At the age of 32, Ronnie Abaldonado, or B-Boy Ronnie as he’s known in the b-boying world, has spent more than 20 years breakdancing. His career is filled with highlights like winning the second season of America’s Best Dance Crew (the reality show that arguably re-popularized b-boying in American culture since its heyday in the ’80s) with Super CR3W; starring in the 2009 documentary Turn It Loose about b-boys; and performing with ABDC season one winners JabbaWockeeZ in their own live stage show in Las Vegas since 2010.
He’s fresh off the Red Bull BC One All Stars tour — his 10th consecutive year either competing, judging or attending the event — and instead of indulging in some much-deserved rest, he’s in San Francisco, working on readying the new satellite studio of Distrct, Super CR3W’s unorthodox dance studio-cum-barbershop tattoo parlor, for its December soft opening. He also has to check in with Footwork Productions, the events company he and his brother run.
Abaldonado divides the rest of his time between JabbaWockeeZ and Super CR3W (a collaboration crew made up of three distinct breaking crews, including his original Full Force Crew), in addition to flying in and out of the country to break in competitions all over the globe. Luckily, because he’s been dancing for so long, his training is more akin to conditioning. “I’m already comfortable with my moves, and a lot of my training is just me maintaining them,” he says. He just has to adjust his mentality, depending on whether it’s a crew competition or a one-on-one. “In a crew battle, you make a routine, you go through round for round, and you get to save energy. In a one-on-one, you have to go one after another, so your endurance has to be more up to par.”
He admits that “there’s so much going on, it’s kind of crazy. If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing. [Full Force Crew] has been a crew for 20 years, so it’s not like it’s coming out of nowhere. It’s just been in the works for many years to come.” And with two decades’ worth of experience, Abaldonado has developed a better sense of what he wants in his life and future, and in the future of b-boy dancing.
He remembers the early days of b-boying, when it was more commonly called breaking, as a young Filipino boy in Guam. “This was the ’80s; all over TV, movies like Beat Street were on. I remember trying to do certain moves, imitating it, and I ended up doing [the moves] in a Christmas performance in second grade. That’s the earliest memory I have of actually breaking. I didn’t know what I was doing,” he laughs. “I was doing, like, coffee grinders and the Russian kick. But I feel like I’ve always been just dancing my whole life. I remember watching the premiere of Michael Jackson’s music video, Black or White, and just loving dancing.”
Still, it took a move from Guam to Southern California to his current residence in Las Vegas for Abaldonado to get serious about breaking. With his friend Rock and his older brother Rodolfo, the middle schooler founded Full Force, in 1995. “We were that crew that was known for having our own style,” he says. “At that time, there were b-boys doing freezes; we were known for an abstract style. I had all those moves, like head spins, but I was getting recognized for my intricate footwork and freezes. I ended up sliding by in all these competitions, not based on how crazy my moves were, but on how original, because I looked so different from anyone else.”
When asked about the differences between b-boying back then and now, Abaldonado has plenty to say: “Now in this generation, you see people who break like me, who break like everyone else. Back then, if you saw a well-known b-boy done in silhouette, you knew exactly who they were by the way they top rock, by their footwork, by their power moves. But now, there are just so many b-boys out there and the skill level is so far beyond and amazing, but the originality has been taken away. Back in the ’90s, maybe the skill level wasn’t as high as it is now, but there were so many original b-boys.
“That was me,” he continues. “I was known for being one of the original b-boys.”
YouTube and websites like Red Bull BC One that live stream battles are responsible for this constantly evolving level of skill and motivation. As Abaldonado explains, “That’s pretty much where the scene is now: watching videos of battles live. Back then, we would have to wait for a VHS battle of a competition, and it would be outdated by the time we got it. [Now] b-boys just have access to any battle anytime they want to see it. I was just in Russia a few days ago, and I was watching the Red Bull BC One Asia Pacific qualifier live in my hotel room while it was going on in Taipei, Taiwan. There was an open forum, and one of our friends was commentating live. To me, that was just mind-boggling.”
Despite his growing collection of Nike Air Maxes and appearances in everything from reality TV shows to Braun shaving adverts, Abaldonado is definitely old-school. Consider his favorite dance movies and what they say about his idea of b-boying and its growing cultural presence: the aforementioned Beat Street, 1983’s Wild Style — both seminal pieces of cinema devoted to early hip-hop culture, of which b-boying is an offshoot — and 2013’s Battle of the Year. Abaldonado is partial to the latter because, as he explains, “it is the first real b-boy movie about our time that actually showed b-boys.”
His rhetoric fits in nicely with his growing desire to mentor — if only he could find the time. “With the new generation of b-boys, you see where their inspiration comes from — they either learn from this b-boy or are a big fan and just start copying their moves,” he says. “So with me, I’ve always wanted to take someone under my wing. I want to pitch to Red Bull: There should be a camp where each All Star gets their own little protégé to train. That’s probably the next step, to really build a team, a community.”
