Breaking Boundaries

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 8 November 2019

B-girl Jo and b-boys Flying Machine and Tornedo qualify to represent India at the Red Bull BC One World Final in Mumbai

One of the most prestigious one-on-one breaking competitions in the world, Red Bull BC One, was started in 2004, and has been hosted annually in a different country ever since. Debuting in Biel, Switzerland, the competition has travelled to Germany, Brazil, South Africa, France, the US, Japan, Russia, Korea, Italy, Netherlands, and has come to India to host the World Final this year in Mumbai. The competition will witness the top 16 breakers, including regional qualifiers, previous champions, wild card selections and recommendations from an international panel of experts, from various countries to battle it out for the title of the Red Bull BC One World Champion. 

We talk to the three Indian breakers who managed to qualify for the finals. 

Ramesh Anand Yadav aka B-Boy Tornado 
This 21-year-old can dance up a storm. A jaw-dropping signature move of his is the hands-free head spin. Ramesh Anand Yadav found himself inspired when he spotted a couple of boys b-boying at a birthday party. “I really wanted to learn how to dance the way they were dancing. When I approached them and asked if they can teach me to dance like that, they beat me and chased me away,” he says. But his spirit was not broken. He would hide and watch them practise near a nullah near his home in Mankhurd and try and pick up the steps. “I had been watching them for a month or two before they caught me. They called me and asked if I was serious about learning the dance. When I told them that I wanted to do that, and I had it in me, they agreed to teach me. This happened seven years ago, but I think I am still learning,” he says. 

In 2015, he quit his job as a dish TV technician and invested all his attention and energy into breaking, which resulted in him being crowned the Red Bull BC One India Champion earlier this year. Yadav will now compete at the Last Chance Cypher in Mumbai on November 7. “I was frustrated with my job because I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I want to dance and make a name for myself in this industry,” he says, adding, “I remember that I gave an interview just before the India finals and said that I was going to win. And it actually came true. My trainer cried when I won. But my family didn’t understand what it meant for me. They don’t get why I want to dance. They worry that it's not a monetarily viable career. They even broke my trophy,” he says, adding, “You see, I come from a slum where the boys are either into drugs or get involved in other antisocial activities.”

But Yadav doesn’t let any of this dampen his spirit. In fact, he uses it to push himself even harder. “I was offered a chance to be on a reality TV show, but I chose to be a part of this competition instead because the dates were clashing. I would have been on TV only once, but if I win, this title will stay with me forever. I am going to be confident and win this,” he ends. 

Arif Choudhary aka B-Boy Flying Machine
Garnering attention in the industry for a decade now, this 22-year-old is a three-time winner of the Red Bull BC One Cypher India (2015, 2017 and 2018). The only Indian to be selected as one of the wild card entries to the Red Bull BC One World Final this year, Choudhary says he just wants to keep calm and break. 

“I had just finished Std IV and was hanging out with my friends when one of them showed me a video of someone breaking. I was awe-struck. Since I had always been into dancing, I wanted to give this a shot. We would go to the park and practise. I was a shy kid,” says the Mumbai local.  

The breaker is known for his spectacular moves in the air. “I would go to the cyber cafe and check out more videos and then try and practise them. But I wanted to watch these performances live. So I attended my first battle in 2010,” he recalls. 

His confidence got a boost when he won the India finals in 2015. And though he didn’t win the following year, he was honoured to be competing with amazing dancers from around the world — ones he had just watched on the internet. “In 2017, I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam for the world finals. Then I also travelled to Singapore and Dubai while working on an initiative by Puma. I got a lot of recognition and my career took off. In 2018, I went to Slovakia, Switzerland and Austria, where I won too. The whole journey has built me up as a dancer as well as a person. This year, I am again privileged to represent India at the world finale,” he says. 

But ask him whether being a three-time winner creates more pressure to bring something new to the stage and how he deals with elevated levels of expectations, and he says, “Dance, for me, is freedom. I want to be free from all this pressure when I am dancing. I want to enjoy every minute of it. I know that everyone is training very hard to be there, and so am I. But when  the time comes for battle, it all depends on the moment. I don’t want to make it too big in my head, I don’t want to overwhelm myself,” he says. 

Johanna Rodrigues aka B-Girl Jo
After winning the title of Red Bull BC One India Champion in the first-ever national level Red Bull BC One B-Girl competition held earlier in the year, this 23-year-old is all set to compete at the Last Chance Cypher with other exemplary international dancers.  

“I started doing yoga when I was 12. Then when I was in Std XI when I went to my first jam where I encountered breaking. I picked up a few moves there and started practising with Black Ice at their studio,” she says. 

Becoming as good as she is, took a lot of hard work. “I used to practise for 2-3 hours a day, for 5-6 days a week. I would juggle these practice sessions with the yoga and breaking classes that I would teach because that too gave me inspiration,” she says. 

Her preparation for the big competition has gone beyond just practice. “I am a vegan, but I have refined my diet even more. I am eating a lot of whole foods to keep my health in check. I also have cold water baths everyday, it helps,” says she, adding that it is important not to stress oneself out before the competition. “I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I understand that this competition is just another milestone in my career and in my life. I obviously will do my best, but my journey is going to continue and only get bigger and better,” she says. 

What makes her stand out is the Indian flavour she brings to the stage. “There haven’t been too many Indian breakers qualifying for the world finals so far. So the fact that I am an Indian breaker itself will make me stand out. Apart from that, my routine incorporates a lot of traditional mudras from Bharatanatyam and a bit of yoga. It takes my performance to a different level,” she describes. 

Rodrigues is optimistic about the future of breaking in India. “I think there’s a lot of scope for breakers in India. I hope that more people will send their kids to learn breaking because it is not only fun and good exercise, but also involves community building and social awareness. This way more breakers will get jobs to teach,” she says. 

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