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‘A huge step forward’: British breakers hail Olympic proposal

Prospective inclusion of breaking in Olympics goes down well among UK crews

It was the early 1970s and dancers couldn’t get enough of the instrumental “breaks” on a record. DJ Kool Herc, now widely hailed the father of hip-hop, was just a teen DJing at his sister’s parties in the Bronx when he extended these breaks and mixed them between different tracks. Some filled these instrumental breaks with raps, birthing a new form of music, while others, so-called B-boys and B-girls, began breaking, now better known as breakdancing.

More than four decades on from those hot, unassuming summer block parties in New York City, breaking could reach new heights: it has been put forward as a possible future official Olympic sport. The proposal has been warmly welcomed by British breaking crews.

Karam Singh was just 10 when he burst on to the World Championship stage, becoming the youngest breaker ever to compete. Now aged 20, he’s keen to represent Britain if the sport is included in the Olympics. “I think it’s amazing. It’s a huge step forward on what we do,” he said.

Breaking has come a long way since its formation, and elite breakers have a gruelling training schedule. Singh trains in breaking twice a day then heads to the gym; he also runs long-distance during the week and swims. “I compete in some of the biggest events of the world, but I also have to work part-time in a call centre,” he says. “Going into the Olympics will give [breaking] that recognition and a sense of direction that would benefit us and the generations to come.”

Singh is part of the Trinity Warriors breaking crew, based in Derby. The team’s manager, Paco Box, 35, also runs British Breaking League, a competition for six- to 17-year-olds. “A lot of the public see breaking as spinning on your head in a club or doing the worm, but it’s much more than that,” he said.

Karam Singh in front of members of the Trinity Warriors breaking crew. 

The league has hundreds of children across the country competing against each other. “They’re battling, but also showing respect for each other,” Box said. “They’re humble and driven. I’ve got a few kids in the league who struggle in the school, but through dance they get the drive to say ‘I am good enough to progress in life’.”

Although the league has had a huge impact on the children involved, Box has yet to secure public funding. He hopes recognition by the International Olympic Committee would change that.

A British Olympic Association spokesperson said: “We look forward to welcoming all new sports into the Olympic Games and will work with the relevant bodies to develop our relationships at the appropriate time. Although we did not compete in what was an invitational event at the recent Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, we did witness the popularity of breakdancing amongst fans there.”

Marso Riviere, a choreographer and manager of the breaking group Mad Dope Kru, based in Birmingham, said: “As a crew, we feel it’s great for the dance that it’s finally going to get recognition.”

But he admitted there was some concern across the community that having the sport included in the Olympics could take away the spontaneity that defined the early years of breaking: “Some people are worried of it becoming too much of a sport. It’s still a dance and people are worried of the actual rawness of the dance being stripped off.”

It’s easy to prevent that from happening, Riviere said, “so long as you preserve good music, bring the funk and the original flavours”.

As for 11-year-old Nevaeh Whittaker, one of Trinity Warriors’ youngest breakers, she hopes recognition leads to a lot more girls joining the sport: “Normally there’s more B-boys that break, but girls are coming in and showing the boys they are just as good as them.”

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