Yangon b-boy spins his way to Asia finals
HIP-HOP, head spins and big hopes marked Myanmar’s first ever international b-boy competition on November 12 at Dagon Centre. Around 50 b-boys and b-girls battled to the beats of DJ Bobby Funk for the chance to represent Myanmar in a knockout-style competition at the 2016 Taipei BBoy City World Final on December 17th.
With overseas judges Bo Jin from Taiwan, C Lil from Laos, and Gonza and G1 from Thailand looking on, b-boys and b-girls danced their very best to show the world that the Myanmar b-boy scene is a force to be reckoned.
One by one dancers were eliminated as the hip-hop music pulsed through the outdoor centre until finally, after a knock-out round, a clear winner emerged: 30-year-old self-taught BBoy veteran Phyo Thu Aung.
Phyo Thu Aung first started b-boying in early 2000, at a time when the BBoy scene was almost non-existent in his neighbourhood of Twante township. Without any formal training, the then-teenaged Phyo Thu Aung relied on DVDs of international competitions as his guides.
“I’m really excited about going to the international competition in Taipei. I know I have to compete with people who are better and have lots more experience than me,” said Phyo Thu Aung, “But I’m going to try my best. I have to train harder in this next month before I go to Taipei.”
The winner of the Taipei competition will move on to one of the world’s biggest b-boy competitions, the Undisputed World b-boy Masters championship which will be held at the end of January 2017 in Prague.
Though Phyo Thu Aung has certainly made a name for himself in Myanmar with 16 years as a professional b-boy under his belt, having won first prize in both Vol 1 and 3 of The First Jam competition series, the rest of the Myanmar b-boy scene has much to improve according to the judges.
Bo Jin from Taiwan said he sees his role as not only to critique the b-boy competitors but to give them constructive feedback to help strengthen the already passionate and tight knit community.
“We want the b-boy community here to develop like other countries,” said Bo Jin, “What I see now is that b-boys are not skilled enough. There’s room for improvement. And I think that’s ok. I know Myanmar only became a democracy one year ago so I think it makes sense that the b-boy community isn’t as developed as others.”
The judge sees Phyo Thu Aung’s chance to represent Myanmar at the Taipei competition as an overseas learning experience, one which he can bring back and share with his BBoy community.
Bo Jin has seen the same kind of growth in the b-boy scene years before in Nepal.
“A few years ago, their b-boy community was the same level as Myanmar’s is now. But this year I heard that the b-boy contestant from Nepal won third place in the Southeast Asia b-boy competition. So, I believe that Myanmar can improve like Nepal.”
The administrator of Myanmar Street Dance and organiser of Yangon BBoy City 2016, Jimmy Ko Ko, agrees. Not only can the Myanmar b-boy scene learn from other countries, particularly from neighbouring Thailand, but to continue, the community needs both financial and institutional support.
“It would be best if the government supports us like in other countries. I mean not only the street dance community but all arts and sports activities for young people so we can be on equal footing with other countries,” he said.
Jimmy Ko Ko dreams of more and more competitions like Yangon BBoy City 2016 so young b-boys and b-girls have a chance to show what they’re made of. Except for the fifth edition of The First Jam competition later in December, the opportunities for dancers are few and far between.
Still, whatever changes may come, the Myanmar b-boy scene has proved to be resilient and fiery throughout. Bo Jin assures the crowd that, whether Phyo Thu Aung wins or loses the Taipei title, it is more about the experience of the competition above anything else.
“So just keep going and keep practising,” he said, “I can’t guarantee that breakdancing and b-boying will make a lot of money. But what I see that hip -hop and breakdancing makes our hearts and minds happy. So, go on and do what you are passionate about.”
Phyo Thu Aung performs at the November 12 international b-competition, which he would go on to win.
Judge Bo Jin from Taiwan said Myanmar’s b-boy scene has the potential for rapid growth, much like Nepal’s.
The competitors vied for a chance to represent Myanmar at the 2016 Taipei B-Boy City World Final on December 17.
The art of b-boy dancing is similar to breakdancing, but with more attitude.