Escape is announced Victor Montalvo‘s blood. He’s a descendant of twin breakers — his father and uncle — who performed in Mexico long before they taught a young Montalvo to roll on his back.
Born in Kissimmee, Florida, the 28-year-old, who also goes by the name of b-boy Victor, has mastered the basics of the dance form. He has power. He has all the flair and swagger you’d expect from a die-hard b-boy. Its movement syncs with the breakbeat flowing from the DJ’s turntables.
Scribble, chirp, rip, boom, blip.
He hopes to break further than his relatives ever dreamed of and fight his way to a medal ceremony when the now global dance art makes its Olympic debut in less than two years.
“I feel like I have a really good chance,” Montalvo told The Associated Press.
He is among dozens of champion b-boys and b-girls — a term for a man or woman steeped in hip-hop culture — blazing a trail to the Paris 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee announced two years ago that breaking would become an official Olympic sport, a development that has divided the breaking community between those excited about the larger platform and those concerned about the purity of the art form. split.
But after the Red Bull BC One World Final, held earlier this month in the birthplace of hip-hop and not far from the streets where black and Puerto Rican New Yorkers pioneered the art of breaking, the field of Olympians is beginning to grow shape. The November 12 event also attracted some of the original b-boys and b-girls as the hip-hop community prepares to celebrate 50 years since the culture’s founding in 1973.
“You never thought that something you do for fun would go around the world,” he said Douglas “Dancin’ Doug” Colona first-generation Breaker b-boy from Harlem beaming with pride at the dance form’s inclusion in the Olympics.
Along with Colón, first generation B boy Trixie sat near a circular stage in the center of Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom. One by one, Red Bull BC One World Finalists from Canada, China, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Venezuela entered the battlefield. The energy drink beverage company is hosting the world’s largest breaking competition.
The OGs offered blessings to their offspring by giving them dap — a friendly gesture of greeting in the Black and Hispanic communities that conveys solidarity and well-wishes to the recipient. Joe Conzo, Jra photographer known in the community as “Joey Snapz,” who has been documenting Bronx hip-hop since its inception, also sat by the stage and snapped the Olympic hopefuls.
“Nothing will change the culture, the culture will remain the same,” Colón said. “Even though it’s an Olympic sport now, people in the Hood will still do their thing.”
Victor Alice, a Red Bull BC One World Final judge, told the AP that judging competitions within hip-hop culture has always been very subjective. But that won’t be the case at the Paris Olympics, where officials will use a newly developed scoring system to decide which b-boy or b-girl will best their opponent in one-on-one matches.
Developed for Breaking’s debut at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, the Trivium grading system is a digital grading platform that allows judges to assess in real-time the physical, artistic and interpretive qualities of breakers, or their “body, Mind and Soul” to respond.” A panel of five judges will assess each breaker on creativity, personality, technique, diversity, performativity and musicality. Scores can adjust during combat based on how a breaker reacts to their opponent.
The score can be lowered if a breaker “bites” or copies a series of moves made by their opponent. Misconduct, such as intentional physical contact with an opponent, and other unsportsmanlike conduct can also reduce a breaker’s score.
“I’m looking for someone to take the floor. it’s a fight It’s not just you dancing and then I’m dancing. You have to bring it,” said Alicea, also known as B-Boy Kid Glyde.
Montalvo, who was ranked as the best b-boy in the world after a World Cup competition in Paris last December, said his road to the Olympics will require intense training. It will also require more successful performances in competitions sanctioned by the World DanceSport Federation, an IOC-recognized organization that administers the bouts. Breakers who do well in these events earn points that help them qualify for the Paris Games. The Olympic qualification starts in September and runs until June 2024.
At the end of the trial, 16 b-boys and 16 b-girls are allowed to compete for two days on the legendary Place de la Concorde, an outdoor public square in Paris.
This gives Olympic hopefuls plenty of opportunities to hone their skills for high-stakes fighting.
