Local dancers breakin’ the ice in Iqaluit

By Philippe Morin

Some sports are expensive. But others require nothing more than a smooth surface and music.

That’s the message Yvon Soglo and Christine Lamothe, members of the Canadian Floor Masters breakdance troupe, recently brought to Iqaluit.

The acrobatic team spent a few days in Nunavut’s capital, teaching more than 100 young people the fun and physical benefits of breakdancing.

Soglo, who goes by the name B-Boy Crazy Smooth, is considered among Canada’s top dancers. He teaches a weekly class in Ottawa, which pits students in friendly “battles” for the most impressive moves.

He says “b-boying” and “b-girling” — his preferred name for breakdancing — is a good hobby for young people. It’s easy to learn, requires no equipment and is great exercise. “It’s a very good way to get into shape,” Soglo says. “Physically, it’s just dancing, you get in shape and you don’t notice. It’s something fun to do.”

Since “battles” are judged on improvisation, style and athletic ability, Soglo says the dance has elements of both sport and art. Though a back flip might be hard to do, for instance, it may not be enough to save an unoriginal routine.

“I’m looking for style, diversity and execution,” he tells his class, as they prepare to face off.

Lamothe, who goes by the name “lil*bear,” teaches occasional workshops in Ottawa high schools. She says the exchange between hip-hop and Inuit culture in Iqaluit was astounding.

“They had throat singing and traditional drums mixing with our hip-hop music,” she says. “There was a traditional drum circle going, and we had b-boy battles in the centre. It was sick.” (We remind readers: “sick” means good. It’s a hip-hop thing.)

As a result of the trip, Lamothe says, a group called the Nunavut Floor Masters has begun holding breakdance battles in Iqaluit.

The first contest, held last week, was called “Breakin’ da Ice.”

Lamothe says she’s not surprised northern kids have embraced “b-boying,” given the genre’s expressive nature. She says the dance is a celebration of creativity, which transcends cultural borders.

“B-boying comes from a place where people didn’t have much to do, and didn’t want to do what society told them,” Lamothe says, referencing its roots in 1970’s New York city.

“We feel this is something that’s helped us. We use it to channel our energy.”

In Ottawa, Soglo’s students say breakdancing is a good way to stay in shape, and is both creative and competitive.

Anton Borysenko, a lifeguard at the Carlingwood YMCA, takes Soglo’s class to get fit. His most difficult move is “the turtle,” which is a type of horizontal spin. Imagine doing a push-up, then spinning around with your legs in the air.

“It gives you energy, it’s very competitive,” Borysenko says. He even muses that breakdancing could one day become an Olympic sport.

Hide Yamanaka, another student of the class, says he’s incorporated some karate moves into his repertoire. He does an “L-kick,” a spinning kick where the legs form an L.

Though some signature moves require strong arms and muscle stamina, Soglo says everyone should develop their own training style.

“This dance form requires a lot of physical training, if you take it seriously,” he says. “But it’s very much a solo dance. You have to educate yourself in how your body works. Everybody will have a training routine that is better for them.”

Of course, potential breakdancers shouldn’t jump head-first onto the hardwood, literally and figuratively.

Lamothe says she’s seen people injure themselves dancing. She occasionally gives massages to students who pull muscles while attempting difficult moves, and practices yoga to improve her flexibility.

“If you get hurt, chances are you didn’t warm up properly or got too excited,” she says.

Lamothe says there is also danger when dancers overexert themselves to impress an audience. “People always ask us to spin on our heads,” she says.

Having created a website (www.cruzcontrol.ca/hiphop) documenting their trip, Lamothe says the Floor Masters are looking to head north again.

“I want to continue what we started,” she says. “Iqaluit is so rich in culture, and these kids really understood what we were doing. I just want to play with them more.”