Can you give us your name, where you’re from, type of dancer, and how many years you’ve been dancing?
What’s up, my name is Jiggz. I’m from New York City, born and raised mostly in Corona (Queens, NY) but born on the Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan. I do the original style of Hip-Hop, which some people call Breaking. The style of dance that I do is called Breaking. I’ve been dancing about 23 years.
What is Breaking? How do you define Breaking?
I would define Breaking in many different ways because there’s so many elements to it, so i couldn’t put it just in a few words. I think it’s pretty complex but as a basic, I think we have an understanding that it started from dancing up top, worked its way to the ground, eventually evolved into something more athletic, which is the element of power moves and it has a whole bunch of different aspects to it so I can't define it like that.
I would have to get into detail with each element with top-rock, footwork, freezes, power moves, and there’s other things- the way you approach it, the musicality, the details, creativity, also how to come to perform as well. It’s really hard to describe in simple, I think it’s a very complex and explosive type of dance since the beginning, some people would call it “the go off”, “going off dancing.”
There’s different terms but that was the idea, you wait for that part of the song that really moves you and you go all out and you express yourself but now it’s evolved in so many elements to it that you have to get into depth. It takes time to really truly understand how deep it gets.
When were you first exposed to Breaking?
I think I was exposed to breaking most of my life. I just didn’t know anyone that was really involved with it so I didn’t have a direct connection. I seen it from the corner of my eye. Basically through TV, rap videos, I had an idea of people saying things like “electric boogie” and things like that, or on TV you’d see headspins or backspins but I didn’t understand it or the terms of what they was until my teen years.
I got exposed to some movies and again through rap videos mostly, and I was into skating. So that was another way I was introduced because there was this guy that use to make skating videos who had clips of dudes dancing from California. This is in the 90’s, so mostly in the 90’s is when I got really familiar to what it really was, not just Breakdancing.
For me, what I thought, Breakdancing was like Boogie, what you see Michael Jackson doing and stuff. I didn’t know the background of it until after, when I started getting more curious seeing movies and me and my friends were just starting to do. We came across other people that were doing it then we started learning exactly what it was.
What kind of Skating were you into?
We were doing aggressive inline skating- it was roller blades, doing stunts and grinds. Basic stuff that skateboards were already doing but with skates on your feet with blades. So it was a little more, it was different cause you had something attached to your feet.
It was cool because it gave me a perspective of having style, even in Skateboarding, you know people, they look into details, the way you move. It’s how they consider your style, your swag. Same idea, so I learned about that before I was Breaking. I already knew you had to look smooth so I took that in pretty easily when I started dancing.
Once I learned some steps, I learned how to finesse it, then I was like “aight, now Ima add a little bit of my own flow to it.” I understood that pretty quick. It was my brother, Wild-Child, who made that clear to me. He described it to me in that way, you got to add style to it, he would show me the basic way, then how he would do it, and I understood right away. Then I was trying to invent my own style, trying not to look like him but kind of be like him but not look like him.
So, today, we have Breaking all over the internet, dance studios, and schools worldwide. How was Breaking before all these changes?
Before it was very common in the studios and the media, again, when I came up, it wasn’t that busy. It was still out there cause that's kind of how I got interested in it again, by seeing KRS-One’s video. He had some Breaking in it, they had Breeze Team (which are street dancers), they also have Full Circle, and we were just intrigued by the movement. It caught our eye, so there wasn’t that many sources to get to it. I didn’t know anyone, “Where the hell am I going to find this!?” There was no YouTube, nothing like it, was no Google. I had no idea where to find this stuff.
It was pretty exciting to come across anything that was even close to that, so once we started hearing about things like the Skate Key and open practices, we got on it right away. We fell in love with it right away, of course, because it’s something you don’t know where to find it and it pops up all of a sudden, you’re like “Oh snap! I like that, I want to get into that!” So it was cool cause you had to search yourself and a lot of things were by word-of-mouth, people were still handing out paper flyers, so if you didn’t know anybody who was in the culture or doing these type of things involved with that, you weren’t going to get any access to it. So after a while, we got to know people. It’s a crazy story how we met different people and just started connecting throughout the years but it was cool because we had to get out of our comfort zone all the time, so that kind of made us want to be prepared and also it was a sense of ‘you had to represent where you from’ and, in general, you have to just go out there and represent, and it was hard because nobody was really out there, teaching, we kind of just learned on our own at first. Once we met other people, we started getting access to cassettes and things, and we tried to copy the stuff then we started sharing that knowledge amongst each other- sharing the tapes, going around to different practices. There was a practice in the Bronx we used to visit, another practice in the Lower East Side, one of the first open practices I went to was in Bushwick (Brooklyn).
