Twin Cities b-boys represent

How unlikely Minnesota breakdancing stars took the world by storm

StepChild describes it as a "going off" style, an approach where the dancers pack intensity and emotion into every movement. "It makes it that much more real — focusing their energy on their target," he says.

The younger generation has broken this down into a science. They consider how to go into a move to end up in a position that will confront their opponents while also being at an angle that the judges can fully appreciate. Boogie describes using breathing techniques and practicing his posture to convince opponents that they've lost even before the battle has begun.

It's not just the moves that make the young b-boy scene stand out. While Minnesota rappers are stereotyped as being primarily white, the state's b-boys are overwhelmingly Hmong. When an event promoter used Facebook to poll local b-boys on what food to cater at a battle, the winning answer was almost unanimously pho. When asked to estimate what percentage of any given Minnesota b-boy event is Hmong, answers ranged from 60 to 90 percent.

Details

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

More b-boys in City Pages

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

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"I have a friend from college that once estimated to me that 80 percent of Hmong males have at least tried to break," says Christopher Woon, who spent seven years creating the 2011 documentary Among B-Boys, capturing the Hmong b-boy culture across California and Oklahoma. "From what I've seen, breaking is part of the Hmong male experience."

Along with the fact that b-boying is cheap and accessible, J-Sun notes that the dance has historically been one of resistance, fitting the mold for young immigrants looking to form an identity.

At Minnesota's forefront is Randy "B-Boy One" Thao, who represents the Hmong flag along with other young dancers like King Kong and Hueman. Upon hearing his name, b-boys almost unequivocally shake their heads and sigh in disbelief.

At a recent City Pages photoshoot in downtown Minneapolis, Thao threw half a dozen airflares effortlessly — a move so difficult that only a handful of world-class gymnasts have been able to recreate it in competition. Thao is the state's YouTube b-boy celebrity, with tens of thousands of hits across his videos.

Now 18, he's relatively quiet and stands at 5-foot-4. He can't practice as much as he wants to because his schedule is filled with shifts at Famous Footwear and classes at Academy College. It doesn't matter — one gets the sense that Thao's the kind of guy who is preternaturally talented. His crewmates dog him for showing up to practice eating a cheeseburger.

"They say, 'You're gonna get fat,'" he mumbles. "I don't know why I do it. It just happens. I know it's not good, but it's food."


J-Sun says that Minnesota's the only place he could imagine having a b-boy town hall meeting where everyone in attendance is quiet and willing to listen. But like all the other b-boys, he's not entirely sold on the hype that Minnesota is already the next big thing.

Across all three generations of Minnesota b-boys runs the common belief that the progress the scene still needs to make far outweighs the accolades it has already received. Even J-Sun himself refuses to be identified as an elder, the same way that Joe says he still doesn't feel like he's "made it," or even that he's worthy of the name "Minnesota Joe."

Many of the dancers lament the unexpected pressure to live up to the hype. There are already murmurs circulating that the Minnesota scene is overrated.

"We have made headlines in the worldwide breaking community, but we're still growing up," J-Sun says. "We're the next Florida, or we're the next Chicago. We'll be that next spot. We're not the next Korea, but if keep we having enough b-boys and things like that, and people are taking it step by step, it's a possibility for sure."

Back at Patrick's Cabaret, Jesse's intricate footwork and borderline-spastic gesturing have helped win his crew the victory. True to their name, he's ever optimistic about the scene's chances.

"I want it to be more of an attraction than the Mall of America." 

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4 comments
shermanyang
shermanyang

Great article however...Thanks to Zero Gravity and Phantasy Krew -the two first Hmong crews in MN- for paving the way for ALL the younger generation Hmong bboys. We put all that we had into this culture, and we're proud of all the young bucks and where they've taken it. It makes all the times we got maced and beat down by cops for battling all worth it.... -DJ Herman Dan

Jason Noer
Jason Noer

Informed article! Props to Calvin Son who breaks too!

 
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