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US Olympic break dancers ready to show off their moves and sports culture in Paris

US Olympic break dancers ready to show off their moves and sports culture in Paris


For longtime break dancers, the sport is much more than somersaults and tricks, and it's that culture that aspiring U.S. Olympians are eager to bring to Paris this summer.

Although the dance combat sport is best known for the twists and turns that breakers throw to the beat of a DJ's music, those close to the sport know that it goes well beyond that.

It's about peace, love, unity and fun, said Victor Montalvo (B-Boy Victor), who was introduced to the sport by his father and uncle and has been riding break since the age 6 years old.

It's also like one of the four elements of hip-hop, he said, and so we're trying to bring that essence into the Olympics.

Montalvo is one of four breakers (two men and two women) who will make up the U.S. Olympic team. So far, only he and Sunny Choi (B-Girl Sunny) have qualified. The final spots will be filled after the Olympic qualifying series.

Jeffrey Louis (B-Boy Jeffro), an Olympic hopeful, learned about the breakthrough from his brother, who learned it in school instead of physical education.

He said he thinks the crowds will feel what Montalvo described, because while there is obviously dancing, the DJ, MC and crowd are also major parts of the dance battles.

The DJs for the Paris Games have not yet been announced and probably won't be until July, but they, along with the MC, play a huge role in breaking, changing songs and interacting with the crowd in time. real to keep the party going.

Breaking is something that everyone can get involved in sport, said Whitney Carter, director of internally managed sports at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The dancers feed off you in the crowd. People can be part of it. It's okay to boo and yell and do all that.

What to Know About Breaking's Olympic Debut In total, 16 B-Boys and 16 B-Girls will compete in solo dance battles, showing off their best moves for a chance for gold. The dancers will compete on August 9 and 10 at La Concorde. , and the first-ever Olympic break medals will be awarded after the competition on those days. The sport first joined the Olympic system at the Youth Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2018. Its success there helped set it on the path to Paris. Breaking is partly an attempt to reach a younger audience, as is the inclusion of surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, which were added to the Olympic program for the first time at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

For Choi, bringing station wagon to the Olympics means bringing all of our communities, all of our backgrounds, all of this history with us on stage.

It's also about celebrating individuality, she said, adding that she just wanted to go out there and show the world who I am.

There's something about breaking that just connects you, Choi said, explaining the feeling of the sport. You see someone, you're like, “Oh, I feel that person.” I can tell who you are just by looking.

Choi, who grew up as a gymnast, didn't get into the world of breaking until college, when she came across a group of dancers on campus who invited her to join.

But it wasn't until January 2023 that Choi got serious about the Olympics. By then, it had already been announced that station wagon would be included in the Paris Games, but she worked at a company and wasn't sure she wanted to fully immerse herself in it.

Eventually, she gave up her career to train full-time for the Olympics.

I was like, “Well, when does anyone get the second chance to make their childhood dreams come true?” she says.

Breaking after the Olympics

This is an exciting time for those immersed in a world and culture in disruption because of the opportunities that could come from a successful performance on the world's biggest stage.

The sport, which has its roots in hip-hop culture, originated during block parties in the Bronx neighborhood of New York in the 1970s and became widespread in the 1980s.

Richard Crazy Legs Coln, longtime member and current president of the Rock Steady Crew, one of Breaking's original bands, got his start in the Bronx in 1977 and claims ownership of what is now called Power Moves.

The whole concept of what they call power moves started with me, he said.

Coln thinks breaking inclusion in the Olympics is a good thing and doesn't want it to be a failure, he said, because there are a lot of young people who are on that path, and if it gives them the inspiration to do something incredible with themselves. and get the opportunity to have greater opportunities, more power to you.

Coln hopes that the Olympics will pave the way for greater opportunities, those greater supports that the community needs and that they will eventually sustain the culture in the long term.

But Coln expressed concern that this would not be the case, particularly because braking would not be included in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. For now, it's only in Paris; and as for Brisbane in 2032? That's to be determined, but probably not, Carter said.

This will be about the only chance we have so far, as far as the Olympics go, Carter said.

That's because Los Angeles rejected the World Dance Sports Federation's bid to return to the Games in 2028, which Carter said happened because other non-essential sports, like flag football and cricket, have higher bids.

But there is still that opportunity and opening for the break to appear at future Olympics, even potentially in Brisbane, Carter said, because no final decision has been made.

Breaking was first proposed at the Olympics in the early 2000s, but Paris helped get it across the finish line to its first appearance. As the local organizing committee for 2024, Paris is aiming to break through, particularly because of the city's immense arts and culture scene and the importance of sports in the French capital, Carter said. The process began in 2019 with the initial bid, but it was not named an Olympic sport until December 2020.

As for the breakers who might come forward for their once-in-a-lifetime chance at Olympic gold, Coln wonders what awaits them after the Games.

How can we improve them afterwards, and how can we improve the levels of people who are traveling and who perhaps didn't make it to the Games? he said. How can we continue to create situations that maintain their relevance and revenue?

His concern about the outcome of the Olympics comes from personal experience. At 58, Coln no longer breaks dance, but he's had to work hard to find a way to turn his physical skills into a sustainable career.

For Coln, it's not only about preserving the culture and roots of the sport, but also ensuring the next generation can rise within the community and continue to succeed when their bodies can no longer handle the physical side break dancing.

Carter said both sides of the conversation are valid.

But it all depends on how you leverage the Olympics platform, she said, adding that she thinks a new audience for station wagon will arise from its visibility at the Games, so new fans can watch the breaks on platforms that already exist.

I think it's all about what you do with the platform and how you move it forward, Carter said.

It's also up to people to focus on these athletes' storylines and cross-promote them, like, Hey, they've been doing this since before the Olympics even started. Here's how to keep following and watching it, she said.

Ultimately, I think there are a lot of lessons that the break can learn from the Olympic space, and I think there are a lot of spaces that the Olympic platform can learn from the break, a Carter said.

A major opportunity

For Louis, making his Olympic debut is an opportunity above all to raise awareness of the sport. He said he hopes his presentation in Paris will open doors for thugs and that they can create our own paths.

Choi echoed Louis, calling this moment a great opportunity to share with the world this community, this culture, because I feel like a lot of people know [breaking] but I don't really understand it and I haven't really seen it.

And so to be able to bring that to such a big stage and elevate that message is great, she added.

Choi acknowledged that many breakers come from communities that don't have many, so she also hopes this Olympic participation will bring opportunities back to those communities, whether it's parents putting their children in breaking classes or investors and corporate sponsorships coming to support the sport in some way.

Carter is very excited about people seeing break racing beyond just its entertainment value, but also from a sporting perspective, as it is one of the most physically and psychologically challenging sports that she saw.

It's very demanding, but also… it's super engaging and fun, and I think if presented in the right way, everyone will really fall in love with it.

And spectators are as eager to participate in the Olympics as the athletes. Tickets for the event sold out within 24 hours, Carter said, and on the resale market, it's the hottest ticket. The same was true for the Olympic qualifying heats, which feature breaking, according to Carter.

No matter what happens with their Olympic debut, the athletes are eager to show what the sport is all about, even beyond dance, in their first shot on the biggest international stage.

Like Louis said, it's quite a party, and I feel like that's what the break is going to bring to the Olympics.




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