What was the scene like?
It was a few, it was very exclusive for us at least in New York City cause by the time I got into it, they already had B-Boy Summit, Radiotron, and Freestyle Session I think was in the beginning when I started dancing, or probably before, and these things were already happening in the west coast. There was kids who had their own crews and stuff. They kept doing it over there but in New York there was a very small amount of people doing it and none of them were really young, they were the elders; dudes that was still dancing from the 80’s, and some people from the 70’s, and mostly the street dancers. Those were the dudes that kept on throughout the year, it was really hard to get access or to learn something, you had to really dig into your imagination and creativity and it was also a lot of trial and error.
It was difficult, now you can look up any tutorial, the people you look up to, you can actually reach out to and learn from them, look up where they’re teaching, things like that. It’s good, it’s more accessible now, so before it was fun though, having that little quest. It brought that excitement as well, it's a different element now, it’s like a little bit for us since it was so exclusive. Now it feels oversaturated for people in my generation but i think it's affecting the younger generation cause it's all there for them and they pick and choose where they want to go. It's not that feeling of anticipation as much cause there's a lot going on every weekend. If you want, you can figure out an event to go to a battle.
What was it like before?
Before, it was, you would hear about it then you had to try to make your way over there. It was different, it was really different. I love this generation, I love that generation but that had to happen in order for it to be the way it is now. That’s just how I saw it out here where I’m from. One thing I always say is that people have different perspectives, you learn different, they saw it different, so they’re going to tell their story differently. So what I’m saying isn’t the true history, that's just how I saw it, that’s my experience.
How about Jams, compared from now than before?
I think jams are different now because it’s more focused on the contest aspect. Before, it was as well, there was always a battle, but the main reason you went is to catch wreck in the cypher. I don’t think we were even at a level to have an ego, we were just going out there to represent and catch a little bit of wreck, a little bit of shine, but what drove us all the time was hoping to see a rival there. That was really our motivator, was to go get into it with somebody and that was fun, that’s exciting. That’s how I think it’s a little bit different now, most people focus on the contest when they go to an event, there’s still people that go just to go rock out but I see the balance is the other way.
Many reference you as the “Mayor of New York”. How did that name come about?
Well first of all, I don’t think I’m the “Mayor of New York”. I’ll tell you a little back story on that. That’s just a nickname that started sticking cause a friend of mine was hosting an event and I was one of the judges, and that's how he introduced me. My boy, Cik, he was hosting a battle. Long story short, that’s all it was, that’s how he introduced me. Just giving me a shout out, just joking “Give it up for the Mayor of New York!” It was a joke and then people started saying that but I don’t consider myself the mayor or nothing like that.
To be honest, I don’t really like it. It puts too much pressure. I don’t feel I’m the “Mayor.” I’m just here to have fun, live and learn, just like everybody else. I don’t want people to think I’m self entitled or any type of arrogance or I’m above anybody or what I say is the law. Chill, that’s too much. That’s a little bit vain I think, but if people feel a certain way then I’m thankful that they even look at me like a leader but my intentions are just to make sure everybody gets a chance and has fun and does their thing and gets heard. I just want the best for the dance really, that’s just about that name, “The Mayor.”
What do you look for as a Judge for competitions?
As a judge, when I’m judging a battle, the main thing I look for is to be well rounded. Someone who has a good understanding and packages their rounds good and presents it well, and executes. The way you perform sometimes can affect whether you win or lose, doesn’t mean just because you have a good skill set, and I may know that. If you didn’t perform well and then your opponent does really good, I have to give credit where it's due, so I always try to be fair. Like I said, the main thing I look for is for someone to be well rounded in most of the elements.
