Finland's AT is paving the way as one of the most respected breakers on the b-girl scene. From the centre stage in a battle or as a firm fixture on the judging panel, she not only holds numerous championship titles but cut her teeth under one of the freshest day one breakers in the game – b-girl Taya. Inspiring generations of dancers alongside her and long after, b-girl AT reveals her take on the evolution of the b-girl scene.
What's the biggest change you've seen since starting on the scene?
I think the biggest change is that, when I started, of course there were not so many b-girls. I had a couple of role models, but there weren't a lot of b-girls. Today the level is going up and up all the time. It's crazy – there are so many good b-girls.
What would you change?
I think it's a good thing that you can have inspiration from the internet and that you can watch dancers from all over the world. But I think there should be a nice golden middle road. As much as you watch people online, you should also be present and really find yourself in these live events – in the battles and on the floor. Before we didn't have the internet. I went and experienced and learnt about breaking in real life, I didn't just do it through the screen. I hope in the future that comes back again so that b-girls and b-boys really get the right image and feel for the culture and the energy, and not just watching it on a screen.
What's been the most positive shift from then to now?
I feel because there was just a few b-girls on a high level dancing in the cyphers and in the battles against each other, when I started there was more rivalry among the girls. B-boys were more like comparing b-girls to each other. The b-girl scene is growing now, so it's not all about competition anymore. It's also about friendship and having a good time and supporting each other coming up. I see the vibe between b-girls is much more friendly nowadays, and there's much more love in the scene.
Do you think there's still an element of b-boys getting more representation that b-girls?
I think that's gone. I hope so anyway. I feel that sometimes the b-girl style is more appreciated and respected than other times. Sometimes the judges are still giving more value to the things that b-boys are good at. For example, b-boys are stronger so maybe they're able to do crazy moves, but sometimes b-girls are good in other ways: more funky and groovey footwork can be stronger and the musicality is better. I feel that it's important that the judges understand both of those perspectives and give equal value for them.
AT toprocking in the Netherlands. Photo: Nika Kramer
What are you looking for as as judge?
I want to see people showing their best sides when they dance no matter if it's that you're strong and you do crazy flying moves or if it's your musicality and it's all small details in your dance. I want to see that you make your own magic. Somehow you have to bring the magic to your dance, whether it's the flip or the big energy, or if it's the more soulful grooving in the footwork – but I want to see some magic!
How does it feel making the switch from the dancefloor to a seat on the panel?
I'm really happy that I've been invited to so many jams. I really appreciate it. I've been judging a lot of the big events and I think that's very important. I think maybe there's been a little bit of skepticism and maybe some organisers are a bit scared whether a b-girl is capable to do it. For me, that's why it's even more important to prove them wrong and be a strong role model. We have to show that we can do it and bring more opportunities so that there's more and more b-girls judging in the future.
Who was your biggest inspiration when you got into the scene?
Even though there weren't a lot of b-girls to look up too when I started, I was lucky because my teacher, b-girl Taya, was and still is one of the best b-girls. I was lucky to have her as a mentor, so I always had a role model next to me. From the beginning I saw that she's better than most of the b-boys, so that pushed me to be like, 'Ok I can do this too.' I was so lucky and I think not everybody had that back then, but I think Taya was influencing the whole world. A lot of b-girls who started the same time as me tell me that Taya was their teacher and their role model so she really influenced the whole world of b-girls and b-boys.
Have you felt pressure becoming such a huge role model to b-girls?
I feel like I'm still that same AT as I was 10 years ago, so I don't feel different. But sometimes I realise that many b-girls are looking up to me and I inspire them, so I feel like, 'Oh wow!' I have to show a good example. So many b-girls are watching me, and girls that maybe are only just deciding to become b-girls, so I have to be a good role model.
What's your advice for b-girls just getting in the game?
Start going to events! I think that's really important because if your only in the studio or (like I said before) online, you're not going to learn what the culture is about. If you go to the events, you really experience it and learn the most authentic part of what the breaking scene is all about. That's really really important. And you should practise hard and master your own style.
(Interview by Tracy Kawalik and B-Girl AT. Photos: Naim Chidiac/Red Bull Content Pool and Nika Kramer)