Rachel recently sat down with b-boy (breakdancer) and Green Street teaching artist Bryan Giles to talk about the upcoming screening of Middletown B-boys and the Youth Dance Invitational.
Q: What is your dancing history?
A: I have been b-boying, exclusively, for the last 15 years. I got into it when I snuck into a party at Wesleyan University when I was 15. I saw it for the first time and it was just something I knew I wanted to do. I had no foresight that it would take me to the places I have been.
The opportunities and honors that b-boying has given me are huge. When I lived in Thailand, I was asked to dance for the queen. I was unable to perform but to be the first American b-boy asked to perform for her was a big honor.
Q: Tell me about Of Shadow and Earth.
A: Of Shadow and Earth is a b-boy crew of 15 active members, and 30 additional members. It’s not only that though; we are a family. We all started together, trained together and sessioned together. It’s great to be a part of a collective mind of people who are willing and looking to support each other, not just in b-boying, but in life as well. The crew began in Middletown and has branched out to include members in other cities and states. Bryan battling a fellow b-boy.
Q: What’s Fresh Obsessed?
A: Fresh Obsessed is a youth b-boy crew of 12 members based out of Green Street Arts Center. It started a few years ago because I wanted my students to know the other side of b-boying; not just the “academic” side of it. I wanted them to experience what it means to be a b-boy and to work and train hard to go to battles. More importantly, I wanted them to learn what it means to be in a crew and how to support each other. For me, I view the team as a great leadership opportunity for the kids. They all have their different strengths, which come through in their training.
Q: What is it like to teach at Green Street Arts Center?
A: Wow. It is such an amazing experience to have. Working with these kids helps me strive to be a better person and to be a positive influence for them, especially when what generally gets shown in hip hop culture is negative and excessively decadent. What I show them is true hip-hop culture, where money and race don’t matter. What does matter is building your own identity within hip-hop.
Some of the members of Fresh Obsessed have displayed such skill that they have gained the attention of members from Of Shadow and Earth and have been asked to battle in to the ranks of the crew. It’s something that I am very proud of and I am happy to give the students this opportunity.
Q: Tell me about filming the documentary Middletown B-Boys.
A: It was started in 2004 and was a fun experience if not a little weird at times. I was not used to having cameras follow me and peer into the intimate moments during practices and at events. It was a good experience for us. We, as a crew, were happy that someone was taking an interest in us and in our culture and wanting to document the work and process that goes into the style. And I think that a lot of people only see the end product, what comes from the time we spend training, and they don’t see what it is we have to go through to get to that point or what sacrifices we have to make. I think the film shares some insight into this.
Q: What is the Youth Dance Invitational?
A: The Youth Dance Invitational is a kids’ dance battle for ages 8-16. It is meant to encourage dancing and the use of dance as a creative outlet to stay out of trouble. First of all it, is a chance for kids to compete. A lot of kids that are into street dance are not aware that there is a bigger dance scene than what goes on in their neighborhoods or their school dances. Secondly, it is a chance for them to meet and compete against kids in their age groups. And hopefully inspire them to become better dancers. We chose Green Street to host the Invitational because Fresh Obsessed and ThoroEnergy, a local hip hop dance crew, are based here.
Q: Tell me about the day.
A: When the dancers arrive they will sign in and there will be a warm up dance session. Then the judges will showcase their skills before competition begins. There are two competitions, one-on-one b-boy/b-girl and hip hop freestyle dance. All ages will compete against one another. We have a prize package from Losst Unnown for the first and second place winners in each of the two categories and trophies for the first, second, and third prize. We will also have DJ N.E.B who will be on hand to DJ the event. He has over twenty years of experience playing music for these types of competitions.
Thank you to Bryan for sitting down and talking with us. To see him in action be sure to come to the Youth Dance Invitational and the Middletown B-Boys film screening. Here is more info on the two events happening this weekend:
On Friday, filmmaker Bridget Palardy, Wesleyan University Class of ’05, will present Middletown B-Boys, a documentary following two B-Boy crews currently operating in Middletown, Of Shadow and Earth and 4-ONE. According to Palardy, the film “is a portrait of the two crews as they negotiate religion, race, drug abuse, and life in a small city.” Middletown B-Boys recently won an award from the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was officially selected by the Chicago International Hip Hop Film Festival. Following Palardy’s presentation the screening, there will be a cypher, or breakdancing event, between local crews.
The following day will feature a competition between the best local youth dance groups, hosted by ThoroEnergy, Of Shadow and Earth, and Losst Unnown, in partnership with Green Street. ThoroEnergy is a newly formed hip-hop dance troupe featuring several Green Street students and founded by alumnus Eric Quiñones. Prizes will be awarded for the top dancers in a one-on-one b-boy/b-girl battle and hip hop freestyle categories.
Middletown B-Boys: Film Screening and Breakdancing Event
FRIDAY, May 21, 2010 | 7pm
$8 Non-Members; $5 members/students/seniors
Youth Dance Invitational
SATURDAY, May 22, 2010 | 1pm
$8 Non-Members; $5 members/students/seniors
For more information or to purchase tickets call 860-685-7871 or visit www.greenstreetartscenter.org.