You don’t have to do everything, you don’t have to have wild footwork but you should show some of it. Those are important, to me, top-rock, footwork, and execution is really important. So I look for that and I look for originality that helps a lot score high. Also, since it’s changed, athleticism does score, it helps cause it shows how the human body has such great abilities that were probably not even thought of in any other type of practice. Martial Arts, I like how some people are incorporating that now, some people are just “Oh, they’re just tricksters” but hey, if they show you they can dance and they show that they got some nice footwork and they can execute their freezes, or most of the stuff they do is explosive, and transitions. Like I said, you package it well, it is what it is.
It’s a conversation too, its complex to explain too sometimes. It's very subjective, that's basically what it is and when you’re judging, you got to try to be as objective as possible. So the best way I’d explain is show a good foundation and also show a high level of skill too. You can't just get by because you got clean moves, you also have to show difficulty is important as well, I look at that as well.
What about as a fan or a student?
As a fan of Breaking, I love power moves. I definitely like to see people do a lot of spin moves, that’s always a must I like to see. If you're a well rounded B-Boy, then you should have ground power, it’s not all about air flares and air moves, even though it’s good to incorporate it now-a-days, you should have it. This generation is kind of something that should already be a basic because the level is going up, so moves that are now becoming, it’s more normal to see people do that. I love to see power of course, ground power, and my favorite dance style (my favorite element actually) is footwork myself. My preference, that’s the style I prefer to do but like to see. I've always liked power moves, so a balance of both.
I like to see the creativity of footwork, I think it's over-looked by a lot of B-Boys cause they like to do the explosive moves. I like to see people do intricate stuff and really get in there and dig into their creativity and just the art of motion can be used. And I think it's easier to stand out like that, when you practice that stuff. That’s really my favorite, is footwork and freezes. I like a little bit of everything but I do favor watching power moves but I like doing footwork.
What are your favorite aspects about the dance? Is it the community, the battles, the parties?
I mean, all of it. That’s why I dedicated most of my life to it. I can’t tell you which is my favorite part of the dance, and the community, and the partying, and the battles cause I like all of it. That’s why I've been dedicated, there’s a lot to it. Teaching is a different part that I like. I like to share what I know, I like to see peoples’ growth and I seen that it’s something, even with myself, that it can help you with your confidence, and that right there can open up so many doors for you. I like to share that, especially with young people because I feel dancing helped me break out of my shell, help me believe in myself, and made me think more on a creative level instead of going with what everyone else was doing, so it helped me in many ways.
I couldn’t tell you which is my favorite because I love to party when I was younger. What really attracted me to it was the batting! That to me was probably my favorite part. Now, things have changed, I don’t feel like I have any rivalries or any type of drive to come at any body or I don’t expect people to come at me, so it’s changed. The reason I still dance, I dance because I enjoy it and it also, just many things, health, and it’s double sided. It’s a love-hate relationship as well because as a dancer, you go through a lot of struggles, a lot of physical pain, you sacrificed a lot, you sacrificed a lot of time, so you know you don’t get that back.
I guess it’s, hmm, I don’t know!? You’re always going to keep coming back to it if you really love it. No matter what, no matter how much you struggle, whatever you deal with but in terms of health, it’s been good and bad for me. It opened my eyes to a lot of things but you live and you learn. For me, through injuries, I learned how to take care of myself and know when I’m pushing it too much or when I need to chill. It’s a good experience either way in my opinion, good and bad.
How do you feel about the direction the Breaking scene has gone today, with its worldwide popularity? There’s mention this dance will take part in the 2024 Olympics.
The way I feel the direction that Breaking is going, is that it’s going to keep moving forward, regardless, and it might keep evolving. Different people are going to be involved. I mean, all we can do right now is to keep contributing, to try to make it better. I feel it’s getting better, there’s more opportunities for people, more exposure, more opportunities for you to do your own thing. If it does make it to the Olympics (cause we don’t know for sure) but I think it’s a cool idea. Just, it’s been announced not too long and it's all over the media, and that’s free promo for the art. Whether or not it goes, the conversation is there, the topic is coming up and people are like “What’s Breaking?” So I don't think it hurts, I don’t think that Breaking ending up in the Olympics is no different than us going to a big battle (Red Bull, Battle of the Year, Undisputed, R16, Freestyle Session). I don’t think that’s any different, it’s just another contest and it’ll just boost, be more out in the open for people to see and maybe understand it or maybe just get interested in it, especially the youth.
