Like the many elements of hip-hop, breakdancing has continued to transcend time. Originating in New York, back in the 70s, breaking has continued to evolve as newer generations embrace the iconic street dance. Fast forward to Red Bull’s BC One breaking competition, the 18th iteration of their U.S one-on-one breaking competition. Qualifiers in New York, Lost Angeles, Boston, and Houston brought out their best skills in hopes to be crowned the world champion. Each cypher put a light on the culture of thriving breaking communities. Following the city cyphers, 16 of the nation’s top B-Boys and B-Girls battled for a spot at the World Final in Poland in November of this year.
On August 14th, 22 breakers linked up in Houston, Texas to compete for their spot in the finals. While Red Bull gave dancers of all backgrounds a true chance to represent their hometown and culture, the B-Girls really made their claim. With only eight competitors, the B-Girls went head-to-head, effortlessly contorting their bodies into complex dance moves. B-Girl Isis Alexander Grand, hailing from Kissimmee, Florida would dominate in the competition, moving onto Orlando. While much applause is due for Isis, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of all of the B-Girls. Like most industries, men often dominate and while the ladies are still outnumbered, they are pushing beyond the limits. The rise of the B-Girl is truly a sight to see. Whether they are judging, teaching, or competing, B-Girls have proven that this is no longer a man’s sport. Red Bull BC One Houston judges and performers, Baby Girl, Naty Lite, Michiko all have experienced their own path within breaking and now are able to reflect on the varying lives of a B-Girl.
Breaking is more than just dancing for B-Girls, it's passion, it's new opportunities to excel, and for som,e a community that feels like family. For B-Girl Baby Girl, who has been a part of the underground for more than two decades, it has been the passion. “I never thought I would be here, doing what I’m doing 27 years later.” After breaking for more than 15 years, she devoted her time and passions to curating events, judging, and hosting events. “When you come from the mud, you don’t really see your future and for me being a woman, it’s huge. My purpose changes every year”, she continued. The Houston native has a growing list of projects, including her self-founded female breakers collective, producer for Hip Hop Flea Market, and WriteHers Bench. But it hasn’t always been a success story – “I had my first kid when I was 16, so coming onto the scene it wasn’t about competing. I was already competing in my own life and having to work twice as hard because of childhood trauma as a young girl. I knew I was struggling, I knew I was poor, there were so many things and that was my life”. Baby Girl found her passion in breaking, creating spaces for women to thrive. Now with 27 years under her belt, she’s had time to reflect on her journey to this moment. “Looking back, I would’ve loved myself. Loved myself more. I’m a queen, a woman of perseverance”. While trauma overshadowed a lot of her upbringing, she’s finally found her calling.
Women are often overlooked but it’s important to embrace and appreciate the female presence in breaking. B-Girl Baby Girl found her purpose and has now created new spaces for women to thrive and feel safe while doing whatever they desire. For Michiko, the 24-year old Houston-based breaker, she is moving into those spaces Baby Girl has created. Originally a seasoned gymnast, the B-Girl stumbled into breaking after taking a hip-hop elective course in 8th grade. Initially lacking the skill to be considered a B-Girl, she would join a dance company in high school and eventually find her breaking crew. “When I first started out, there weren’t a lot of B-Girls and there also wasn’t a lot of respect for the women.” Speaking on the absence of women in the underground, Michi recognized early on that being a B-Girl wasn’t going to be welcomed like her male counterparts. “The expectation for skill was low and being a young girl when I started, it could be scary and uncomfortable dancing in a room full of grown men”. Unfortunately, the gender inequality for women seems to always overflow into not only work and the household but within creative spaces as well. A lot of women like Michi struggled to gain the skill and experience to really thrive in breaking because the respect wasn’t there for their craft. “You never know who to trust or who may be helping you for the wrong reasons. A lot of B-Girls end up leaving because they’re not able to grow or get the proper mentorship.” Misogyny and toxicity are still very much present and driving women away but Michiko remains relentless in a space that doesn’t appreciate her. “I love it. All of the hardships would be for nothing if I quit. Things are changing – B-Girls are excelling and leveling the playing field.” Showing love to both the ladies that have left and those that are still here, Michiko plans to continue striving for her place in breaking.
As the ladies continue to create their legacy in the culture and grow into greater endeavors, there is still an appreciation for the dance that started it all. “It’s very fulfilling. All I want to see is the women grow in numbers and succeed.” A scientist by day and a breaker by night, B-Girl Naty Lite shares her admiration for the new generation of women that are stepping into the underground. Another veteran who has transitioned into a few roles including community organizer for Shaolin Productions, vintage curator for the Florida Vintage Market, and board of directors for the BBoy Spot, Nat has a lot to give back to the upcoming B-Girls. “Get over that fear. Build with your local B-Girls and create that environment that can help you grow.” With years dedicated to hard work and now giving the younger generation a chance to succeed, she’s relishing in the true art of breakdancing. “It’s all about expression. Expressing yourself. Just letting go and feeling free. For me, it’s that outlet from reality. It’s about these ladies taking this shit to the next level.” Hoping that there are more resources and education available to the next group of B-Girls and B-Boys, Naty Lite can’t wait to see what these men and women bring to the table.
Red Bull’s BC One has brought break-dancers from all over the world together, but it is the B-Girls who truly hold it down. From evolving skills that are undeniable on the dance floor to creating programs and spaces exclusively for women, the B-Girls are leaving their mark on this sacred piece of hip-hop. As the ladies gear up for the Red Bull World Finals, it’s important to shed light on their journey and creativity in a space that is often crowded with B-Boys. While the journey is not always an easy one, B-Girls are standing the test of time against adversity.