By CP Staff
By Ed Huyck
By Ed Huyck
By Ed Huyck
By Ed Huyck
By Ed Huyck
By Ed Huyck
Though they're only three years younger than Joe, their b-boy journeys are markedly different from the paths of the older b-boys. For starters, they have the advantage of social media. Daniel Zhu, editor for Strife.TV, one of the local b-boy community's definitive video channels, has made it a point to document their accomplishments for a global audience. And there are now a plethora of open practice spots around the city several days per week — a rarity, even in larger cities.
They also began dancing at a time where there was enough of a b-boy generational gap that they could actually get along with and learn from older b-boys like J-Sun and StepChild.
"It's really surprising because the average age of a Minnesota dancer here is like, 19, which is super young," says Zhu, 30. "Most dancers don't peak until their late 20s. For a really young scene to be that competitive and that good is really rare — it really says something about their work ethic."
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; mnbattles.com
Though young, they have always been tenacious. They've traveled to every coast to compete, either flying or carting around dancers in Riley's mother's Chrysler Town & Country minivan. They wholeheartedly embrace the African proverb "each one teach one," carrying around notebooks to take notes from elder b-boys. Jesse even quit his job last year at Old Navy so he could attend an event in Florida.
"It was probably the dumbest mistake I've made, but also the smartest decision," he says.
Such travels have resulted in a collection of stories about people they've encountered who literally don't know what Minnesota is.
"Is it a state? What is it? Where is it?" recounts Boogie.
"They think it's the middle of nowhere," adds Joe. "That alone sets us up as the underdog."
It's that underdog mentality, J-Sun says, that pushes the young b-boys to continuously put themselves out there.
"They face the defeat head-on," he says. "When you lose, you lose. You can get upset about it, but a lot of these kids are still battling and that says a lot about Minnesota."
The hard work has paid off in the form of respect from more seasoned b-boy communities in other states.
"Minnesota is one-of-a-kind in the U.S.," says Ft. Lauderdale's David "Mex One" Alvarado, the man behind the influential community center the Bboy Spot as well as the clothing line Biggest & Baddest and the international event Outbreak. "Whether it's Houston, New York, Florida, or the Northeast, they've had scenes that have been solid and ranged back to the early to mid-'90s. We were blessed here. Minnesota, what did they have? The scene, for what it is now, is a product of how breaking has grown since the year 2000, 2001. Every other major scene has been groomed from an early age. The Minnesota scene is self-made."
As is the case with any subculture, b-boying has its own traditions, complete with weird names and rules. One of the stranger ones is "cocking," which is almost as obscene as it sounds.
To properly cock someone, a b-boy holds out his hand, palm up, as if supporting a massive, invisible penis. It's meant as the utmost form of disrespect — literally shoving a dick in someone's face — and it's not an uncommon sight at Minnesota events. Local b-boys have even made shirts with the backs emblazoned with a hand in cocking position.
Popular as the shirts are, their depiction of the Minnesota b-boy scene is wholly inaccurate. Among b-boys, stereotypes exist for almost every major city: Chicago is hot-headed, New York is traditionalist, California cut-throat. Minnesota's young dancers are polite and eager to learn — almost the personification of "Minnesota nice."
While other cities are perpetually plagued by intense rivalries and occasional fights, there is virtually no tension in the Twin Cities. Crews like Optimistic, Looney Tunes, and New Heist regularly practice, battle, and hang out together. Whereas crews in other states often assume outsiders are there for the sole purpose of stealing moves, visitors here are welcomed without any hostility or suspicion. Minnesota events are often referred to as being "fun," sometimes to the point where visiting dancers prefer coming here over attending battles in their own states. Even the crew name "Optimistic" is meant to convey the dancers' emphasis on positivity, on and off the dance floor.
"There's a family aspect in Minnesota," Joe says. "We're really more close-knit that any other scene I've seen."
"We don't say we're from Minneapolis or St. Paul," says Zhu. "We're from Minnesota."
This spirit of collaboration has resulted in distinct Minnesota b-boy styles that can be roughly summed up in two categories. The first is powermoves — large, momentum-driven glides and airborne spins exemplified by dancers like Joe and YouTube sensation B-Boy One. The second is footwork — a quick, precise series of steps in original patterns.
"Footwork is being developed here that people notice all over the world when they watch it," says J-Sun, who helped mentor the younger generation. "And our musicality is part of our Minnesota style. But what will probably define us as a state will be that different b-boys will have their own styles that are established. There's an abstract way that we approach it."