So it’ll keep growing for generations, I don’t think it's going to hurt the art form, there's people who practice and they don’t go out to any events and they still dancing and enjoy themselves. So I don’t think it's going to hurt the art, I think the art is going to keep growing no matter what, so I think peoples’ fear is that it’ll be more considered a sport. Like I said, you can choose to do whatever you want, if you feel as if that’s not where you belong then do what you feel is right and help that end of the art grow, you know, just I don’t think we should knock each other either way. Whether you support it, or not, and I feel the direction is going good, to be more on.
Just to give you a basic answer, the positive outweighs the negative. There’s always going to be things people aren’t happy with, you can't please everybody and that's what we’re trying to do, is work on making these things better; the events, the jams, the parties. And if it reaches a big platform like that, I think you should be taking advantage of it. I don’t think it's not even about the money, it's about people seeing it, it’s about people knowing that exists and that it’s respected worldwide and that people really put their lives into this, you know!? For some people, they hear it and they may think it’s a joke and say “Wow, people still do that!?”, and obviously they do. Some people have put 40-plus years into it, they invested their whole lives and contributed so much to something that’s global and I think it's important that it’s shared. Why keep it tucked away? It doesn’t make sense to me, so the direction is good. I see a lot more organization, it’s been something that's kind of been “make it up as you go.” That’s how I seen Hip Hop has always been, “Aight, we’re looking for the next thing, let’s innovate something!” You hear it in the music, they keep resampling, even classics that we dance to, they keep remaking the music, it’s kind of what we do with the dance. We, kind of, revamping what we saw in the 90’s.
The 90’s B-Boys did what they saw in the 80’s, the 80’s B-Boys did what they saw in 70’s, but it starts changing and we are what we are now, so if it’s going in another direction, all I can do is support it. I’m not going to knock it cause I’ve seen the changes and I’ve seen the changes for the good and there is stuff that’s kind of wack but I don’t feel there’s any need to put energy in that stuff.
If you don’t like something, fix it, find something else to do. Otherwise, you keep complaining about it. It doesn’t make sense, put your energy into something that's going to make things better instead of making other people upset and just knocking it. Basically, don’t mess up an opportunity for somebody else just because you don’t agree with it, that’s how I feel my opinion.
You have 23 Years Breaking. As a B-Boy with a wealth of knowledge, experiences, what will you, and your peers, do to keep this momentum going and help the youth seize these new opportunities you all worked hard for?
Well, I can speak for myself, my intentions are to help the youth, however I can, and I think encouragement goes a long way and showing that you acknowledge them. That alone makes them feel like what they’re doing is worth it. So that’s what I try to do now because when I was young, I remember feeling like I wasn’t appreciated and that kind of pushed me away a little bit but it also kind of made me want to prove to myself something.
So I knew the feeling of feeling unappreciated and just letting it go. I seen a lot of people get turned off the dance cause of things like that, cause it wasn’t even about fun, it was about props. I like to let the kids know that I seen them, I see what they’re doing, you know, I give them props to a certain extent but I try to give them pointers, give them some tips, “Yo work on this or work on that” and give them some advice. I wish I had that, I wish I had more mentors, I’m glad that I met some people later on that helped me and that didn’t deny me so that helped me grow a lot and I can see how it can be something that these guys need is a little push so they can believe in themselves. For example, I’m super proud of the Titanz and a lot of those guys wound up being down with Supreme Beingz and X-Fēnz because of that, because they kept pushing.
A lot of people stopped dancing, that we considered prospects, you know. We wish they would’ve stuck around but you know life takes people in different directions and I just want to help people if I can help, if you have any questions or if you want to practice together.
When you’re a teacher, it’s not only about being in a dance studio or claiming students. I feel if you’re a real teacher, you don’t claim anybody, you’re a student as well, and you’re learning as you go too.
We all learn from each other, stay humble like that. It’s more about sharing, I don’t feel any type of “I feel proud when I see people that I helped coming up” but I don’t feel any type of arrogance. Yeah, that’s cause of me and that's not my intentions of why I want to help people.
I want to see them come up from a genuine place cause it makes me happy, it makes me, you know, your reminiscence on those good times as well. I remember winning my first battle and I get that feeling, when I see my friends reaching those accomplishments, so it helps me relive good moments.
So that’s why I like to do it, I like to see people feeling accomplished within my circle, friends, and my community. I feel it's a win for me, it’s a win-win for everybody. If we work together we can progress more.