Two B-Boys from Christchurch will represent New Zealand at the Red Bull BC One Asia Pacific Qualifier next month. It’s something of a coup for the Common Ground crew.
In the back room of the Colleen Murray Dance Centre in Christchurch, nine B-Boys from the Common Ground crew spin and slide on a chipboard floor. An iPod hooked up to a speaker in the corner blasts out a DJ Fleg mixtape and every flare and freeze in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors is greeted with whoops of encouragement. Colleen Murray interrupts the session to remind her tenants the studio is closing at 9pm this evening. “Oh and don’t forget to turn off the lights,” she says. Originally from the north of England, the 64-year-old landlady has trained hundreds of dancers since she opened for business in Christchurch in 1983. The main studio is used for Latin and ballroom dancing lessons and the walls are decorated with fading pictures of famous dancers, and posters of the Australian movie Strictly Ballroom. It seems an unlikely venue for a bunch of B-Boys but it turns out Murray has a soft spot for the crew that has trained here every Wednesday night for the past few months.
“My boys used to breakdance and I used to judge competitions at Linwood Shopping Centre,” she says. “I love street dancing: the free style, the free spirit, the emotion. It comes from the soul.”
Murray’s appreciation of B-Boying is all too rare, says Akorn, a 22-year-old baker at a New World supermarket in the city. “When I tell people I’m a B-Boy, they don’t really know anything about it,” he says. “‘Are people still breaking?’ is a common response.” And Grub D, the leader of the Common Ground crew and something of a veteran at the age of 27, has experienced similar reactions.
“You get people who see you spinning around on the ground and they know nothing about the dance or the culture. They just think you’re wasting your time,” he says. “When I started breaking, my family thought I was going nowhere with it but now they see how much I love it and how far it has taken me.”
On September 1, Davy McCavitt, aka Grub D and Aron Mahuika, aka Akorn, will represent New Zealand in the Red Bull BC One Asia Pacific Qualifier, the biggest B-Boy event ever held in New Zealand. Sixteen B-Boys from the Asia Pacific region will battle it out for a place in the BC One final which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in December.
“It’s massive for us,” says Keza Wardlaw (K Bigs), a long-time member of Common Ground. “It’s like Christmas. To have two dancers from this shaky little city representing New Zealand, especially after all that’s happened down here with the earthquakes, it is awesome.”
The day after The Red Bulletin visited Christchurch, the city was hit by a 4.0-magnitude aftershock. The Canterbury region has endured more than 10,000 earthquakes and aftershocks since the first big one hit on September 4, 2010. The two venues that the Common Ground crew used to train in were shut down after last year’s February earthquake.
“We didn’t have anywhere to jam for a while,” says Grub D. “It was hard for us as a crew but around that time everybody wanted to be with family anyway. We jammed a few times but it took us a few months to get back on our feet.”
Read the full story in August's issue of The Red Bulletin.