MEET THE COMPETITORS
What sets Montalvo apart from other b-boys, he said, is his mastery of the judges-preferred fundamentals of breaking: “top rock” moves, footwork, “down rock” moves performed closer to the ground, “power” moves, showcasing acrobatics and strength, along with the classic Headspins, Windmills, and Freeze poses.
“I feel like the basics are the most important thing,” he said. “I see a lot of dancers doing big movements, but then they don’t have these small details. They don’t know how to get out of these big moves. Creating a story is important, and the basics are like creating a story.”
During a Red Bull BC One Quarterfinal match against Japan Yuki Minatozaki, Montalvo transitioned from a windmill into a downrock move that had his legs moving back and forth so fast they looked like they were spinning Double Dutch ropes. Minatozaki responded with a grin, half-hearted applause and sarcastic thumbs-up – all in the spirit of good sportsmanship – before exploding into a headspin and showing energetic standing footwork.
“It feels great that the sport is getting a lot more attention now,” Minatozaki, who calls himself b-boy Yu-Ki, told the AP through a translator. The 23-year-old has been breaking since he was five. He intends to compete for a place at the Paris Games, he said.
Minatozaki lost his fight to Montalvo, who also went through to the finals with a loss Lee Lou Demierre from the Netherlands, another likely Olympic contender. This win earned Montalvo no points towards qualifying for the Olympics.
India Sardjoe, a 16-year-old breaker from the Netherlands, won the Red Bull BC One World Final B-Girl title. She said she plans to focus on taking part in team fights next – this will involve one team of breakers battling another for a group title and bragging rights, reminiscent of Breaking’s roots in the Bronx. Sardjoe was in the process of claiming top honors at the European Breaking Championships, a WDSF event held in Manchester, England on November 6th.
The Red Bull title is still a success.
“I had to play the defending champion, so that’s nothing,” said Sardjoe. “But I was super happy to fight them.”
Sardjoe defeats 19 year olds Logan Edra, also known as B-Girl Logistx, won the Red Bull BC One World Final in Gdansk, Poland last year. A native of San Diego, Edra began breaking at the age of eight after initially training in ballet and jazz. Her father pushed her to hip hop class.
Like Sardjoe and Montalvo, Edra told the AP that she will compete in WDSF events over the next year and a half to earn a spot at the Olympics. On Saturday, she competed in the Breaking for Gold Challenge Series in Tokyo, taking home a silver medal behind Lithuania Dominika Banevicknown as B-Girl Nicka, who won gold.
“I compete against the best of the best,” said Edra. “Because I set such high standards for myself, I try to outperform everyone. The workout is crazy – I have bruises on my elbows and knees from practicing the moves over and over again. It’s a lot of commitment because we don’t have as many resources as other sports.”
Isis Alexandra Granda Chalen, a B-girl who grew up in Ecuador before moving to the United States, got her start in ballet, folk dance, and contemporary dance at an early age. But Breaking spoke to her rebellious nature, especially at a time when she was wondering if these other forms of dance lined up with her dreams.
“The moment I understood that I had more responsibility for myself, I put more work into breaking and I got the opportunity to be here,” said Chalen, 27, ahead of Red Bull BC One World Final.
“Now we’re going to make that transition, from artists to athletes,” she said of her Olympic dreams. “This is a great opportunity for every country. I’m from Latin America where there aren’t that many opportunities. But the Olympics are for everyone.”
Sunny Choi, a B-Girl from Queens, New York who won the Red Bull BC One Cypher USA 2022 in September, said there is an accessibility to the art and sport of breaking that is making it a major attraction at the Olympics will do in Paris. She is hoping for a spot on the US team.
“We have a lot of diversity in breaking, which is really nice about what we do because there aren’t many financial barriers to entry,” Choi told the AP. “If you have a clean floor these days and you have access to YouTube or something to study and some music, you can just do it on your own.”
She said her burgeoning Olympic journey had already taken personal and professional sacrifices that initially made her question whether she even wanted to compete.
“I’m one of those all-or-nothing people,” Choi said. “I did a lot of soul searching to clear some of the mental blocks. I feel like this journey will get a lot out of me and I just need to be prepared for it.”
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