8 Indian B-Boys Trace the Journey of the Dance Form

Competitors perform at the Red Bull BC One Cypher 2015 in Mumbai, India

“What appeals most to me about the art form is its rawness and the freedom to just let go and express a side of you which I never thought existed.”

 B-Boy ET (Guatam Jeevan)

 

The brewing excitement in the days leading up to Red Bull BC One’s 2016 edition in India is tangible. As the four cities where events will take place prep for the event, we caught up with some of the leading B-Boys in the country. Here, we dig a little deeper and speak to the most dedicated of the lot that has been pushing this form for years now about how the art form came to India and how it has been evolving over the years. Some of the country’s best B-Boys offer advice for the next generation. Read on for more.  

Sumit Suvarna, Beast Mode (Mumbai)

B-Boy Ninja is one of the most iconic names in Indian breaking history, having organized one of the first jams in the country back in 2006. Having trained in New York and California to learn the authentic form of breaking, he is an inspiration for many aspiring B-Boys and B-Girls. 

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
There was no one when we started, and when we would practice on the roads, people used to think we were doing kung fu (laughs). I used to practice outside my house, and a lot of kids would come and watch. Over time, the acceptance grew, especially thanks to the shows on MTV and the Red Bull BC One which opened up B-Boying to a much wider audience.  

In Bangalore, the scene was pretty young, and the scene was brought over by kids from Dubai. B-Boy Hotshot is a name you can’t ignore, who kicked off the scene in Kolkata, and Kim Mogen from Shillong has fought hard for opportunities in a place where resources are scarce. 

In Delhi, Heera has been a staunch supporter of b-boying, and has been a mentor to several of the leading B-Boys of today. In Mumbai, Gautam ET Jeevan is leading the game. He started off as India’s first popper, and now he’s a B-Boy, too.

Social media has also changed a lot, making it easier for aspiring B-Boys to work on their techniques in a way we couldn’t do before. 

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
Just create, don’t imitate. The best dancers have got their own unique styles. Indians need to find their own. We have just been blindly copying other styles, and that’s why we’re not growing. 

Gautam Jeevan, Freak n Stylz (Mumbai)

B-Boy ET got into B-Boying when he came across a music video featuring the art form, by RUN DMC, and there’s been no looking back since. He has been a dedicated student of the art, constantly researching the origins of the dance form. He's also one of the first members of Freak n Stylz Crew, the first crew to be formed in India, which is now nine years old. They were closely followed by the UDK crew, as the second ones in the country, with Paritosh at the helm.

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began 
The scene began with no more than five to six B-Boys back when I started. It has grown to thousands across the country now.We had one or two jams back in the day which we organized ourselves and called friends and fellow B-Boys to support us. And now, there are major events with international judges happening every month.

The biggest shortcoming for B-Boying in the country, in all honesty, is that 90% of the B-Boys are in their teens or early 20s so they are exploited by corporate houses, Bollywood, event organizers etc. They’re also not paid well as most B-Boys are often just hunting to make a quick buck, and this is what destroys the market completely.

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
Never forget why you started dancing — it was never to win competitions but for a feeling you get when you dance which makes you happy.

Respect the B-Boys who have paved the way for you — if it wasn't for them, you probably wouldn't have been attracted to the art in the first place.

Know your worth — if you want to make money through B-Boying, command it through your skills and behavior. Don't be a sellout.

Kim Mugen, Tribal Beatz Crew (Shillong)

B-Boy Kim started off as one of the core members of Mizoram’s Tribal Beatz Crew, and has been a pioneer and promoter of B-Boy culture in the North-Eastern states. His zeal for breaking gives him a sense of purpose and strength he builds on every day, and he’s been going strong for more than five years. 

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
Well, in a worldly perspective, it has grown. Jams and shows happen on a far more regular basis compared to the time I started out. The B-Boy movement is a complex and highly expressive one, and the number of participants has been growing in this culture.

Hip Hop can sometimes have a very negative impact as well, with gang culture and drug use influence. I just don't want my brothers to go down a path they will regret; this dance should be for spiritual growth and lead into the direction of Truth.

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
Find yourself, seek truth.

Be careful in following false role models and false doctrines of this culture.

Seek the Holy Spirit and the bible for advice.

Matthew 4:4 Man does not live on food alone but by every word of God.

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Naser Azzeh, Black Ice Crew (Bangalore)

B-Boy Nas was inspired to try breaking because of videos he came across on YouTube that had gone viral. With a lot of hard work and determination, his crew started imitating what they saw and have now developed their own styles and started to create their own moves.  

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
The scene in India was very small eight years ago, and we have come a long way since then. Personally, I feel Bangalore welcomed this culture in with open arms, as we have the highest number of jams happening per year in India. It's growing quickly and it isn't gonna slow down any time soon!

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
Take your time to learn the foundation of the dance and the history because that's the most important thing. 

