HONOLULU (KHON2) — The art and competition of a B-Boy jam is an adrenalin rush. And when we say competition, we mean the core of what being a B-Boy is all about.
Right now, you may be asking yourself, “what’s a B-Boy?” Well, it’s what we call men who breakdance competitively. And let’s not forget about the women, or B-Girls as they’re known. (We’re not talking about the 1980s Canadian punk band “B” Girls.)
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In Hawaiʻi, we have our very own B-Boy superstar. Honolulu’s Jack “Hijack” Rabanal currently holds the national bragging rights to being the number one B-Boy in the United States.
Breakdancing is now a worldwide phenomenon with competitors across the globe developing their skills and embarking on international competitions. If you’ve ever spent any time in Amsterdam, then you’ve seen the remarkable B-Boys that entertain — while also practicing their competitive edge — tourists on Leidseplein.
But where did breakdancing, B-Boys and B-Girls come from?
Breakdancing was developed in New York City’s Bronx borough amongst Hispanic and black youth. It’s a style of street dancing that integrates coordination, acrobatic skills and intricate body movements to create an adrenalin pumping experience whether you’re a competitor or a fan.
Breakdancing evolved from the hip-hop movement which began emerging during the early 1970s in the Bronx, and it has become one of the most widely known forms of hip-hop dance styles.
Much like we’ve seen in rap competitions that characterize various dance groups, breakdancing is highly competitive and relies on the top winners as its ambassadors.
According to Red Bull’s historical overview of the sport, “Breakdancing is thought to be inspired by the performances of James Brown. Street corner DJs would take the breaks of dance records and string them together to give dancers a chance to show off their moves. Breakers would choose elements from sports and other dances, including gymnastics, the Lindy Hop, capoeira, and disco.”
As a result, the highly competitive sport of breakdancing evolved and has made its way around the world as a serious, competitive sport.
KHON2.com was able to catch up with two Hawaiʻi residents who were breakdancers who lived, trained and competed in New York’s breakdancing scene in the 1990s and the aughts, Eugene Yu and Rochelle Ash.
For Eugene, his foray into competitive B-Boy dancing began when he was in high school in New Jersey.
“When I was a teenager in high school, I would watch breaking movies like Beat Street,” revealed Yu. “I would get inspired and want to try to do the moves that I saw in those movies. I would go to high school parties in New Jersey, and they would have these times where a [dance] circle would break out in the party. They would play, like, breakbeats, which is what B-Boys dance to break loose.”
He went on to explain that he and his friends would battle and have fun. It was during this time that Yu experienced his first real competition.
“I went to my first real, B-Boy gym in the Bronx in, like, 1997,” said Yu. “The jam was thrown by the [breakdancers] that were in those old movies I used to love — B Street, Little Deuce Coupe, Rock Steady Crew. They would do this jam in the Bronx, and I went to get inspired. They were, like, in their early 30s; but you know, they were, like, teenagers when they first started. But they were, like, still amazing and doing crazy footwork.
It was during this experience that Yu said he discovered the artistry that is a core component of a really good breakdancer. The way B-Boys would connect with the music inspired Yu in his quest to become the best.
In their connection to the music, Yu said the dancers were inspirational and showed him how expressive he could be in his own breakdancing. So, he went back home and formed his own crew of breakdancers. They called themselves the Rock With Finesse or RWF for short.
For Ash, she had a different experience. Ash was a classically trained dancer when she first discovered breakdancing and the competitive world of B-Girls.
“I have more of a dancer background. I started breakdancing probably towards the end of my classical career; I guess you could say my competitive dancing began then,” revealed Ash. “So, like, I didn’t start breaking until, like, probably 15 years ago. I wouldn’t say that I’m part of the scene, not like Eugene. I’m a dancer, like, a hip-hop dancer.”
Both Yu and Ash create choreography were part of breakdancing crew together known as the Infamous Zebra Mob or IZM for short. One was trained in school while the other was trained on the streets and in gyms.
Yu and Ash did confess that sometimes breakdancers do have “beef” with other dancers and do compete to resolve the issue, like in movies. They said it’s a great way to deal with frustration and aggression.
“It’s a way to perfect to express yourself and use aggression in your expression but not have to resort to, like, you know, beating people up,” explained Yu. “It’s like taking that aggression and turning it into something positive.”
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So, don’t forget that Jack “Hijack” Rabanal is competing in the Red Bull BC One World Final taking place in Paris on Oct. 21. We’re rooting for you, Hijack!