Breakdancing in Egypt — A Scene That is Blossoming but Still Hasn’t Sprouted
Breakdancing; the art of moving your bodies in ways that many thought unimaginable, the stylish aesthetics, the intricate moves, amazing athleticism, and personality, or “swag” needed to break it all down. Breakdancing constitutes one of the 3 pillars of hip-hop — rap, graffiti, and breakdancing. It’s no secret then that while break dancing is slowly blossoming in the region, it is still in a state of limbo, just like rap, which has never managed to pop off to heights that it’s capable of in Cairo, with a market of 95M people.
B-boys meet up weekly, or even daily, and practice dance moves that would make your head spin. But don’t think of this as practice. Break dancing, just like rapping, is very much a lifestyle, more than a hobby. Just like rappers and their friends get together and freestyle, in a studio or elsewhere, b-boys practice moves with their crew when they’re hanging out.
While break dancing is very slowly blossoming, any b-boy in Egypt will tell you that there is a major lack of awareness about it in the country. “We don’t have sponsors for the competitions that we organize, other than Red Bull. Most of the people here in Egypt don’t understand what we do, and they don’t have the opportunity to get to know what we do.”, said Zerock, who is part of Legalize It, a crew that has amongst its ranks Cheetos (AKA Jerry), winner of the Red Bull NC Competition this year, one of the most important battles of the year.
Zerock also laments the infrastructure as one of the main reasons that break dancing hasn’t sprouted yet. There are no entities organizing regular tournaments that b-boys can participate in, except the b-boys themselves. “ [The tournaments] are only our jams! They’re organized by the b-boys themselves, so any b-boy or girl in Egypt can regularly join and compete.” So while there is great effort to push the scene forward, it is difficult without the proper backing, which seems to be nearly entirely lacking.
B-Boy Charley has been bustin’ moves for 16 years and has a long history with breakdancing in Egypt. Though he now considers himself retired, he has been in the scene since 2007 and has formed numerous crews, such as Black Bulletz, Swaggers, Ups n Downs Cru, and Bronx 2 Cairo. Aside from infrastructure, Charley thinks the scene hasn’t really blown up due to money. “It has been slow for the scene since most of the b-boys and girls here are from poor upbringings, which leads to poor and closed-minded mentalities in most cases, making them accept gigs for waaay less than they deserve, and dream with limits and become less creative and so on.”
There is clearly a lack of support from the Egyptian people as well. “Most of the audience, who are keen on following it, are hip-hop dancers themselves — so, more exposure is needed and it’s a dance that should be widely shared with everyone, not just those who already know about it”, said Ziad Ali, who has been break dancing since the tender age of fourteen.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Crews are still working hard, determined to gain more awareness and acceptance, and of course to attract more sponsorships. “My crew and I are doing our best to spread knowledge about break dancing here by organizing battles and workshops, and of course using social media to reach as many Egyptians as possible. Other crews in the country are doing this as well.” Also, Red Bull brought the BC One competition to Egypt this year, which serves as a great building block for the scene to reach bigger heights.
Why are brands like Adidas and Puma, for example, who are great supporters of the b-boy culture worldwide, not really showing any support in Egypt? The reason probably lies in the fact that people haven’t shown enough interest, so there is really nothing in it for them. But it’s like the chicken and the egg — you can’t get support without proper backing, and big brands won’t back the scene if they realise that it’s not worth their time and effort.
Breakdancing, in its performance is a beautiful art form, even to a neutral. The way dancers use their body as a tool is extremely impressive, and is an expression that is entertaining and deserves to gather crowds, just like an art gallery does. If anyone would like to understand how fun and entertaining a breakdancing battle can be for a viewer, simply watch the movie You Got Served.
Even when you look at the scene worldwide, it’s still very much in its infancy; it’s only this year that Red Bull will be hosting the first ever b-girl world final, where 16 of the best b-girls on the planet battle it out to be crowned the best on the globe.
It has often been said that the revolution has allowed people to express themselves more openly through things like art and music, but Charlie doesn’t believe that it had a great impact on the Egyptian break dancing scene. “The revolution was just a break for us from the restricted laws regarding dancing on the streets and filming videos and taking pictures and so on, but other than that, it didn’t really affect it much.”