Everything has to be built strong from the start. 

Give everything you have to Hip Hop, and Hip Hop will return great things to you in the future!

Likith Achaiah, Black Ice Crew (Bangalore)

First introduced to B-Boying in high school by a student who had returned to India from Dubai, Likith got into the art much later. With Black Ice Crew being formed in 2008, his passion for the art form grew, and some important challenges he’s faced along the way include the lack of studio space to practice, family support and adequate training and guidance. 

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
The scene has evolved exponentially. Dancers are well connected through social media, and there are many events and jams that happen all across the country which help dancers grow.Shortcomings in the space would include a lack of investors, promoters and sponsors for privately-organized jams. 

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
Train hard and also take your time to understand the dance and culture. 

Try to be original. 

Don't forget to warm up before practice.

Jayanta Samaddar, Break Guruz (Kolkata)

B-Boy Hotshot believes he isan artist first, then a dancer, then a B-Boy. Art came first, then dancing in general (inspired by Michael Jackson), and eventually, he discovered breaking in 2008, when he was 16. Completely self-taught, he started out at a time when there were no more than 10-15 B-Boys, and Break Guruz, the crew he co-founded, is one of the first crews of India formed in June of 2008. 

“What I like about the crew is, we don't just share dance and go back home. We share life, as B-Boys and beyond B-Boys. To me, that is the essence of the philosophy of the B-Boy... we don't just break, but we live life with that philosophy of a B-Boy. That is what Break Guruz means.” 

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
Hailing from a small town called Bhadreshwar, 40 kms from Kolkata, I had to fight societal stereotypes. I think a reason why my B-Boy style is the way it is, is because I have fought these stereotypes all my life. 

We carried a rivalry with Freak n Stylz crew, a score which needed to be settled. So, we travelled to Mumbai in 2009 to battle them, along with other B-Boys from Chandigarh and Jalandhar. To me, this is the single most important event in Indian B-Boy history. For the first time, B-Boys of India travelled across cities and states for Hip Hop, out of curiosity to know about other B-Boys, and to test our skills against theirs.

Teaching myself was also a challenge, but that hunger that arose out of the energy of the dance and love for Hip Hop music saw me through. I trained eight hours a day and I believe I'm just getting better and evolving. Now, I pop as well.

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
There is a lack of diversity, and many B-Boys are similar to some famous B-Boys. Originality thrives in isolation. I don't mean to say be physically isolated, but mentally you should reject the impulse to do what others are doing.

You need to pause and dig deep. Indian B-Boys, grew up in a different environment than the original B-Boys in the Bronx. Unless you dig deep, you cannot accurately represent that idea that you want to represent in the first place.

Study great artists. To bring something new to the table, you need to look outside the table. Do something apart from breaking to draw inspiration from. Play an instrument, a sport, anything.

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Naresh Gopal, Third Eye Crew (Chennai)

B-Boy Nash kicked off his career as a professional dancer when he was 16, inspired by watching B-Boy Gonza from 99 Flavour, Thailand, and he cites B-Boy Bunny (Roc Fresh Crew) as his inspiration closer to home, along with Pravin and Bala from Fifth Element Crew, Chennai. He flew to Thailand, Malaysia and Bangkok for professional training, to which he dedicated a few years, and then started his own crew in India, the Third Eye Crew.

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
Though B-Boying isn’t a part of Indian dance traditionally, people here are so interested in and crazy about this style. Even the less-educated people who have had less exposure, perhaps from a lower socio-cultural strata, are showing more interest towards this style, and I’m sure this is going to reach Himalayan heights.  

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
No break to break.

Be disciplined on the floor, and a Charlie Chaplin among all.

Follow the creator, not the creation. 

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Bharat Rajodiya, Tandav (New Delhi)

B-Boy Rawdr’s fascination of B-Boying grew from the first time he came across the dance form. His crew Tandav was formed in 2010, with six other co-founding members from different areas of the capital. 

On how the B-Boy scene in India has evolved since he first began
I feel it is now that India is really being put on the map, in terms of B-Boying. The Internet has really made a great difference and given us a platform to discover as well as show the world our skills. Freaknstylz and Roc Fresh Crew have been doing some great work since 2006, and that’s how I discovered the art form. 

When we started out, we had to find like-minded people without any sort of reference. The only thing we had was Orkut, and we used that to network to a certain extent. We were among the first to organize jams in the city, and now, we have massive competitions like Red Bull BC One; the change is immense.  

Some advice for the new generation of B-Boys
There is no originality. The only reason India is being held back is because the new generation is only aping the styles of other. Korea, for example, has a B-Boy scene that flourished in five years. We need to work on our own unique styles to really make an impact.Don’t do it if you just want to imitate others. There are a few kids who are crazy and original, and I’m counting on them to carry the legacy forward. 

Text by Aditi Dharmadhikari