Sam Iliev caught up with our world champion breaker from Christchurch, BBoy Leerok, who will be rocking out some world class routines at the Auckland Arts Festival this coming March. Leerok chatted about his achievements so far, the challenges of the Christchurch quakes, and what motivates him to keep on going.
How did you get into dance in the beginning, and do you still remember your thoughts at the time of starting?
I always liked the idea of martial arts and fighting, and as a kid I played a lot of video games like Tekken, Street Fighter, and watched a lot of martial arts movies. My mum wouldn’t let me learn martial arts so Bboying gave me the outlet I was looking for, with full expression of your body and the feeling of a fight coming through the battles. Also I remember a guy saying to me that if I get really good that I would get the attention of the ladies!
What style of breakdancing do you specialise in, and how would you describe it to somebody who’s unfamiliar with the art form?
So breakdancing, or Bboying or Bgirling as it’s more commonly referred to, is broken up into different elements. There is the upright dance style known as up-rocks or top-rocks. There are drops, which are how you get to the ground. Then the ground movement known as down-rocking or footwork. Another is power-moves, which are the acrobatic, flashy, explosive moves where your feet don’t touch the ground. And there’s also freezes, where you hold a position or pose for a few seconds. I’m known for power-moves, but I pride myself on being able to do all the elements in Bboying to call myself a B-Boy.
Other than self-expression, what does having the title of being a world champion mean to you?
The title itself doesn’t really mean much to me. There are so many competitions with different titles, but actually no one can ever say they are the best, as dance is a self-expression that can’t really be judged. I do guess that to me it just means I have earned the right to teach, judge events, perform in shows, and the right to get paid for what I do.
Naturally, you have people in the industry that you look up to, but what does it feel like to know there are youth that respect and look up to you?
Knowing that there could be youth looking up to me is a reminder to keep going, pushing and improving, and do my job by passing on my knowledge to the next generation. I have to inspire before I expire!
What are some defining moments in your career, and what makes them significant?
When my crew won ‘Battle Of The Year NZ’ and won a trip to represent NZ in Germany at the world finals 2004. We were all young and it was truly a dream come true. Then later in life, getting to work alongside two of the legendary BBoys in 360 ALLSTARS, BBoy Physicx and BBoy Kareem, both of whom I’d grown up watching.
Growing up, was it always your ambition to become a BBoy, and how have your goals around break dancing changed or been influenced as you’ve progressed in your career?
I always dreamed of living off of dance. After doing it for 10 years I believed I could, and even with limited opportunity and chance I never gave up. I thought it would be through competitions and teaching as I never knew that there existed work for BBoys in theatre.
As a Christchurch lad, what impact on the local youth do you feel your Bristol St dancing classes have made?
Sadly, I couldn’t keep my classes going. We lost three spaces we were working out of when the earthquakes hit, and I also lost my full-time job and there just wasn’t enough funding for me to get paid to teach the youth and to afford all my bills. I had to move to Australia to find the opportunities I needed. However, I am back now and have a lot of community projects in the works ready to take the youth of Christchurch to new heights and am very excited for what this year has in store.
How did you first get to know Common Ground Crew and how would you describe your fellow dancers?
I had actually stopped BBoying for a year and was at a skate comp when I saw Common Ground Crew doing a show and then teaching the kids. They remembered having seen me before and invited me to come and dance with them. At the end of that day they told me to come to a youth centre on Tuesday evening, so I did, and as I walked through the door they clapped, gave me a t-shirt, and said “welcome to the crew, you have to be here every Tuesday and Thursday night”. And I was there, every week.
What do you feel the future holds, both for Common Ground Crew and yourself as an individual? Where to from here?
Joining Common Ground was the best thing to happen to me. Seeing a room of happy, positive people with the same passion, full of fun and life, joking with each other, helping each other, and inspiring each other… I saw a family that day and that is what it is to this day. My crew is still and always will be my biggest inspiration and achievement to this day.
With personal style being of high importance to most youth, what are your recommendations for buying a pair of new kicks?
Style isn’t in the clothes you buy; it’s how you wear them. You find your style and character and run with it with confidence. Style is just a part of your self-expression.
What pair of kicks did you wear to your first battle?
I think the first kicks I bought for a battle were some Dunlop tennis shoes from The Warehouse! It was all I could afford and I made them fresh.
What’s the most helpful piece of advice you’ve ever been given and how has it helped you through life?
Inspire before expire. It’s our crew motto, and the name of my next community project.
And to the youth of today, what advice can you give to help to get them through their teenage years?
10,000 hours. It’s said that if you spend 10,000 hours practicing anything, that you will be world class at whatever it is you chose to put your time and mind into.
360 ALLSTARS will be taking over The Civic as part of the Auckland Arts Festival from the 17-20 March this year. Book your tickets here.SHARE THIS POST...