Canadian breakdancers are expressing mixed feelings about the danceform moving closer to becoming an Olympic sport — with some enthusiastic about the possibility and others concerned it may alter the underground culture around the activity.
Known more commonly as breaking, the dance is being considered for the 2024 Games in Paris, with a final decision expected in December 2020.
Mandy Cruz, a 22-year-old breaker in Toronto, said she’s excited at the prospect.
“It was a really great moment that dance is being recognized as a sport, because it’s very physically demanding and you do have to train your body like an athlete,” she said. “A lot of people overlook dancing, like it’s an easy hobby.”
Cruz said she was curious to see how breaking would be judged if it becomes an Olympic sport. Since it’s also an artform, she said it can’t be judged on athleticism alone. In typical “break battles,” judges also look for creativity and originality, she said.
And while even the possibility of becoming an Olympic sport could raise the profile of the activity, Cruz said she believes breaking will continue to be important at a local level.
“There’s a lot of people of colour going to this culture, because there’s oppression going on around them,” she said. “There’s a lot of things going on around them in this world that (breaking) is just an outlet for.”
Caerina Abrenica, an instructor with the Toronto B-Girl Movement, which supports young girls in the danceform, said a spot in the Olympic games could help boost female representation in breaking.
“Having a b-girl category in the Olympics would allow more b-girls worldwide to see the potential of where women are taking it in the dance,” she said.
Some breakers, however, are concerned about the potential elevation to the Olympic level.
“Is it going to be celebrating (breakers’) diversity? Or is this a platform that shows there’s something great that comes out of (the culture) but it’s predominantly owned or taken up by people who are more privileged,” asked Nick Nyguyen, the owner of a breaking studio in Halifax.
Marcelino “Frostflow” DaCosta, a breaker and president of the Ground Illusionz breaking crew, was also uncertain.
“It’s not a sport — it’s a dance, it’s an artform,” he said. ”There are athletic qualities to it, but the heart and essence of what this is, it’s a dance.”
DaCosta said he worried the dance could stray too far from its foundation if it becomes an Olympic event.
But Mary Fogarty, an associate professor with the department of dance at York University, said conversations on the evolution of breaking have been going on since the 80s.
“The style has already changed significantly … So I don’t see the form being transformed that much,” she said. ”These dances will always happen on the local level, it will always happen on the street and it will always have different (meaning) for people who are marginalized.”
Breaking started as one of the pillars of hip-hop culture in New York City in the 70s. Since then it has transformed into a competitive, collaborative activity around the world.
It was a medal event last October at the Buenos Aires Youth Summer Games. And Olympic organizers have said they are considering having competitions with 16 athletes in men’s and women’s medal events if breaking gets approved for the 2024 Paris Games.
Having the dance become an Olympic sport would take it to new audiences, Fogarty said, while also giving wider exposure to breakers around the world.
“This is probably the best thing that could happen for the breaking scene internationally.”
Lidia Abraha, The Canadian Press