the Year — a world cup of Bboying that was held in India for the first time in 2011, the finals of which were held in Chennai.
“When we started learning, it was around the end of 2008. We used to practice flips, head spins, basic footwork and swipes inspired from movies. Around the time of the championship in 2012, we started travelling to Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Sri Lanka where we learned the skills needed to participate internationally,” says Vijay.
Over the years, they have seen many young breakers from the state as well as the country training hard for championships like these. “As artists who learned it the hard way, we know that what these aspirants need is a dedicated space for practice, sponsors for travel, gears and medical support. Its inclusion in the Olympics will hopefully get us support from the National Olympic Committee and World Dance Sport Federation,” he says.
The move will also build awareness among people about the core strength and fitness training that breakdancing requires. “We believe breakdancing as a discipline is extremely versatile — it includes dance, physical fitness and music. It looks filled with stunts, but what people don’t see is kind of core strength you need to do a head spin or a freeze. To master any of these, you need at least three months of intensive practice and also mental agility. Breakers improvise to the beat on the spot. It is for these reasons that this dance form compliments hip-hop and is a big part of that culture,” says Bboy Noizy.
Breakdancing’s legacy as the art of the marginalised has the kind of cultural recognition that many youth from lower socio-economic backgrounds identify with even today.
Chennai’s Ranjitha Durairaj aka B-Girl Ra, who is one of the few women breakers from the city to have participated in championships nationally, believes the time has finally come for Tamil Nadu’s mostly underground breaking scene to get noticed. “There are so many youngsters who with their love for hip hop and breaking are learning and practising on their own. This will encourage them and other women like me to work harder, train publicly and get opportunities,” she says.