The sprawling gardens of Lady Hydari Park play host to breakdancing jams in the cold sunlight of Shillong afternoons. B-Boys gather every week to bust out their latest favourite moves as other visitors to the gardens occasionally send glances their way, ranging from surprised to delighted.
he B-Boying scene in the north-eastern states is different from metropolitan cities in many ways. B-Boy Mugen, who has been pushing B-Boying through cyphers and jams in Shillong for over five years now, shares, "We are much more laidback in our approach, and I think the place we live in affects our outlook towards B-Boying. It's less competitive here, and more about trying to fit into a new lifestyle that is a part of the dance form."
Usually immersed in their practice sessions and cyphers, B-Boys here bask in a spirit of mutual growth, based on their shared love for the dance form. Here are three B-Boys from Shillong who are spreading the art everywhere that you need to know.
James "Ronin Moi" Hrilliemmoi
B-boy Ronin Moi is tearing up the grass here© Upmanyoo Das
One of the most respected breakdancers in Shillong, James hails from Churachandpur in Manipur. It was when he picked up a copy of the film Step Up 2 at the local market that he was first introduced to breakdancing. He started picking up the moves he liked and practising them back in 2008. "I used to work in the paddy fields in Manipur, where I had been carrying really heavy packages since childhood, and that helped me build a lot of strength," he says.
After his move to Shillong in 2012, he heard about B-Boys practising in the Fire Brigade basketball court, where he was introduced to someone who's been a long-time proponent of the B-Boy culture in town — B-Boy Mugen. "I learnt a lot from him, and we would spend hours practising. For two years, I practised day in and day out, for up to nine hours a day."
"One of the biggest revelations has been that B-Boying is not just about the moves; it's also about keeping an open mind, learning from others in the community, and, ultimately, growing together," B-Boy Ronin Moi reflects.
nother highlight he mentions was Red Bull BC One 2015, which brought him to Mumbai for the first time. Around 400 B-Boys took part that year, and he recalls, "I crashed in one of my moves, and didn't end up qualifying. In cyphers like this, you have one shot — and if it's not good enough, you're out. I was very disappointed that day, but B-Boy Bunny of Roc Fresh Crew helped me back on my feet. I really look up to him."
B-Boy Ronin Moi has also won over 14 titles in the past few years, from the Cypherholics and Got Soul? jams in 2012 to the Fancy Street Stylez 2013 anniversary jam, to Teach Peace, B, O, C Arunachal and The Street in 2017.
A huge somersault from Ronin Moi © Upmanyoo Das
Follow B-Boy Ronin Moi on Facebook here.
Zorinkima "Mugen" Chhunthang
B-Boy Mugen ain't stuntin' on anyone © Upmanyoo Das
Known as Kim to his friends, B-Boy Mugen has been a powerhouse, instrumental in helping create and push the breaking scene in Shillong. "I've always had this spirit and joy flowing through me; as a kid, I would express that by jumping around, long before I knew about breaking as an art form," he tells us. "That's actually how the B-Boying subculture has evolved in Shillong, with a few guys getting together and trying out these moves we were fascinated by."
B-Boy Mugen started breaking back in 2010, and explains that it wasn't as systematic or refined a process back then. He recalls fondly, "Back in the day, we would all just be learning from each other, and honestly, we had some really wack moves. We would battle it out at birthday parties with the girls, which was fun. We also started watching music videos, and loved whatever Michael Jackson and Run DMC put out."
Describing himself as a "really hyperactive" kid, he has been taking all this energy and putting it out on the floor ever since. "I have put all my emotions out onto the floor, and drawn entire stories on it," he claims. "That's how I express myself. While breaking is said to have originated in the Bronx, I feel like this spirit of dance — this response to rhythm — is far older, and has been living in our souls for generations."
B-boy Mugen attempts a quick freeze in the garden © Upmanyoo Das
Deeply religious, the 22-year-old B-Boy explains that his faith as a Christian acts as a counterweight to B-Boying, so that he doesn't "lose himself in the art form". It is this, he underscores, that helps him maintain a balance in his life.
An organiser of the Cypherholics and Got Soul? Jams in Shillong, B-Boy Mugen has been deeply involved in the movement; while there have been a lot of defining moments, he zeroes in one from 2015.
"I was selected in the Top 16 to perform on Red Bull BC One," he relates. "It's a big platform, and it's every B-Boy's dream to get up there. I messed up in the final round; although I had practised a lot, I was really distracted and I approached the stage with a lot of pride. This loss taught me a lot, and gave me perspective. I've been working hard since, and I think I understand the art form much better now."
As one of the first B-Boys in Shillong, B-Boy Mugen has been one of the pioneers of the culture in a place that initially regarded it as a bit of an alien art form. "Back when I started out, there were certain people who really discouraged me initially," he shares. "I'd really like to thank these naysayers, because it helped me push myself to become better. Being one of the first few, I had to face quite a lot of public confusion about what exactly I was doing."
Follow B-Boy Mugen on Facebook here.
Daminot "Dizy" C Khriam
B-boy Dizy (centre) takes it easy© Upmanyoo Das
B-Boy Dizy took to dancing at the age of seven. As he grew up among a set of friends and peers older than him, he was nicknamed 'Lil D', and this eventually evolved to become his current B-Boy name. Dizy started breaking when he was 17, as a respite from the extreme pressure and depression caused by family issues.
Introduced to Hip Hop during his early teens, Dizy recalls his neighbour's uncle bumping Tupac in his jeep and immediately falling in love with it. "Hip Hop has definitely had a huge impact on my life," he says. "In short, it kind of my saviour. Through all the negativity I have gone through, it was the medium through which I was able to overcome depression. Life is a gift, and I feel like B-Boying has introduced me to heavenly experiences."
B-Boy Dizy has participated in some of the biggest festivals in Shillong, including 18 degrees , Shillong Midnight Festival, and Ka Mei Ramew Festival. He has also organised Dance For a Change, one of the first few hip hop jams in Shillong, and he is the founder of Hometown Love. Formed in 2011, it consists of a collective of artists (Hometown Rebels) with a serious commitment to Hip Hop.
B-Boy Dizy draws immense inspiration from his mother and grandmother, who were both amongst the earliest designers in town. "In Shillong, the traditional attire is called a Jainsem, so whenever I dance, I picture the floor as my Jainsem, and pen down my moves as designs drawn on it," he explains.
B-boy Dizy with his crew © Upmanyoo Das
There have been times when B-Boy Dizy has considered giving up on dancing altogether, especially when the negativity and peer pressure weigh heavy on him. "Thankfully, God has been on my side, and be it B-Boying or emceeing, hip hop is a big part of my life." Follow B-Boy Dizy on Facebook here.
India's best B-Boys will battle at this year's Red Bull BC One India qualifiers.
Written by Aditi Dharmadhikari