B-Boys Are Back
B-Boys Are Back; in the ’80s, There Was Breakdancing. But First There Was B-Boying.
Remember, if you will, 1984.
“Miami Vice.” Jelly shoes. Acid-washed jeans. Remember Michael Jackson in his red leather jacket with one gloved hand, gliding across the stage in his patented moon walk.
And remember the soda ads and MTV videos that featured punks in parachute pants spinning on their heads as a boombox pumped a beat in the background.
They called it breakdancing.
It spawned its own clothing lines, movies and lingo. It was the coolest, newest invention of the ’80s.
But it really wasn’t. Breakdancing had a history and depth that was lost in the media blitz that surrounded it.
Now, it’s time for a little history lesson.
Almost 20 years before breakdancing appeared, there was something called b-boying.
It was a new, but underground, dance/art form that filled the clubs in New York City.
Not much has changed.
B-boys say theirs is a form of expression that was born underground and has returned there, but only after it was twisted and turned by a mainstream audience.
“The media almost raped it from its true essence,” says B-Boy WiTeBoi, otherwise known as Josh Glawson, 20. “They wanted all the flashy moves and to be wowed.”
B-boying is more than blowing out moves on the sidewalk that make people ask, “Did that hurt?”
And it didn’t disappear at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1989, like other fads of the decade.
It simply stayed true to its roots while the masses moved on to the next hot ticket.
For true b-boys, this is a way of life, almost a religion that begins – and ends – with The Dance.
“A b-boy is what I am,” says B-Boy N-Er-G, known at birth but rarely since then as Sebastian Alexis, 22. “Every culture has a storyteller, a warrior, musicians and artists. (In hip-hop), the DJ is the music player, the MC is the storyteller, graffiti is the art and the b-boy is the warrior.
“We get ready to battle.”
It’s Friday night at Greene Street in downtown Greensboro. The club’s daytime lights still glow bright as the first b-boys – and b- girls – trickle in.
Preteens, high schoolers and college-age kids gather in small groups on the floor.
They’re wearing shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, even dress pants. Their knees and elbows are wrapped in padding.
Their hair is long, short, spiked, braided and buzzed.
They stretch their legs and arms. They chug gallons of water. Just water.
Alcohol is shunned. Like athletes, they say, they need to stay focused.
The crowd thickens. They wait for the preliminary competition to begin, but there’s no time wasted. The b-boy crews, usually three to four dancers who perform together, practice their moves.
Around them, other crews sit on the floor, their legs wrapped underneath them, like schoolchildren watching a performance. They clap, nod their heads in approval and politely wait their turn.
On the wall above the dance floor dangles a giant plastic sign, evidence of the sacrifices b-boys have made to please the masses.
It announces tonight’s battle as a “breakdancing competition.”
If the sign actually – but more correctly – read “b-boying competition,” people might not come.
“If we do foundation (moves) for the media, they won’t even use it,” N-Er-G says. “We know what kind of crowd we’re trying to please, so we say, ‘OK, we have to breakdance at this show.’
“Folks need to know there are other things to this dance.”
The foundation of b-boying was laid in the late 1960s with something called “good foot,” the first freestyle dance that had performers dropping to the floor and spinning in circles.
As the dance evolved, moving or breaking on the beat became the cornerstone of b-boying – not spinning, dropping or kicking feet into the air.
Dancers with precision and rhythm, who did more than just swap moves with those performing around them, became the hottest b-boys around.
“The very first b-boys didn’t do anything on the ground – no spinning,” N-Er-G says. “You have to build a foundation of moves. To really dance, to express yourself, that is the real true art.”
N-Er-G, who performs with his crew, Phat Gravity, was introduced to b-boying at the tender age of 3, when he watched the movie “Beat Street.”
“That was like a lasting impression,” he says.
By 11th grade, he was practicing the moves and “started chilling with other cats,” he says.
Now 22, N-Er-G juggles jobs at Time Warner Cable and Pizza Hut. He’s been a student at N.C. A&T, studying German and fashion, and at GTCC, where he studied graphic design.
But be certain, he knows who he is.
“I don’t find time for b-boying,” he says. “I find time for everything else.”
The battle begins shortly after 11 p.m.
The music is pumping so loudly that a bottle of water bounces off the edge of a subwoofer.
The crowd melts into one giant mass and encircles the dance floor.
As the b-boy crews take their turns in the center of the crowd, other b-boys around them cheer and playfully jeer moves gone awry as elbows, knees, even heads smack the floor.
When b-boys battle, the one with the most distinctive style wins. There are basic moves, but imagination is rewarded.
“If someone does nice footwork and a nice freeze, you want to make sure yours has better style, greater flavor, and demolish the opponent,” WiTeBoi says.
Want to humiliate an opponent? You don’t need to trash talk – just dance. Sexually.
The b-boys use gestures to poke fun at each others’, ahem, size.
“Sex is a great way to dis each other,” says WiTeBoi, who helped organize tonight’s battle. “It’s easy to offend them and make them mess up. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to do this and shut it out. Almost businesslike.”
When he was in elementary school in Charlotte, WiTeBoi says he was the “fat kid” who was sometimes teased. In high school, he dropped the weight and became president of the chess club. “I wasn’t the coolest person,” he admits.
But he wasn’t always keeping his eyes on the chessboard. WiTeBoi watched other kids breaking, and he knew then he wanted to dance.
“It’s human nature to want to dance, but we’re so afraid of what people will think,” he says.
While doing research on the Internet, he came across a Christian group that used breaking as a means of worship.
“I could be a b-boy and a Christian at the same time,” he says. “I can express myself and worship God through dancing.”
He pushed himself to work on the moves.
Now, a few years out of high school and his teenage persona, he has become WiTeBoi.
“I have the confidence to do some stupid move, and people will say, ‘He’s just b-boying,’ ” says WiTeBoi, adding that he wants to work on moves that mix b-boying with traditional swing dancing. “Breaking pushes you a little farther, and you start thinking of different moves. This gives you the feeling to be able to express yourself in dance.”
As the battle wages on, WiTe-Boi is working the crowd.
In the center of the dance floor, bodies are sweaty, the air becomes hot, and looks are shot across the room.
Egos are at stake.
But what happens on the floor, WiTeBoi says, stays there – in most cases. After each battle, the dancers hug, high five or pat each other on the shoulder.
A triumvirate of judges rates each dancer’s style, the moves that take real athletic ability and how clean the routine was.
After winners are announced, there’s grumbling in the audience – even words exchanged – by some b-boys fans.
Just like in sports, there’s a devoted following who never wants to see their favorite lose.
But as long as they can keep b-boying, that’s all that matters.
“(When you dance), you feel like you have to let your soul come out,” WiTeBoi says. “You can get lost in the music.”
N-Er-G adds, “Even if the song is whack.”
Source: Greensboro News Record