In Part 3 of this four-part series, we peer into the future of break dancing and see what happens when a cypher reaches critical mass.
- Part I: Welcome To The World of Break Dancing
- Part II: Your Style Is Defined By Your Story
- Part III: Let’s Go To The Moon and Back
- Part IV: It’s Not What People See, It’s What They Don’t
An art form that has long been niche will be coming to the forefront in less than two years. Breaking will be on the global stage in 2024 when it debuts as an event at the Olympics in Paris.
KydSteez, Logistix, and every other b-boy and b-girl will have the opportunity to showcase their identity to the sports world. It will mark the opportunity of a lifetime for many who never could have dreamed to perform on such a stage.
But is breaking an art form or a sport?
Are the Olympics even a good thing for the world of breaking?
Just how much commercialization is too much commercialization for a scene that has its roots in the underground world of hip hop?
Those are the questions that were asked in Seattle, and answers ranged from those who were totally in support of the increased media attention to others who were skeptical and almost bitter.
Cobi, another one of the 16 b-boys participating in the cypher, believes this is an essential step toward growing the community. “I love it,” Cobi proclaimed when asked his thoughts on breaking being at the Olympics. “Why not be recognized at the highest level of competition? What’s bigger than the Olympics?” Born Jacobi Mitchell, Cobi was born in Texas before moving to Sacramento later in his life. He gained inspiration for his breaking career from three unlikely sources: professional wrestling, circus acts, and old Black TV shows. He cites groundbreaking shows like Soul Train as a source for his love of dance. In the present day, Cobi is a full-time dad who balances his breaking lifestyle with his parental duties and budding career as a butcher. The morning I spoke to him, Cobi was on FaceTime with his family while getting in a workout before the event. He puts in extra work at his day job to make sure he gets off days for his competitions, all the while training to stay in pristine physical shape. Such is the life of a b-boy.
hat’s anything without growth? Should we have it stay the same forever, or should we see how much this thing can grow? Let it go to the moon and back. Why not?”
Cobi believes that the world of breaking must continue to evolve and he sees the Olympics as a crucial course of action toward achieving that end goal.
“What’s anything without growth?” Cobi asked. “Should we have it stay the same forever, or should we see how much this thing can grow? Let it go to the moon and back. Why not?”
He believes that this beautiful sport should be shared with the outside world. Forget being underground, the more people’s eyes on the community the better. “Why try to keep it for ourselves?” Cobi asked again. “The positive energy from a cypher can change people’s lives. It’s like medicine. It keeps you young and feeling good.”
Cobi isn’t alone in his belief as KydSteez shares a similar ideology. He sees the Olympics as a way to further brand yourself and as a platform for underprivileged people to help develop financial independence.
In other words, “haters gonna hate baby,” he said with a smile. “What is your goal if not to spread the culture?” He understands that respect should be paid to tradition, but he also claims that “tradition can be overbearing.”
There are conflicting thoughts on the matter, however, and CrissyB falls under the more traditionalist banner. She doesn’t see breaking as a sport. She cringes at the mere mention of the words “sport” and “athlete” in relation to breaking. To her, it’s an art form, through and through. She considers herself a purist, in that respect. “I don’t consider myself an athlete,” she told me. “I consider myself an artist. I like to go and create.”
She does reiterate that this is just her “personal preference,” though. CrissyB believes that both sides can coexist and she would love to see a common ground be reached. While she believes the Olympics can help generate some buzz around the community and inspire new people to join, she’s worried that the art form may be straying away from its roots. She preached the importance of remembering and paying homage to those roots at the Olympics.
“I want [the Olympians] to come back to these community events. I hope they still involve themselves in the community they helped start.”
Despite the skepticism, CrissyB is excited about the potential growth of the breaking world and how it might impact the b-boys and b-girls on the scene. “The scene is much bigger than outsiders think it is,” she says. “There are politics, big competitions, and huge opportunities for brands to get involved and really invest in people.”
So is breaking a sport or an art form? The beauty is in the eye of the breaker, but I think Cobi summed it up best when he said, “It’s an expressive sport. We’re artistic athletes.”
Artistic athletes, indeed.
The Friday night cypher was an experience like no other, truly.
The event was a melting pot of creativity made possible by the unbelievable “artistic athletes” in attendance. The lights were dimmed around the arena with a spotlight directed at the dance floor. It was a night of triumph for two special performers, but as for our four protagonists, their nights ended without a trophy.
CrissyB was eliminated in the first round after a tiebreaker battle didn’t go her way. She had a smile on her face the entire time. There were no signs of disappointment — she was just happy for her peer. She had her fellow b-girl’s back. In the end, she was the warm, welcoming face that she aspired to be.
KydSteez managed to advance to the quarter-finals where he was eventually eliminated. His opponent was aggressive and showy, often getting in KydSteez’s face during the battle. KydSteez didn’t taunt his opposition. Most of the time, he wasn’t even looking at him. He was there to perform. To showcase his brand. His identity. He may have lost, but he accomplished his mission. This is only the beginning for KydSteez. His story is still being told.
Cobi also made it to the second round before he was eliminated. His approach was different than perhaps any other performer at the cypher. While waiting for his opponent, Cobi stood almost completely still, hands in his pockets with a stoic look on his face. He was casual yet concentrated on the task at hand. There was no taunting back at his adversary. He hardly even acknowledged him. Then, like the flip of a switch, Cobi went into dance mode and busted out moves that would make Michael Jackson weep with joy. He worked the crowd and was the preferred favorite of those in attendance, but the judges didn’t agree. Was he disappointed? Almost definitely. But he still got to go home to his family that night — the same family that FaceTimed him the previous morning as a token of support. You never lose when you’re surrounded by loved ones.
Logistix didn’t participate in the event. Instead, she watched from outside the circle for most of the night. She sat there, encouraging her peers and empowering her fellow b-girls. She nodded to the beat, almost as if she was itching to bust out in dance herself. That’s not why she was there, though. Logistix ran and embraced her fellow b-girls with a hug after their disappointing defeats. They didn’t win, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their faces.
She did what she does best. She lifted the spirits of those around her, and she didn’t need any words to accomplish that either. Just like she didn’t need any words to do so for that little girl at the workshop the night prior.