For the past 8 years, The Bboy Factory has given away over 10 hours every week of Open Practice space. During these hours, we allow our community to use our space to train their individual skills. A small box is put out to collect donations, but we do not pressure anyone to pay. For a small business to give away our resources is a huge sacrifice and does not make a lot of sense. Every month we have to pay for rent, utilities, insurance, music licensing, instructors, advertising and more. So why on Earth would we give away such valuable time?
Opening a Breakin studio is not the same as any other dance studio. Breakin is a street dance and part of a Hip Hop culture that was born from poverty and struggle. The studio that claims this culture must also understand the legacy of the dance and how it has been passed down from generation to generation. It was not taught in traditional studios or even recognized by Dance academia until very recently. In dance schools that emphasized Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Ballroom, Tap, etc. Breakin was looked down upon and not considered a legitimate part of a Dance education.
So Breakin remained in the “streets.” To learn, you had to find where people were practicing and show up in hopes of finding mentors. Community centers, gymnasiums, garages, parks and basements were the training grounds for several generations of Breakers. Finding a studio that would open its doors to Bboys was a rare treat. Only in the past decade have studios opened in the US dedicated specifically to this dance.
When I started Breakin in the late 90’s, my buddy set up a big pad of cardboard and taped linoleum down on top of it in his parents basement. That was our practice spot. There were only a handful of Bboys in our predominately white, upper middle class, small city. We collected VHS tapes to study and would watch, rewind and watch our favorite Bboys over and over again. We didn’t have a “scene” like what we saw in those videos and realized we would have to leave the safety of our insulated community to really learn.
That’s when we began driving to Denver to a community center called “The Spot.” It was a Hip Hop youth center with graffiti on the walls, studios to make music and an open room split into two levels, both covered in linoleum. I remember distinctly being intimidated when we walked in. The Denver Bboys were edgy and not immediately friendly to outsiders. They didn’t greet us. They focused on Powermoves and we had barely learned our windmills. At first we sat around the edge of the room and just watched. We didn’t dance a lot in those first visits, but we were now finally exposed to the practice sessions we had imagined.
The Spot is an important part of Denver Hip Hop history. The practices there fostered an entire generation of 90’s Bboys, graffiti writers, MCs and DJs. It was the furthest thing imaginable from a professional dance studio, but it allowed Breakers to come together to share and push each other to elevate their skills. As we grew and left home, these were the practice spots we would seek out wherever we went.
Years later, in the early 2000’s, college rec centers would become staple training spots all throughout the country. In Colorado, the CU rec center in Boulder became the largest practice spot, followed by the Auroria Campus rec center years later. Bboys and Bgirls would gather on one of the Basketball courts. For almost a decade practices attracted huge crowds. On some nights it felt like a jam. Many schools across the country hold such practices still to this day.
It is Open Practice spots such as these where Breakers have honed their skills for the past several decades. Traveling Bboys and Bgirls would get on Bboyworld.com forum to find the practice spots wherever they were traveling and the dance continued to be passed down and taught not in studios, but at practices.
Practice is the essence of this dance. There are no short cuts, and although some might be naturally more talented than other, it has always been the hardest workers who have been the most successful at this dance. This legacy has kept a level playing field for generations. No fancy studio education could ensure victory in a raw battle. Poverty was not an obstacle but an incentive to train harder and accomplish more.
When we opened The Bboy Factory, we made a commitment to support those hard workers, no matter whether they could afford to come take classes or not. We made a conscious decision to honor the culture and uphold the tradition of Open Practice space; a place where Breakers come to train and pass knowledge between themselves. It is part of what makes our dance studio a true center for Breakin. No matter what, our community will always have a place to come and work as hard as they can push themselves to.
Imagine 10 hours a week x 52 weeks x 8 years. That’s over 4,160 hours of free space we have provided our community. That’s a lot of rent. On top of that, imagine all the work it takes to subsidize time we could be hosting classes that make money. But some things are worth more than money and while we operate as a dance studio we are so much more than that. We are a part of a legacy. We are a grassroots community center and we have worked tirelessly to ensure that our community always has a place for any young boys or girls who want to learn how to Break.
In my journey, Open practices became like second homes. All the hours we compete and perform are only a tiny fraction of the hours we spend training. Those thousands of hours of practices are spent with people who share similar dreams and goals. There is bond built between those we share that amount of work and dedication. We recognize and honor the spark within each other to dedicate so much to this dance we love and welcome all who come to train with us.