We spoke to b-boying pioneer Richard Colon, aka b-boy Crazy Legs, during his two-city tour of the country to give workshops and perform live DJ sets at F Bar in Mumbai and New Delhi.
The year was 1979 and the place was New York City. A movement had slowly begun to grow in the Bronx which involved music, dance, art and culture and this movement would make a huge impact on the world in future decades. Young Richard Colon had already begun dancing in a very unorthodox new style which he copied from his brother. That style was called “breaking.” Colon had been fortunate enough to witness and be part of the hip-hop movement and was one of the first b-boys around. He joined the illustrious Rock Steady Crew in 1979 and began breaking all over the city, then the country and then the world. By the early ’80s, Crazy Legs rose to the top of the break dancing world by becoming the President of the Rock Steady Crew and taking b-boying to Paris and London as well as rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in hip-hop such as Grandmixer D.ST, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddie and Futura 2000.
Over these last few decades, Crazy Legs has been dancing with his crew and has become a hip-hop ambassador, spreading knowledge and teaching dancers everywhere he goes. His two-city tour of India has been made possible by hip-hop portal Zomba.in and television channel 9XO. He intended to spend his time going to the centres of b-boying in India’s two largest cities – New Delhi and Mumbai. Crazy Legs interacted with Indian b-boys, conducted dance workshops and even played two DJ sets in the F Bars of Mumbai and New Delhi respectively. We caught up with him before he played at F Bar, Mumbai and asked him about the state of Indian breaking and what it means to dream big.
NH7: You’ve been a b-boy since the very roots of breaking. You’ve seen a lot of b-boys come and go. How has your experience been with the b-boys here in India so far?
Crazy Legs: First of all, they’ve been very welcoming and very respectful, except for when it comes time to take a picture. Then, they’re all over you! *laughs* But that’s cause they’re excited so I understand. I think, they’re on the right track as far as finding their identity and character within their dancing, so that their style can shine. I saw a lot of foundation and combinations that were in the direction of being artistically correct.
NH7: When you’ve spoken about b-boying before, you’ve mentioned “flava” of things. Do you think that the guys over here are developing their own “flava”? Is their identity and style coming together?
CL: I don’t think that there is regional flava because flava has to do with the individual. Actually, a couple of things having to do with the individual. The comfort level of how they execute their moves, the familiarity of the move and the response to the music. When you love the music and you know exactly what you are doing. That’s when your flava can shine and when it’s really easy for you to just flow with your movement, that’s when your true flava and character come out. That’s on a person-to-person basis.
NH7: As for the scene as a whole, is there an identity developing that you can see?
CL: There are a lot of individuals that are definitely shining with their character. I don’t base it on a scene. For me, the scene is the world these days. I know it’s important for the b-boys of India to feel like they, as a country, have some sort of flava that’s shining. But any true b-boy knows that flava is all about the individual and this dance allows for individuality.
NH7: Many of the Indian b-boys are at the beginning of their careers and b-boying in India is in its nascent stages. You must see a lot of parallels between how it is for them and how it was for you. Do you think that with all the changes that have taken place in the world, that you can tell them what you’ve gone through and get them to avoid certain mistakes that you’ve made?
CL: Well, because of what I saw, and I saw them dancing over the last couple of days, I feel that they are already on the right track to make the necessary mistakes so that they can correct themselves and find their way and learn their bodies. It doesn’t look like they are too far off-track or anything like that. I think that they are perfectly off-track and it’s all about stepping right back on and that’s cool, that’s a good thing. I don’t want to interfere too much with that. I don’t want to interfere with their natural progression. If you interfere with their natural progression too much, I think that would limit their creativity.
Watch b-boy Crazy Legs along with Rock Steady Crew member Mr Wiggles talk about break dancing below.
NH7: Breaking has really started taking hold around the world. Is this how you thought it would be? Having so many people around the world emulate you and what you’ve been doing?
CL: No, I was only ten years old, so for me to think of it in those terms would probably not make any sense because you would have to take into consideration that I grew up in the hood. Dreaming? We didn’t know how to dream so big. You take a kid from the slum over here and how far can he dream if all he knows is the every day existence of the slum? It’s very hard to dream beyond that. So I never predicted anything, I never saw anything beyond the next jam and representin’ and battling and just having fun.
NH7: Finally, you’ve been doing this a long time. You’ve been dancing for so many years. How do you keep going? How do you stay in shape and keep the motivation going?
CL: The motivation, as you get older, is something you have to dig deep for. I think we actually lose drive as we get older and then it becomes determination and will. Having a good enough reason to continue is important. Some of those reasons to stay in shape and have good health has to do with the fact that I want to be a good example for my son. And if I do choose to dance from time to time, I want to make sure that I don’t look like some old guy! I want to got out there and have some fire, some speed, some agility and some flexibility and be able to represent properly, that’s it. That’s enough of a reason to be able to represent!
Check out a young Crazy Legs and Ken Swift from Rock Steady Crew getting down on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote the 1984 hip hop film Beat Street below.