The cardboard boxes, the Adidas track suits, the oversize boom boxes; anyone who grew up in the 80’s got a little taste of break dancing.
But in Seattle there is a resurgence of B Girls: ladies who break. I hung out with four local B Girls who go by the names B Girl Bean, X Tine, B Girl Anna Banana Freeze and B Girl Crystal Lite.
Once thought of as a boys-only street dance, girls have been joining in for quite a while.
“There would always be guys after school practicing and I never looked at them twice,” says Fides Mabanta, AKA Anna Banana Freeze, an instructor and performer who break dances for a living. “Until there was this girl dancing and I was like, ‘Oh!’ That was the first time I identified with it being a possibility for me. I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I want to try that.'”
The thing is, these ladies aren’t teenagers practicing for hours after school. Three out of the four B Girls I met are 30 or older, and three out of the four are moms. Colleen Ross, B Girl Bean, is a competitive break dancer who teaches preschool.
“I was at a competition this last weekend and, yeah, I’m pretty sure I was the oldest one there. (laughs) It was a bunch of teenage boys! But how big of an impact, and how awesome is that, to have in their lives. It’s not just a bunch of teenage boys flailing around. There are those of us who are kind of grown ups, in the scene, who can say, ‘This is where I came from, this could help you, if you want to travel, if you want to do classes.’ Here are some roads to get there.”
Break dancing started on the streets.
“It came from youth who couldn’t afford to do programs or who didn’t have programs in their communities,” says Anna Banana. “They just ended up making their own thing, you know, their own art. The spirit of that is still very much in breaking and hip hop.”
But do they still use the cardboard boxes?
“Um, yeah, I still do,” Crystal says. “You can’t do a head spin on pavement.”
Colleen says there is still a bit of a stigma attached to break dancing.
“It is a little bit like, battling, is that aggressive? Are people going to fight? Is that gang related? And it’s so not. It’s community that’s all about fun and love and encouragement and, yeah, it’s an aggressive dance form. Although, it has street roots and it has so much art and creativity to it. It’s not dangerous.”
She says girls have been welcomed wholeheartedly into the art form.
“That’s a really beautiful thing that has developed. It used to be, like, when I started, people said, ‘There’s these moves that girls can’t do. They just can’t do them.’ I’ve seen, through my generation of dancers, that girls have broken all of those boundaries. Every single thing that people were like, ‘Uhhh, girls can’t do that.’ They have and they do, at the same skill level.”
Anna Banana says break dancing is a good alternative for girls who aren’t into ballet and tap.
“I think if traditional things don’t work for you, because traditional things did not work for me as a teen. The thing about breaking is, it encourages such freedom and creativity. If you do something the wrong way, or whatever, it’s actually not wrong. It can lead into something new. That’s what I loved about it at first. The encouragement to express yourself and be original.”
Her break dancing classes at Massive Monkey Studio are offered to people two years old and up.
If you’re looking for a B-Girl event, with lady MCs and lady graffiti artists, here’s where you want to go:
ZULU JAM: MALIKA EDITION
March 20, 2013 7-11:30 p.m.
Find the event on Facebook