MANAGUA – Jason Myers was sitting around at home watching cable TV one afternoon when a break-dance video came on. He’d never seen anything like it. The video showed Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón – a legendary dancer from the 1970s Brooklyn hip-hop scene – move, contort and spin his body across the floor to a beat. Myers immediately got off the couch to imitate the moves.
“I started hearing the music and just practicing,” said the Bluefields native.
That was seven years ago, back in the sixth grade. Myers has been a dedicated “b-boy,” or break dancer, ever since.
Last week, it was Myers’ turn to show off his moves to Crazy Legs Colón. On June 17, at Managua’s Club Matrix, Myers and 15 of Nicaragua’s top b-boys competed under Colón’s watchful eyes in the first organized b-boy battle here in recent memory.
And if the talent on display was any indication, it won’t be long before Red Bull sponsors another battle.
“The b-boys here in Nicaragua have got the power moves down,” said one of the event’s organizers and MC, “Mr. Fer,” from Guatemala. “This is a country with talented acrobatics.”
Managua’s underground b-boy scene is tiny; locals say only a few dozen people meet regularly for informal break-dance battles in people’s houses, the mall or the Altamira neighborhood park. But the movement seems to be gaining momentum.
Break dancing is also catching on in Granada, where a group of young boys and teenagers perform regularly on weekend evenings on the popular Calle La Calzada, taking turns showing off their moves for tourists before passing the hat around.
At last week’s b-boy competition in Managua, the place was packed well before the dancing started around 10 p.m. Hundreds of teenagers and 20-somethings – friends of the competitors and curious club goers who’d been lured in by radio commercials – surrounded the squared-off dance floor in the center of the room.
There, in designer skate shoes, crisp graffiti T-shirts and trendy trucker hats, the competitors and other local b-boys formed a “sypher,” or circle. To be a true b-boy or b-girl, it’s important to know the vocabulary, the Salvadoran B-boy Milo explains. In the middle, as they awaited Colón’s arrival, the boys took turns practicing flares, windmills, head spins and other moves.
A Panamanian deejay – brought in by Red Bull along with the Guatemalan MC and Salvadoran b-boy on tour through Central America – dropped a Snoop Dogg record, and dozens of hands flew into the air. A smoke machine kicked on and, against the back walls, dim blue neon lights alternated with flickering red bulbs. From the ceiling dangled two flat-screen TVs showing extreme sport videos.
Then as one helmeted b-boy dislodged his legs from a position worthy of a freakshow contortionist’s tent, a space in the sypher opened. In stepped a tall man with a linebacker’s chest and tight blue jersey tank top.
“Give it up for Craaaaazy Legs!” the tiny B-boy Milo boomed into his mic. Quickly the competition began with Colón drawing pairs of names out of a hat. In each battle, b-boys had two “entrances,” or opportunities to show off their moves and humiliate their opponent. The one who impressed Colón, the judge, made it to the next round.
However, what impressed the judge was not the same as what impressed the crowd.
“What we’re looking for here isn’t acrobatics, but the ability to dance,” Colón repeated throughout the night, as the audience booed his choices.
By midnight, the contestants were whittled down to two, who faced off with a threeentrance final battle.
The crowd favorite was a small, flexible boy whose tricks resembled his moniker “B-boy Rana” (frog), not the slow-moving Carlos Alberto “B-boy Charlie” Delgadillo Díaz.
Yet what Delgadillo lacked in technical floor tricks he made up for with his smooth rhythm – bobbing easily to the beat and by avoiding repetition. “I’m so exhausted,” the 20-year-old said later, his loose T-shirt clinging to his body with sweat.
The day before, Red Bull also sponsored a training session for their Central American b-boy tour.
Myers, the b-boy from Bluefields, said he took the training session to heart and agrees with Colón on the importance of following the beat over body contortions. He himself was eliminated after the second round.
“I got tired early and it showed,” he explained. “But I’m going to keep practicing, and who knows – I might have a better shot next year.”