The Yukon is better known for its brown bears than its bboys, but that’s starting to change.
Last month, the Breakdance Yukon Society brought kids from across the country and bboy crews from across North America for a weekend of workshops and competitions in Whitehorse.
The Yukon’s own bboy crew, Groundwork Sessions, took home the championship medal at the Yukon Energy Klondike Heat battle.
It was an especially sweet victory for the six-man crew.
In the championship round they faced a rematch against Toronto’s Ground Illusionz.
Three years ago, Groundwork Sessions lost to them in their very first competition.
This time, it was a different story.
“It felt pretty good,” said Ben Robinson, 18, a member of Groundwork Sessions, who also helped co-ordinate the weekend’s events, Cypher Fest, Walmart Cypher for Change youth forum and Yukon Energy Klondike Heat battle.
Co-ordinating the forum and festival while competing in the battles was “a bit intense,” said Robinson.
“I was running off four hours of sleep every night, but I still managed to compete and do decent,” he said. “I don’t know how.”
While the Yukon Energy Klondike Heat and Walmart Cypher for Change are in their third and second year respectively, it was the first year for the festival.
“It’s definitely making a splash,” said Robinson. “We’ve gotten tons of emails of bboy crews that want to put shows together and come up next year to be in the festival.”
The Breakdancing Yukon Society is hoping to build on the success of this first year to grow the event, said Andrea Simpson-Fowler the society’s artistic director.
“I think the general response from across the country was huge,” she said. “They are already planning events, some of them are starting to teach classes and thinking about how they’re going to fundraise to come back next year.”
Staging the festival and the youth forum is about more than just promoting the art.
“The whole idea was to inspire them to build community and to use bboying to make positive change in their communities,” said Simpson-Fowler.
“When you care about your community, you want to teach youth how to be good citizens and, for me, bboying is one of the ways to teach them how to be good citizens,”
“You can draw all kinds of parallels to basic life skills.”
Her son Riley is also a member of Groundwork Sessions, but she helped support the entire group through Leaping Feats, her dance studio.
“They’ve all worked here either through the summer camps, or teaching or in the office,” she said.
Each member also has a key to the studio.
For Robinson and the rest of the Groundwork Sessions crew, the dream is to build a career out of bboying.
“Most crews can’t manage to do that, especially when they get around our age – most people start wanting to go do their own thing,” said Robinson. “One of the strengths we have right now is that we’re all together so we’re trying to take advantage of that and make the most of it while we can.”
In the next six months Groundwork Sessions will travel to Holland, Orlando and San Francisco for some competitions.
They’ve been applying for grants, and will hold fundraising parties in September and October to pay for it.
“Right now we’re just trying to work, save up and live really cheaply for the most part,” said Robinson. “I might have to get another job so I can afford to do all this.”
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