"So, what’s your story?" Hip-Hop Happenings

Katie Gile

By: Katie Gile, Staff Writer

 

The familiar stomach-thumping bass catches your ear, but it’s the whirlwind of arms, legs and heads that hold your eye.

Dancers vibrate across the cold floor with soul and flavor, like eels slicing through the ocean, every move deliberate and fluidly articulated. They rock, freeze and spin to beats in a style long-known to the urban streets of America.

 

B-boys spin around the first floor of Student Union East at night to release their hip-hop swag. Photo by Keri Weiland.

 

These are B-Boys, but it’s not an MTV battle you’ve stumbled into, and it’s no street show.

It’s just a little space outside the UNF Gameroom. Simply add a boombox and a bevy of dancers, and watch that little space become a Mecca for Jacksonville breakdancing.

Head-spins, windmills, freezes and unnamed tricks pull focus as performers take the floor and test-drive their moves. Others on the sidelines watch and reward their fellow dancers with hoots and applause for well-done tricks.

 

Photo by Keri Weiland.

 

The styles of breakdancing vary with each dancer, like a hip-hop kaleidoscope. Some prefer “power moves” like head-spins, while others remain upright and “top rock” to the beat.

Though some dancers represent crews, while others are unaffiliated, there’s no real sense of division in this mélange of talent.

“The B-Boy community is so tight,” said B-Boy Kenny “Kenski” Salvador, a UNF alumnus. “It’s all about getting better at what you do, and having people to help you can only make you better.”

Aside from the performance aspect of “B-Boying,” as it’s often called, many of the dancers are students of its core principles and ethics.

B-Boy Touchnorra “Touch” Nguon, a UNF nursing freshman, said he and many of his fellow dancers don’t subscribe to the contemporary hip-hop lifestyle, as it’s a departure from the original intent of hip-hop and B-Boying.

“Hip-hop wasn’t originally about drugs or violence and being sent to jail,” Nguon said. “We want to get back to the real point of hip-hop. It’s about peace, happiness and unity.”

Nguon said his focus in B-Boying is applying the discipline and culture, while eliminating the negative aspects.

“Back in the day, they did it for street cred, and the most famous acts were high school dropouts,” Nguon said. “We do it to have fun and earn respect within the culture. We know that education matters and that school comes first. Call it a new generation.”

Cultural creativity meets discipline with these dancers as they play with the beat and diligently work trick after trick to near perfection. The patience and determination to polish new moves often seeps into other aspects of the dancers’ lives, too.

B-Boy Corey Wilder, a UNF business administration senior, said becoming involved in B-Boying has put structure in his life, giving him something to keep working at constantly.

Salvador said B-Boying has helped him tighten up his lifestyle, as well.

“It’s like anything else,” Salvador said. “If you get lazy, you’ll get rusty and that’ll hurt you in the long run.”

Diligent practice isn’t lost on frequent spectators, such as Diana Menden, a UNF psychology sophomore.

“There are some people that I’ve seen practicing before that look much better now,” Menden said. “You can tell they’ve been working at it. I don’t know who they are, but I hope they keep it up.”

Every Monday and Wednesday evening — give or take — the dancers meet and enthrall passing spectators with their hard-honed skills.

Serving as students and teachers of the street-wise style, the dancers practice and perform their own tricks, then often stop to teach curious bystanders a thing or two.

Salvador, founder of the “Main Ingredients” crew often seen at practice, said helping spectators learn how to breakdance is something many of the dancers are happy to do.

“We want to be able to pass [breakdancing] on,” Salvador said. “So if they want to learn, we want to teach.”

Some spectators, such as Baneequa Watson, 19, are happy to be both a participant and audience to the dancers. Watson joined the B-Boys for a few brief moments and learned a trick in the process.

“It’s amazing to watch them do these things,” Watson said. “I’ve only ever seen this stuff on TV. I’m in heaven right now.”

To check out the B-Boys for yourself, stop by the Student Union lobby Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and you might catch a glimpse.

 

Email Katie at [email protected]