B-Boys: We’ll Break Your Streets!

Rocking to the hip-hop beats, Mohit falls to the ground, and with his left arm as pivot spins 360 °. From here, he builds a dazzling routine — half art, half sport — comprising back flips, head stands and body spins. Similar scenes are proliferating across India. At Chennai’s Marina Beach, kids from fishing settlements battle their upper-class fri e nds. The bboy crew in Mumbai’s Dharavi calls itself the Slumgods. Several classes are conducted by groups like Fre ak N Stylz, Underdog Kombat and Rock Fresh. Energy drink major Red Bull invited international b-boys like Roxrite to cities like Hyderabad for workshops. They feature in mu sic videos, Bollywood dance sequences and Indian ads of Sony, Yamaha and Samsung.

The crews are thriving in cities like Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Aizwal and Jalandhar, but Mumbai and Delhi are the main hubs. The international b-boying event BOTY (Battle of The Year) held its first Indian edition this year. Come September, the winning crew will head to Bangkok for the South Asia qualifications. Another popular event is Cyperholics. Held every three months, it attracts close to 300 dancers.

B-boy street dancing developed in the ’70s New York among African-American and Hispanic youth. After spreading across the world and raging in countries like South Korea, it has arrived in India via the opposite classes — the hip-hop that DJs introduced in our nightclubs a decade ago has trickled down to the streets. Many between the age group of 10 and 25 watch b-boy videos on TV shows like Footloose, Dance India Dance, Just Dance and India’s Got Talent and, of course, on YouTube. They share them on their cheap Chinese cell phones and meet up to try it out. The cell phone provides the music as they practise daily for two to three hours, often in public spaces, and network on Facebook. Some also invent alternate personas to match their moves — Raju, 14, is b-boy Trax, Milan, 13, is b-boy Mady. Most wear caps backwards and baggy jeans. Unlike DJing or graffiti, it doesn’t cost anything.

At Chennai’s Marina Beach, kids from fishing settlements dance with their upper-class friends. In Dharavi, the b-boy crew calls itself the Slumgods

“I don’t tell my parents when I go for practice. They think I’ll break my bones,” says Mahinder, 16. There’s also a fear of police harassment. So why do it? It’s cool, it satisfies their need to be competitive, it’s affirmative to be inducted into a peer group, it’s thrilling to master difficult moves. Says Pran jal, 18, “It’s an ad re naline rush to hit a move or see someone do it.” Above all, you dance because it’s just fun.

Courtesy of Tehelka.

Garima Jain is a Photo Correspondent with Tehelka.