San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Breaking Their Way Through to the Other Side

It doesn’t look natural, the way bodies move when they’re being used to break- dance, but there’s no doubting how impressive it is.

Dancers move their limbs dynamically, using their momentum to thrust themselves into flips and twirls and then, suddenly, they catch themselves. Their bodies arch so as to balance themselves in the most precarious moment and then slow, seeming to float for a few seconds as the dancers hold themselves up on an elbow or the butt of a hand. And then, just as quickly, they spin back out of the position, regaining their momentum and the flow of the music.

It’s like yoga, only it’s for the impatient, the aggressive, the youthful, the competitive – all of which makes it perfect for what Miguel Bolaños is trying to do: teach young people patience, discipline and values.

“I felt that break-dancing could help kids in high-risk neighborhoods,” Bolaños said, “to create a space for them to express themselves.”

In 2005, Bolaños started a small program he called Proyecto La Zona. The idea was to help give kids growing up in dangerous neighborhoods positive direction and something to work toward. The project is now about to celebrate its second annual Urban Dance and Art Festival, featuring a break-dancing competition entitled “La Batalla Final: Costa Rica,” the winners of which will hopefully be sent to compete in Brazil next month.

The festival will take place this weekend in the Central Park of Curridabat, east of San José, with the break-dancing competition set for tomorrow. The rest of the time will be dedicated to other forms of youthful urban expression. A graffiti contest will name four artists to cover Curridabat’s Parque Freses in their art, with the theme being “Connection, Body to City.” There will be a skateboarding exhibition as well as other urban dance exhibitions throughout the weekend, all to be fueled by the lively presence of international DJs to keep both the festivities and the break-dancers spinning.

One group of five and two individual breakers – known as B-boys and B-girls – will be selected out of the more than 30 overall contestants to represent Costa Rica in São Paulo, Brazil, in the “La Batalha Final” dance competition Sept. 26. Most Latin American countries will be represented in Brazil, though there will also be teams from the United States, Canada and France.

“The idea is that these types of events will open up ways of sending Costa Ricans to the (break-dancing) world cup,” which takes place in Germany every year, Bolaños said. “And since I arrived, the quality of dancing has gotten much better.”

Now, the only thing they’re waiting for is funding to send the winners to São Paulo – from “a business or anyone,” he said. The Culture Ministry is Proyecto La Zona’s only source of funding, but it hasn’t been able to put up the money to fly dancers to Brazil, with money short across the country.

Bolaños, who has been break-dancing for 19 years, moved from his native Colombia to San José seven years ago. He founded Proyecto La Zona out of a desire to explore his origins in hip-hop and break-dancing, he said. Through that exploration, he found his métier in the form of teaching kids in San José’s rougher neighborhoods an activity that would train them physically and mentally – something they could dedicate their time to practicing.

For Andrés Herrera, who’s also Colombian and has been working as an instructor with Bolaños for a little over a year, the project offers alternatives to hanging out on the street and getting in trouble.

“It’s something that opens many doors,” Herrera said. “It gives them direction. They practice with their friends, instead of drinking and smoking in the streets.”

Elver Castillo, a fellow member of Herrera’s break-dancing group, Fusion Crew, said events like the dance competitions bring together different cultures to interact and exchange ideas.

For all three, break-dancing provided an outlet as they grew up in rough Colombian neighborhoods. Bolaños said he has already seen the same take place in some of the 30 kids involved in his free program.

“Throughout the time (the program’s been running), I’ve seen many advances in the students, not only in technique, but individually. And they have their own values within their group,” he said.

With more financing, Bolaños hopes to not only boost the level of Costa Rican break-dancing to compete on the world stage, but also expand the program throughout the country, from Limón in the east to Puntarenas in the west, he said.

For a program of this weekend’s festival events, see the Calendar on pages W6 and W7. For information about Proyecto La Zona, contact Bolaños at 8842-2475 or


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