By Esra’ AlNajjar
Yemeni society still shames some jobs and hobbies. However, some youth have decided to change this and have started performing certain activities that are not familiar to the Yemeni community.
“Generally, I admire and appreciate any form of art and self expression, and break dancing is no exception. I really enjoy watching people break dance because the music they play is very lively and fun,” says Maysa Al-Aqil, a 26 year old.
Break dancing is becoming very common in Yemen but still many people don’t know its meaning and origin. New York City was the birthplace of break dancing in the 1970s. It originated within the African American community, spreading out to other communities. Back at that time, break dancing was a means of winning territories without fist-fighting or using weapons. During the 1990s break dancing changed from a street dance and became a respectable art. Making its way through the globe, this activity has finally arrived in Yemen.
It was a man in a non-Yemeni group who taught Faraj AlBadani, currently 21-years-old, how to break dance back in 2009. This foreign group started small and practiced within their own circle. Faraj and his crew were first taught the theory of the dance. “You have to understand what you are doing and where it came from to really connect,” said Faraj. Soon after the band left, Faraj along with his friends trained themselves to become break dancers with Youtube being their only mentor.
Unfortunately, Faraj and his crew did not have much support at the beginning. People thought that it was a waste of time, effort, and energy. Despite all the discouragements, Faraj was not dissuaded and continued practicing, with “Dance to express and not to impress” being his motto.
To the observer, break dancing seems to only include different body movements. However, the activity has more to it than just a mere number of moves. Learning those moves and acquiring this skill is rather a complicated process. According to AlBadani, the dancer has to first understand the music and analyze the move in their head. Second, they have to synchronize their body accordingly. Every part of them has to understand what is being done in order for the move to look smooth and fluent. A single move usually takes between two weeks and six months to master depending on the dancer’s reaction towards it.
Break dancing combines between art and sport, and just like any other sport it can be risky. It’s a wonder how some dancers can do moves that seem dangerous without getting injured. This is generally because the way they train makes a huge difference. Being able to perform dangerous looking moves was usually preceded by original less dangerous exercises that allowed them to develop the skill.
It is usually thought that break dancing is of a specific genre to which all moves belong, but nothing could be further from the truth. Bboying, popping, hip hop, krump, c-walking, boogaloo, funk, tutting and finger tutting are all different types of break dancing. Faraj and his crew specialize in Bboying, which is more like gymnastics and martial arts with a mix of dance.
Today, a lot of young men dream of becoming break dancers. Majed AlMaqtari, a 16-year-old said, “If I am given the chance, I will definitely learn to break dance and will join a group. I believe that it’s great to develop youth powers into something as amazing as break dancing.”
Despite the developing interest of youth in this art, this interest is often eliminated. Yemeni families usually find it hard to accept it and stand against it. Reasons behind the rejection could be because most parents view it as an unnecessary distraction or simply because this art is thought of as a social disgrace. Break dancing is often looked at by part of the Yemeni society as something that only people of lower classes indulge in. As narrow as this perspective may seem, people still believe in it.
In the time where a great proportion of young Yemenis waste long hours chewing qat, break dancing has helped others, including Faraj, utilize their time effectively, have fun, and present something new and entertaining to the audience. On his first performance in the Yemen Cultural Center, Al-Badani reported that people were mesmerized. “The crowd was screaming at the top of their lungs,” Faraj said. ”At times it was even hard to hear the music.”
Whether it’s a talent you are born with or it’s something you have been practicing doesn’t really make a difference. The results are usually the same. “Some are meant to dance and some become dancers. In the end of the day it’s the will that drives you,” says Al-Badani.
Faraj says that the future of break dancing in Yemen depends on the new generation, society, and most importantly the attitudes of people towards it.