Jordan B-Boys and the Culture of Breakdance

السبت 04 تشرين الأول 2008

Share’a preparing for K.O 2008 at Prince Haya Cultural Center

Written by: Shaden Abdul-Rahman

Breakdance, a movement started in the west more than 20 years ago has been re-discovered by Jordanian youth nearly eight years ago. The whole hip-hop scene has only recently flourished and with that, the b-boying has finally come out of hiding.

You can see them every Thursday and Friday on Thaqafa Street in Shmeisani, practicing and battling each other in a fun spirit. Chronix, Phoenix, Share’a are names of Jordanian breakdance crews you probably never heard of before, although they’ve been participating in dancing competitions for the past two years.

It all started five years ago in Shmeisani. According to Mohammed Zain, a 20 year old b-boy, it wasn’t planned at all: “One day I was at work in Shmeisani and some of my friends passed by carrying this big old stereo, you know the old ones with two huge flashy knobs…turned it on, and the temptation to pop was too high.”

And so it started.

Phoenix was started by Abdul-Hadi Abu-Nahleh, 19 years old. The crew lost the recent dancing competition against Share’a (Street), another Jordanian breakdance crew. The K.O 2008 competition was hosted by Tempo and Pink Entertainment.

I was lucky enough to meet Share’a a few days before the competition. I could smell nervousness in the air despite of the friendly attention they tried to give me. Mohammed Zain, AKA Zooka is only 19 but he’s been breaking since he was 12. Zooka was nice enough to introduce me to the rest of the crew:

– Rami Rabba’, 19 years old
– Mohammed Esheh, 14 years old
– Waleed Al-Wadi, 17 years old
– Yousif Al-Asmar AKA Wex, 17 years

Why breakdance?

Phoenix and Share’a both agreed on that breakdance is different. Breaking is difficult, it needs choreography, and choreography needs thinking. It has strength, it’s sporty and it’s very expressive.

To Anwar Al-Khalidi, a 23 year old DJ and former breakdancer, it was just a phase. He learned breakdance, enjoyed it for a while and moved on to music. Anwar is currently helping with the music and choreography. About how difficult it was to learn breakdance he said: “I learned by myself. A move that takes them a month now used to take us 3 months back then…we didn’t have anyone to learn from.”

Jordanian B-Girls?

Both Phoenix and Share’a said breakdance is not just for men, and it has become slightly more acceptable for girls to break on stage. Reservations on female dancers are still there though, most of the guys agreed on that girls should stick to a certain kind of moves, typically anything that’s done while standing up.

Prince Haya Cultural Center

Two years ago, PHCC has dedicated 3 days for the breakdancers to practice their moves in a hall that is good enough for dancing in front of the big surrounding mirrors. Feeling grateful, Phoenix crew talked about their experience as part of the 962 crew (Jordanian hip-hop team which includes MC’s, breakdancers, beatboxers and graffiti) ever since they had this dancing heaven, “we got 9 official performances since then.”

Talking about the problems they face, a common complaint was the lack of awareness among people when it comes to breakdance, and thinking of it as another type of dancing instead of giving it it’s cultural value as a form of street-culture.

The lack of specialized shops that sell helmets and pads in Jordan is also a problem, but Rami seems to have found his way around this. Rami’s helmet is really nothing but a couple of towels he uses to prevent head injuries during his head-spin moves.

Breakdance movies

Breakdance has been the subject of a number of movies in the last few years. In 2004, “You Got Served” came out, following the story of a group of energetic kids competing in the street to stay on top as the best dance crew in town. “You Got Served” was quickly followed by other dance movies such as “Step Up” in 2006 and it’s sequel “Step Up 2 the Streets” in 2008. A third part of Step Up is planned to be released in 2010.

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