He pauses, thoughtfully. “I don’t feel like I’m done.”
Recording artist/musician/designer Taku Hirano presents the winter collection of graphic tee offerings from his streetwear/activewear line 3rd Culture Style. Based on a hashtag and acronym of his name, TRY AND KEEP UP (#taku) is 3rd Culture Style’s trademarked slogan.
3rd Culture Style is an international streetwear/lifestyle apparel imprint founded by world-renowned musician and producer Taku Hirano. A bona fide 3rd Culture kid, born in Osaka and raised in California and Hong Kong, Taku Hirano has always had a keen eye pointed towards the visual aspects of pop culture.
Whether it was a childhood filled with Japanese toys and anime, or having spent his formative years in the ’80s skateboarding culture as an avid collector of skate decks, Powell Peralta shirts, and Vans, Taku was always drawn to detail, color, design, and aesthetics. Though formally trained in both the visual arts and music since a child, music finally won out… a decision that has not only taken Taku around the world on tours with the likes of rock legends Fleetwood Mac and R&B icon Whitney Houston, but onstage and in-studio with everyone from Stevie Wonder and Stevie Nicks, to Ziggy Marley and Iggy Azalea.
(Taku’s client list of luminaries spans practically every genre of music, including Dr. Dre, John Mayer, Shakira, Usher, Aretha Franklin, Jason Mraz, Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge, Patti LaBelle, Nine Inch Nails, Janelle Monáe, LeAnn Rimes, Lionel Richie, Josh Groban, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Yolanda Adams, Isaac Hayes, Bette Midler, Nelly Furtado, Mary J. Blige, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Cirque du Soleil).
The first t-shirt designs that would become 3rd Culture Style stemmed from a need for apparel to serve as merchandise for Taku’s international drum workshops, held while on tour. Taku knew he was onto something as his name is the acronym for Try And Keep Up. He adopted the moniker and hashtag “#taku” as his trademarked slogan. While on a 2-year world tour with Cirque du Soleil, surrounded by world-class musicians, circus artists, and the top dancers and b-boys from around the world, the first run of shirts was produced and immediately sold-out… Not to drum workshop students, but to his tour mates who brought them back to their native countries on tour breaks. The Try And Keep Up design shirts began trending, being seen on the international breakdancing scene by way of social media. A buzz began and 3rd Culture Style was born; in business with a fast-tracked online storefront.
Taku Hirano is both a 3rd Culture kid and “Outlier” whose worlds of international travel, skate culture, rock music, Hip-Hop lifestyle, fashion, and love of contemporary art, graffiti, street art, and tattoo art melded to form 3rd Culture Style. By bridging cultures, traversing the world with open eyes and minds, and embodying the concept of cultural fusion, we know no borders and have a unique perspective on life, art, and culture.
“Inclusion of our backgrounds, and fusion of our surroundings… We are adept at blending, and then putting it back out through expression. This is our edge. Others will just have to TRY AND KEEP UP.” – Taku Hirano
On Saturday, artists gathered to honor Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch for the third annual MCA Day, and a bunch of monks decided to get in on the action.
MCA Day is meant to celebrate Yauch, who died after a long battle with cancer in 2012, with festivities and performances taking place at the Littlefield Performance and Art Space in Brooklyn.
In what may seem as a more unconventional nod by some, four Buddhist monks took to Union Square, the site of the first MCA Day, to put on a tribute to the Beastie Boys by breakdancing to some of their biggest hits.
Some might question whether the dancers are even monks, but one thing’s certain: They sure as hell can dance and put on a show for the crowd. Yauch was a Buddhist and supporter for Tibetan independence, so it seems it’s a fully appropriate celebration of MCA Day.
Check out this video of one-legged breakdancing phenom, and Team-Yellow friend, “B-Boy” Jean Sok. Hailing from France, Jean is currently on world tour as a featured dancer with Cirque du Soleil‘s “Michael Jackson: THE IMMORTAL World Tour” and has appeared on the Billboard Music Awards with Cee-Lo.
Our boy Benjy Lee (aka DJ Ben Jammin) out of Shanghai posted this latest offering from the the b-boy scene there
A short documentary featuring Team-Yellow friend Prosenjit Kundu, filmed across locations in India, London and New York documenting the Indian streetdance culture.
In celebration of its 30th anniversary, G-Shock took its campaigns to Japan for a new contest last week. The “REAL TOUGHNESS” contest, which also included skateboarding and B-boy competitions, pitted the world’s best action sports athletes against each other at the Tokyo Dome.
With the likes of Hiroya Mizaki, Alberto Moya and Paris phenom Matthias Dandois all boasting elusive two-wheeled balancing acts, the video recap is definitely a mind-bending ride.