Tracey Tong/metro ottawa
“All the chicks dig it. If you were a dancer, a DJ, a rapper or a graffiti artist, you were cool.”
More than 30 years after bursting onto the scene in New York City’s Bronx, breakdancing is more popular than ever, the leader of a street performance group said here yesterday.
The public proved Julio Santiago right yesterday as the USA Breakdancers — Santiago, William Sanchez, Anthony Rosa and José Colon — performed at the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe streets in one of the closing acts of the 16th annual Sparks Street Mall International Busker Festival.
Known as b-boying to its practitioners, the dance form originally known as breakdancing is huge in the mainstream, Santiago said.
“There are a lot more kids breakdancing now these days than there were in the 80s.”
Breakdancing has traditionally appealed to younger people, but shows today break down age barriers. “Breakdancing is high-energy stuff. Almost everyone that sees it loves it,” he said.
Yesterday’s breakdancing helped close a five-day festival that featured 13 acts including comedians, musicians, jugglers, acrobats and fire eaters. It was a huge success, said Sparks Street Mall manager Sharon McKenna.
An estimated 280,000 people attended. McKenna said most people were locals, who made a special trip to see the festival.
For the past decade, USA Breakdancers have toured summer busker festivals and fairs across North America. During the rest of the year, the team performs at high schools and colleges, as well as during NBA games’ halftime shows.
The performers all have years of experience and train weekly. A self-taught dancer, Santiago has been breakdancing since the early 80s.
“Everyone did it in the neighbourhood,” said Santiago. “Everyone thought it was cool. All the chicks dig it. If you were a dancer, a DJ, a rapper or a graffiti artist, you were cool. Then, I found out I could make a living doing it.”
This year’s Buskerfest marks only the second time that the group has performed in Ottawa, but Santiago has a soft spot for Canada’s capital.
“It was the first city I ever performed in, in 1985.”