Break dancing spins back into mainstream - East Valley Tribune: News

Break dancing spins back into mainstream

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Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008 12:13 am | Updated: 11:52 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Break dancing, known as b-boying among those who live the culture, has largely remained underground since surging in popularity in the 1980s. But with the advent of dance reality TV shows and movies that highlight hip-hop and break dancing, b-boying and b-girling is moving back into the mainstream.

SLIDESHOW: See the students work on their moves

Break dancing, known as b-boying among those who live the culture, has largely remained underground since surging in popularity in the 1980s. But with the advent of dance reality TV shows and movies that highlight hip-hop and break dancing, b-boying and b-girling is moving back into the mainstream.

And it's up and coming in Gilbert.

Nathan Hawkins of Chandler teaches a break dancing class at the Leap of Faith Dance and Performing Arts studio in the Farmhouse Village near downtown Gilbert.

SLIDESHOW: See the students work on their moves

The 22-year-old b-boy, who goes by the name Panic, said he is teaching his students tricks that they'll use to fashion their own style to become a true b-boy or b-girl, and help them gain strength and confidence.

"The market is once again flooded with b-boys," he said. "It's important to me to help spread this on."

As Hawkins danced, kicked and spun during a class on Wednesday - using well-trained muscles that allow him to balance his entire body on one hand - his students ages 9 and 10 watched closely, trying to mimic and impress their teacher.

Hawkins wore a National Breakdancing League shirt, and is one in an army of break dancers trying to expand the league. The league was founded by Tempe resident Chris Coupelin, 27, whose b-boy name is Mr. Ill Skills, after an independent hip-hop magazine started in Arizona.

The National Breakdancing League began in Arizona in 2006, and this year spread to three other divisions under Coupelin: New Mexico, the Carolinas and Washington.

Coupelin wants break dancing to provide the same opportunities as other sports. It is not entertainment, but a skilled sport that requires constant training to be a world-class athlete, he said.

His ultimate goal with the league is to get companies to sponsor teams, so people can make a living break dancing. Coupelin said he plans to sponsor a team in Arizona next year to set an example.

"We look at the different urban sports that made it," he said. "Skaters, BMX bikes. I think the appeal is the obvious athleticism and the dynamics of the dance. There's no dance that has the elements that we have."

Coupelin said there are two breeds of break dancers: those who learn moves and do it for fun, and those who join crews and spend hours nearly every day practicing for high-energy competitions.

The b-boy lifestyle includes all cultures and ages, he said.

"To me, it's like a melting of all kinds of cultures," he said. "B-boys isn't a race. Spanish, black, white, young or old, everybody's involved. It's the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you walk."

Brenda Wolfe owns the Leap of Faith studio, and has been offering break dancing classes since August. Interest is growing, and her Gilbert studio - which teaches a variety of dances - is now expanding.

She attributes the growing interest to reality shows, including "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew." Her hot-pink sign advertising break dancing classes was stolen recently, and she thinks the dance's popularity is the reason.

Gilbert resident Kim Burleson enrolled her sons, Zach and Matt, both 10, in Hawkins' class. She said her boys are already becoming stronger and more confident. "They show us all their tricks, spin on their heads," she said.

David Campbell, 9, of Gilbert has been taking Hawkins' class the longest, and has already mastered a fast headspin. "I just like it because it seems cool to me," he said.

For more information on the National Breakdancing League, visit www.thenblinfo.com. For more information on the Leap of Faith studio and summer break dancing classes, call (480) 507-0777.

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