The hip-hop beat: breakdancing in Indy 

Breakdancing is arguably the most universally loved element of hip-hop culture. The choreography of breakdancing, set to epinephrine-inducing music mixes, appears to defy physics. When you add in the elements of spontaneity and competition, the dance becomes downright captivating.

Indianapolis breakers, B-Boys or B-Girls, have overcome the obstacles of limited outlets and peers by creating their own scene. The mecca of this community has long been the Casba, a basement club tucked away in the heart of Broad Ripple.

Bobby Burnam
One of the most respected figures on this scene is Bobby Burnam. Over the past seven years, he’s seen more and more dancers become involved, from two or three committed enthusiasts to a diverse community. He’s not afraid to lay it down to those who don’t take it seriously.

“You have to know the ins and outs,” Burnam says. “You have to know the ceremony of a culture.” His spirit and consistency has helped foster the new roster of Indy dancers. “You have to break it down and let them know, it’s a discipline.”

Burnam learned the history and language of the dance from Topspeed, who still spins for the breakers every week. Burnam has now established his own OG status, and has grown into his role as an overseer, making sure that the cipher, or dance circle, keeps a loving vibe. And he’s passed down his knowledge to other B-Boys, most notably standout Twosy.

Twosy
"At the ripe old age of 26, Twosy discovered the world of the B-Boy. Thanks to a fierce work ethic and competitive streak, he’s become one of the top breakers in the state in a few short years.

Twosy says he has always been into dance. Like many, he jumped into breaking without full knowledge of the traditions, suffering the consequences during a battle. “This kid from another town waxed me,” Twosy says. “I decided that’ll never happen again.”

Going against the perceived notion of hip-hop braggadocio, Twosy approached his competitor and asked him for lessons.

Twosy’s dance background helps him keep perspective. “It’s all about that connection to the music,” he expounds. “It’s a dance, not just big moves. You got to show that feeling. A lot of cats lack that character …”

“That’s the true expression of self,” Burnam interjects, sitting beside Twosy and another breaker, Sabroso, for an interview.

It’s easy for people to see the acrobatics and miss the intricacies of the movement, the kinetic vocabulary that makes up the language of breakdance. “This is everything I’ve been trying to say but couldn’t say,” Twosy explains of the dance.

Sabroso, part of a new generation of B-Boys inspired by late nights at the Casba, reiterates that sentiment. “I felt very estranged from humanity for a long time until I learned to communicate with people.”  

Sabroso
Sabroso has been breaking for four years, and has felt the challenge of being one of the few breakers in the state. “You’ve got to be hungry to find other dancers here, and stick to it. When you don’t have 50 people to watch and emulate, you have to come up with your own stuff.”

Sabroso may have had to look within for guidance, but he’s also making it easier for other breakers to learn from each other, organizing his own B-Boy classes and events, as well as the breakalliance.com Web community. His students at the Wheeler-Dowe Boys and Girls Club have learned how to discover the power of breaking from him. “A lot of times it’s the quiet shy cat, but on the dance floor they open up a whole ’nother side.”

“So’ was cool,” Twosy says, referring to Sabroso’s initiation into the community, “Cuz after you busted his head [in a cipher], he’d have you teach him how you did it.”

And while Sabroso respects the traditions of breaking, he doesn’t think dancers should feel restrained by those who have come before. “Traditions shouldn’t prevent you from breaking the mold. Breaking is based on both traditions and innovation,” he explains.

T.J. Reynolds is a poet, educator, producer and musician in The Philosophy.

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