Armenians would breakdance at the “Kukuruznik”?
Breakdancing, which is internationally popular and used to be considered the “monopoly” of the blacks, is now in demand among Armenian youth as well.
“Breakdancing isn’t just a dance, but something like a disease. You start getting obsessed with it, and then if you don’t do it for a while, you get anomalia and even start feeling bad like a smoker who doesn’t have a cigarette to smoke,” says head of the “Hip-Hop Congress Armenia” organization Sargis Andreasyan, who also heads the Mad Force Crew Breakdancing School. Breakdance is literally translated as “dance that is broken”. It is the oldest of hip-hop dances and traces back to the 1970s in the Bronx district of New York, which is considered one of the centers for hip-hop culture and the center for gangs at the time. The source of inspiration were funk master James Brown’s performances, and one of the first dance groups, Electric Boogaloos performed to Brown’s music. Today, there are more than 10,000 recreational and over 1,000 breakdancing groups around the world. Hip-hop includes DJs, MCs, street graffiti and more. Boys who breakdance are called B-boys, and girls are called B-girls. Music is an inseparable part of breakdancing, but hip-hop is not the only option. People can breakdance to soul, funk and even jazz. Hip-hop was introduced in Armenia in the 1980s. At the time, there were already famous breakdancing groups in the United States that had already starred in several films about their art. That is exactly how breakdancing was introduced in Armenia. “Like many things in the Soviet Union, that information was also “underground” and there were youth who were in love with those films and started duplicating those dances,” says Sargis, who was young at the time, but grew up with breakdancers. Armenian breakdancers took their first steps at the “Kukuruznnik” where they participated in dance competitions, but none of the B-boys of those days wanted to develop breakdancing in Armenia. There was a pause for a while, but things got back on track in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At a time when there was no Internet so that breakdancers could download breakdancing videos, Sargis saw the Russian music program called “До 16-и и старше” (Until 16 and Up), which included a special breakdancing section. “I would record those programs. They had low quality, but that didn’t matter to me because I needed information. That’s how I started doing something that was very familiar to me and at the same time understandable. What also saved me was my flexibility,” says B-boy Sargis, who started breakdancing at the age of 20. Until then, he had been playing for Armenia’s tae kwon do team. This year marks the school’s 10th anniversary. Sargis says one of the school’s achievements is that it already participates in international competitions and has the chance to perform abroad. The school recently participated in the Open Caucasus Breakdancing Tournament in Tbilisi. The school participates in the Red Bull pc1 Contest in which each country is represented by a 5-member team. “We already have several well-trained B-boys who can achieve high results. Even when our boys lose to more experienced B-boys, we don’t view that as a failure because we need the experience,” says Sargis, adding that even though they haven’t been very successful yet, they will soon. Experts say it is desired that a person be flexible and physically fit before starting breakdancing, but that doesn’t mean that a person can’t dance at all. All one needs is the love and desire. One of the students of the school, Toma, has been breakdancing for three years and had been involved in gymnastics before that. “I wanted to dance, but active. Of course, hip-hop is active, but whenever you try many things, that stimulates you to do more. I’m not trying to do things that require a lot of effort. I simply dance because I come to breakdance.” Like other Armenian families, Toma’s family also doesn’t like the fact that Toma attends breakdancing lessons. Despite that, the dancers don’t see anything wrong about it. There are some sub-styles that are only characteristic of boys due to their intricacy, but girls surpass them in some styles. One of the students, Hayk, says he had a hard time learning some moves because he had been involved in bodybuilding before breakdancing. “I worked hard and started dancing lightly. I haven’t had any trauma yet.” The Mad Force Crew School has been around for the past decade and has nearly 70 students. Even though the majority of the students are youth, during our visit we also saw children trying to perform like the B-boys. The head of the breakdancing school says 10-15 of the dancers are professionals, but also attaches importance to the fact that the youth believe in what they are doing and do it with pleasure. Today, two of the students have their own groups in Charentsavan and Abovyan cities. The school administration rents the Terlemezyan State Art College’s gym for rehearsals since it doesn’t have its own building due to lack of funding. “We don’t complain. The government has so many issues to deal with…Just let them leave us alone. If the government finds something good in hip-hop and decides to extend a helping hand, we will only be happy,” says Sargis. Tsovinar Karapetyan