[bd2]An assortment of sneakers lies in a messy pile on the floor. Some are large, some small, some are worn and tattered from years of abuse, while others are still shiny and white. Adding his own shoe to the pile, mechanical engineering freshman Adithya Kosgi tries to calm his nerves and hype himself up for what he is about to do. As he watches his shoe being divided up into one of two groups, he reminds himself to stay energetic, positive, and to try to command the floor with his presence. Stepping into position, Kosgi releases his nerves and lets the music take control of his body. The shoe battle has begun.
“I was a little nervous before the shoe battle began,” Kosgi said. “But when you start break dancing you forget everything and the dancing takes over, and it just becomes part of you. You are only as good as the sweat, blood and tears you put into it.”
Breaking into the Club
[dedication]Kosgi, who joined the MSU Breakdance Club in the fall, was one of 16 MSU students who threw their shoes in a pile on a rainy Thursday night as part of the auditions for the team’s performance committee. After using their shoes to randomly break the hopeful members into two “crews,” the breakers started to show their skills and a committee used the battle to select this semester’s performance group. While anyone can be a part of the MSU Breakdance Club, the performance committee is made up of only 11 of the most exceptional dancers, according to general management junior Jessie Geer, a member of the Breakdance Club’s e-board. “Last semester was our first semester as an official club, but since then we have been getting a lot of hype,” Geer said. “So this semester, we are picking quality over quantity and cutting our performance team from 16 to 10. You have to have a lot of dedication to be part of the performance team – it’s pretty difficult.”
Dedication is something linguistics junior Michelle Ng knows well. As one of the only girls in the club and a new member of the performance team, she knows break dancing is not always easy. “The hardest thing I have to overcome would be my lack of power and strength and probably the strange way other people look at me,” Ng said. Though people on the outside may view her differently, Ng said within the club she is treated as one of the guys. “Many people think that girls would be treated differently here but no, that’s not true. Once you joined this club, immediately the very first thing you learn is to give props to your fellow group mates.”
On to the Stage
Ng and the rest of the newcomers on the performance committee will now have the opportunity to perform at many different kinds of venues. According to e-board member and neuroscience sophomore Kevin Richardson, since their first show during the spring of 2007, the club has performed all over East Lansing, as well as out of state, and has begun to become a requested performance at many campus events. They perform with other groups as well as on their own.[girl]
“It’s always been my dream to do this,” telecommunication junior and club secretary Andy Tran said. “I love performing and hearing the reaction from the crowd ooo-ing and wow-ing.”
That ooo-ing and wow-ing has been heard at numerous campus events and places so far, including the International Dance Extravaganza and McDonel and Landon Hall cafeterias. They have also competed in The Hidden Pearl Competition, which was part of Price of Life, a fundraiser at the Kellogg Center to stop sex trafficking in Asia, where they won $1,000.
According to Geer, their greatest performance so far was when they traveled to Ohio to compete with a breakdance crew at Oberlin College called S.P.A.R.K. “[Oberlin’s break dance group] was so hospitable,” Geer said. “We had a great time performing there; the crowd was crazy excited.”
From Then to Now
Despite all the hype they are getting now, the club started out with only a few members without too much experience among them. According to Richardson, the club began as just an idea between a few friends. “Me and Andy [Tran] went to high school together and we had always joked about breakdancing, but we had never actually done it,” Richardson said. “There used to be an old breakdance crew up at MSU and Andy’s brother, [electrical engineering senior and vice president] Danny, had been taught how to dance by one of its former members. But the group was pretty much dead. So when Andy and I came up here in the fall of 2006, we started learning steps from Danny and watching YouTube videos to learn more.”
When food science senior Leo Thai and chemical engineering junior John Yeo joined the group, each brought their own unique style and background. While Geer had been interested in “everything urban” his whole life and was a pop-lock dancer before joining up with the other guys, Thai had five years of extensive experience in breakdancing with a University of Michigan breakdancing group and actually helped the students there develop a breaking group called Element One. The last founding member, Yeo, was a self-taught breaker who was very interested in creating an official breakdance organization at MSU. [stripe]
By fall of last year, these students had established an official club, and their membership had increased dramatically, according to Richardson. Today, the club has more than 30 people and the original six members have become the e-board that plans out most of group’s choreography. Though few of the guys have had formal training in dance, they manage to create new choreography for the group on a regular basis. Their shows are a combination of group and solo performances.
“We learn some moves by watching videos, going to other groups’ performances and the rest by trial and error,” Geer said. “The break dancing community is really chill and so people are free about sharing their moves.”
Practicing their Craft
Though a lot of breakdancing is improvised and created by individual style, there are some basic breakdancing moves that all breakdancers, or b-boys and b-girls as they are sometimes called, use. According to Thai, the most basic moves are top rock, moves while standing; down rock, moves while on the ground; freezes, where the dancers hold a pose; and power moves, which include the gymnastic elements of breaking like spinning. However, breakdancing is not something that looks the same twice. “Within all those categories, there are difference variations,” Thai said. “It’s all open to interpretation.” For Thai, moves that are open to creativity are the most enjoyable. “I love top rock,” Thai said. “There is more room for interpretation, I think. I can really showcase my skills.” Richardson disagrees. “For me, down rock moves are the best,” Richardson said. “I feel like taking it to the floor is what breakdancing is all about. When I am down there, I feel a sense of safety.”
[smile]No matter what type of moves the b-boys enjoy most, they all agree being part of the MSU Breakdance Club is a fulfilling experience. “Breakdancing is a good way to escape from life,” Richardson said. “You go into a whole other world.” For Geer, being a member of the club is about more than just dancing. “We are a family here,” Geer said. “That’s what it is all about in the end.” Tran has used his experiences in breakdancing in other aspects of life. “Our motto here is power through,” Tran said. “When you get hurt you just have to keep going, in b-boying and in life.”
When the shoe battle ended, the breakers all heaved a sigh of relief and collected their shiny Nikes and old sneakers and reverted back to their everyday routines as MSU students. Their adrenalin levels decreased and their hearts went back to beating normally. The rush of top rocking, spinning and locking on the floor was over, but not for long. Some made the performance team, and others didn’t, but whether they get to perform or not doesn’t really matter. Self-taught and self-motivated as many of them are, they don’t need an official battle or a performance to make them dancers. As Kosgi said, “A great teacher once told me the whole world is your dance floor, and that is something I still live by today.”
And when you can spin on your hands and pose upside down, that’s one great dance floor.
The club is going to continue to perform at events, including the Latin Explosion on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Auditorium and the Lunar Show on Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center.