Twin Cities b-boys represent

How unlikely Minnesota breakdancing stars took the world by storm

Joe has a full arsenal of such signature moves, and his fans know them by heart. There's the flying lotus, where he flings himself from his hands, locking his feet into the aforementioned lotus position while completing a full barrel roll in midair. There are the flyboys, during which he extends his arms like Superman while rolling his body in tiny circles like he's landed on a treadmill from hell. Then there's the clusterfuck, when he balances on his side while tying his limbs into an elaborate knot.

These moves are Joe's babies, each with its own inspiration, story, and birthplace. He remembers facing much older Minnesota b-boys in heated — sometimes physical — confrontations at First Avenue.

By the time he turned 16, Joe was skipping high school to fly solo to Florida to train with b-boy legends Stripes and Kevo. The same year, he reluctantly agreed to be a last-minute replacement in the exhibition battle in Chicago that gave him his name.

Jesse "Jesse Jess" Ho is known for his animated freezes and patterns

[MORE PHOTOS] Fantastic Breaker Moves: Twin Cities B-Boys Represent
Ryan Brennan
Jesse "Jesse Jess" Ho is known for his animated freezes and patterns
[MORE PHOTOS] Fantastic Breaker Moves: Twin Cities B-Boys Represent


The warriors present:
Come Out To Play
3 vs. 3 b-boy battle
The Rock, 9201 75th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park6 p.m., September 29; $10, free for children 10 and under

Workshops by Knuckleheads Cali
on September 28 at the Cowles Center;

More b-boys in City Pages

[PHOTOS] Fantastic Breaker Moves: Twin Cities B-Boys Represent

10 gorgeous GIFs of Minnesota Joe's best b-boy moves

"We have Joe from Minnesota," The DJ announced. "We have Minnesota Joe."

Minnesota b-boy battles are kind of like Slug sightings — almost everyone has a story, whether it was a run-in at First Avenue or Soundset or some chance encounter.

The dance made its way here from New York, where it was born in the 1970s from Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell's parties in the Bronx. The dancers, mostly disenfranchised black and Latino youths, came to be known as break boys — later shortened to b-boys — because they danced to the drum breaks Herc lengthened by cutting between two copies of the same record.

About a decade later, Brooklyn's Travis "Travitron" Lee created a similar phenomenon in the Twin Cities. Along with a blooming community of MCs, DJs, and graffiti writers, there were b-boys representing crews including the International Body Breakers and the Minneapolis B-Boy Association. Many local music heavyweights cut their hip-hop teeth as b-boys, including Slug of Atmosphere, Siddiq of Rhymesayers, and the late Eyedea.

Then the dancing all but stopped, and it was easy to see what was to blame.

"The drugs," says Charles Thorstad, better known as StepChild, a 36-year-old b-boy and leader of the Universal Zulu Nation Omega Zulu chapter. "Drugs were being pushed in the area. That put a big cap on b-boying."

By the time b-boy instructor and performer Jason "J-Sun" Noer made his way back to the Twin Cities from California in 1993, another wave of b-boying had begun with a group called the Battlecats.

J-Sun and the Battlecats made a name for themselves with a close alliance with the Rhymesayers camp. They tested their skills against other local crews including Buddha Crew, Zero Gravity, and the Groove Nuts.

The crews battled their way across the Midwest. Local hero Damien "Daylight" Day even battled his way through Europe as the first Minnesota b-boy to represent internationally.

By the late '90s, however, the number of active b-boys in these crews had thinned.

"From my generation, there are only four of us," says StepChild. "My generation — most generations — just die out. They graduate, get married, and have kids."

But soon a new generation would rise to take Minnesota b-boying to new heights.

Boogie B is on the verge of losing the battle to one of his best friends. He's trying his hardest to focus.

But his girlfriend is gesturing frantically from the sidelines. Boogie looks away, shrugs, then finally sighs and runs to the corner. He delivers her purse and jogs back to the battle, not missing a beat as he watches for a chance to take his friend Jesse Jess out.

Such is the life of Jake Riley of Brooklyn Park. Standing 6-foot-1, he's easy to spot at the small battle at Patrick's Cabaret. Not only does he tower over most of his competitors, but he's one of the few Caucasian b-boys who's been invited to compete.

Later, his girlfriend says that Boogie has been teaching her about the "golden age" of hip hop. They attended Summer Set together to see Talib Kweli and the artist formerly known as Mos Def, but were turned off by the swarms of drunk audience members who hadn't done the research to recognize the artists onstage.

It sounds about right for Boogie, a guy wearing a mock-neck sweater along with cutoff jeans, black Reeboks, and kneepads. Boogie and Jesse "Jesse Jess" Ho, both 20, are members of an elite group of Minnesota b-boys. They've both been dancing for seven years, after seeing b-boys at the same party. Asked how often they think about breaking, they both begin by describing how their first thoughts every morning revolve around a) where they'll practice and b) what they'll practice.

"The way I look at it is, it's like living life as a samurai," Jesse says. "Every day is a fight to survive. I use this as my work. If there's a test coming up, I'll smoke that test the way I'll smoke the b-boy in front of me. It sounds silly, but I don't even look at myself as a human being anymore. I look at myself as a b-boy."

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