Breakdancers prepare for Cypherfest

Names like RoxRite, Venum and Ynot may not be familiar to most people, but they're big in the world of breakdancing. These bboys, as they're known, will judge this year's Wal-Mart Cypherfest International Bboy/Bgirl Festival.

Names like RoxRite, Venum and Ynot may not be familiar to most people, but they’re big in the world of breakdancing.

These bboys, as they’re known, will judge this year’s Wal-Mart Cypherfest International Bboy/Bgirl Festival, which runs from July 20 to 22 at the Yukon Arts Centre.

“What Justin Bieber is to pop music, these people are to bboying,” explains Andrea Simpson-Fowler, owner of Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks and artistic director of the Breakdancing Yukon Society.

The event, now in its second year, features evening performances by breakdancing crews from Yukon and across Canada.

The festival began as a way to showcase dancing and choreography from the society’s two-week annual breakdance summer intensive program. In 2010, the Breakdancing Yukon Society received federal funding to bring youth from across Canada to participate. Last year, they received funding again and decided to turn the showcase into a festival.

This year’s event will be smaller – the society didn’t receive the same funding. Fewer participants are coming from outside the territory, but it will still be significant.

RoxRite, Venum and Ynot have judged events like the one Groundwork Sessions, the territory’s premier breakdancing group, participated at in Holland – an event with over 10,000 participants. RoxRite has 77 number-one titles from competitions around the world.

He is the officiating champion of the BC Red Bull One, an event he describes on his website as the breakdance equivalent of the Super Bowl.

The Yukon event may seem like an obscure activity in an unusual location. But it seems to work to local breakdancers’ advantage.

Ben Robinson, a 19-year-old member of Whitehorse’s Groundwork Sessions, has found that people are drawn to the fact that his group is from the Yukon. They think it’s “random.”

The Groundwork Sessions have performed at the Atlin Music Festival and the Dawson City Music Festival and competed in Holland. In 2010, Robinson represented the Yukon at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Simpson-Fowler helped start the breakdancing society in 2004, after her son became interested in breakdancing. This was “before YouTube took off,” she

remembers.

She and other parents needed to find a way to teach their children about dance so they wouldn’t give it up. Along with her dance experience, Simpson-Fowler has a contemporary arts degree in dance from Simon Fraser University. But she knows when her students need someone else to teach them. So, she went looking for teachers. They came from Toronto and Los Angeles.

Now, she said, instructors contact the organization and ask to teach here. The Yukon has the appeal of both the Wild West and the Far North.

Whitehorse may not be on the list of Canadian breakdance hot spots yet, but it’s growing. Currently, around 40 children aged seven to 18 participate in the society’s CypherKids program and there are more local crews who will showcase their talents in the festival this year. And the talent is spreading.

This September, the members of Groundwork Sessions will move to Vancouver. They hope to land more performances. They know, from watching and talking to their famous mentors, that careers as breakdancers really is possible.

Working at dance does produce rewards. It’s one of the many life skills Simpson-Fowler hopes her students learn. But to her, the best accomplishments aren’t always the most glamorous. It may be a parent watching their child dance, and having that dancer realize their parent is proud of them. Or, most importantly to Simpson-Fowler, it may be the feeling of belonging to a larger community.

In Robinson’s experience, the breakdancing world has given him friends around the world. And soon, that world comes to Whitehorse.

Tickets are $15 per show, or $35 for a weekend pass.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com