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Breaking is built around the community, say competitors
Dozens of young competitors gathered at a basketball court outside of Westside Recreation Centre on Sunday to compete for a spot on the southwest breaking crew.
The dance crew will battle against crews from the other districts in the city, in Battle City YYC's first ever citywide breaking competition.
One hopeful arrives early to practice
As one of the first competitors to arrive, 15-year-old Danny Phan described breaking as "an artist-sport that combines music with the movement."
For Phan, musicality and knowing where and when to hit the beats is vital in breaking.
Phan started dancing when he was just seven years old, and has trained in ballet, salsa and now breaking.
"One genre of dance builds on the rest. They all just kinda go together," Phan said.
Along with practicing two to three times a week, Phan has taught hip-hop and break dancing classes at Dance with France Studio.
He credits hard work and a lot of practice as the two biggest advantages anyone could bring into a battle.
"The most difficult thing in a battle, in my opinion, is staying focused and being relaxed as a dancer," said Phan. However, he said it is just as important for the dancer to have fun, let loose and show people what they've got.
Phan's current breaking inspiration is Niels "Storm" Robitzky, who, according to Phan is a big name in the worldwide breaking community, and has helped the genre grow in popularity.
The community participation that breaking builds around the city is what draws Phan to this special hobby.
"It's a really special thing to see people from all over Calgary support this," Phan said.
Phan is part of a two-person dance crew, Suburban Bash, with friend Jonas Magnien, 16. The two boys have danced and taught together for four years.
Suburban Bash crew
Just like Phan, Magnien has trained in ballet and other styles of dance since a young age.
"The most difficult thing in a battle, in my opinion, is staying focused and being relaxed as a dancer."
- Danny Phan
"Way back in elementary, I had an after-school care teacher and he actually got me into it. He taught me a couple of moves, and then I just did that on my kitchen floor forever, thinking I could breakdance," he said.
It wasn't until two or three years ago that Magnien started considering himself a breaker, and got serious with breaking and competing. He now practices everyday sometimes even twice a day.
When asked how he prepares for a battle, Magnien replied: "I freak-out for about an hour, then puke, then the anxiety kicks in, then I practice for a little bit and dance around my room."
Who's the competition?
Suburban Bash battled against the Flying Pandas crew in Sunday's event. The members of the Flying Pandas, Slava Uryumtsev, 15, and Mayowa Dawodu, 14, have been breaking for one year and train at Pulse Studio in the northwest.
Despite breaking only being a hobby for them, they spend seven hours a week perfecting their skills.
Uryumtsev and Dawodu got into breaking after watching several hours of breaking battles on YouTube.
Winners of the break battle
Being the winners of the southwest qualifying round, Suburban Bash will have to spend more hours than usual practicing to be prepared for the final event which will happen early in November, at a time and place yet to be determined.
Phan and Magnien will train with coaches IROCK, Steeno, and Grimrock throughout October to build their breaking ability and gain confidence as a part of a larger crew.
Even though the extra practicing will take up spare time, Phan is excited to compete in the final battle because he is looking forward to seeing a variety of different styles from around the city.
Locations of the other events
The other quadrants of the city will hold similar events throughout the next few weeks to build their own crews. The southeast throwdown is Saturday at the Village Square Leisure Centre. The northwest throwdown is Sunday at Cardel Place. The northeast throwdown is Oct. 6 at The Genesis of Communitry Wellness. The deep south throwdown does not yet have a location, but it will take place on Oct. 7. For more information visit the events Facebook page.