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Self-made Heroes: the Dancers of Planet B-Boy

Monday, February 7th, 2011

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It’s official: the documentary “Planet B-Boy” knocked my socks off.

Spinning on their heads, back flipping like it ain’t no thing, toiling day after day on their moves: teams of breakdancers prepare to battle for the title of best in the known universe.

The documentary profiles teams from around the world, showcasing their individual struggles and strengths. There’s the French team with all their camaraderie and warmth, whose interracial, cross-generational crew included the super-idiosyncratic dancer Crazy Monkey as well as a little blond kid.

I was also touched by the diligence and dedication of the Korean teams, both the returning international champions and the underdog challengers, “Last for One,” a crew of impoverished kids from the South Korean boondocks who danced daily from midnight to dawn to polish their routine.

Aside from the unbelievable athleticism, each team combines two key elements: incredible teamwork and extreme individuality.

It’s one of the great paradoxes of art: through the process of diligently internalizing the fundamental skills of an art form, artists become more free, not less. Through discipline, they become more radiant versions of themselves.

This documentary also addresses some questions about authenticity that are really close to my heart as someone who has spent lots of time in other musical cultures. What makes each of these dancers a b-boy is not their skin color or where they were born but their mastery of the art form. Their skills and experience make them completely secure in their identities as artists.

For their awesome example of self-determination, motivation, and extreme customization, I hereby nominate the dancers of planet B-Boy for the title of self-made heroes!

Related posts:
There’s always room for cello (rap song about cello playing)
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer (hip-hop multiplication)
Self-taught heroes: William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind
Self-taught heroes: Pearl Fryar

5 Comments on “Self-made Heroes: the Dancers of Planet B-Boy”

  • Terry VanNoy on February 7th 11:10 am

    Rebecca, thanks for the Self-Taught Heroes series. Fantasic stuff, and very inspiring! The B-boys remind me of some street performers I saw this weekend in New York, Manhattan. They wait for a crowd to appear, crank out the music, put out a bucket, and perform. Of course, all street performers do this, but their grace and style and creativity is amazing! All for just a dollar from passersby? Well, partially, but really they must feel empowered to be able to express themselves in a way that gives them freedom. Imagine the excitement when one of them discovers a variation of a move, a rhythm, a creative moment that they can use in a new routine! This group I saw ranged in age from about 5 to 20. Amazing! Terry V

  • Rebecca Zook on February 7th 12:41 pm

    Hey Terry, I love your enthusiasm! “…really they must feel empowered to be able to express themselves in a way that gives them freedom.” Yes, I love how you put that! I’m sure the dancers you saw would be psyched to know they made such an impression! Let me know what you think if you get a chance to watch the documentary – you can get it on netflix if you’re interested! :)

  • kelvin john on March 2nd 8:12 am

    hey im so interested and, and i am doing brack dance too, my name is kelvin from africa, i would like to train more. so can i do if want to join you/

  • Rebecca Zook on March 7th 2:27 pm

    Hi Kelvin, thanks for your comment! That’s cool that you do break dance! I don’t breakdance, actually, so I don’t know how to help you train, but maybe this breakdance forum could help? http://www.breakdanceforum.com
    good luck and have fun!

  • Rebecca Zook on March 7th 2:28 pm

    or if that one doesn’t work, maybe try this one:
    http://www.bboy.org/forums/

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