Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Raphael Xavier, professional breakdancer and professor of hip-hop dance at Princeton, about break dancing becoming an Olympic sport.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Forget ice skating. Breakdancing is the coolest new Olympic sport. The International Olympic Committee has officially announced it will add breakingdancing to the Games under the name breaking. Breaking, of course, is a style of hip-hop dance that includes footwork and athletic moves like back or head spins. The dancers, often called b-boys or b-girls, will be able to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. And here to talk about it is professional hip-hop dancer and breaker Raphael Xavier. Welcome to the program.
RAPHAEL XAVIER: How are you?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am well. You’ve been a breakdancer since the 1980s, and you are now a professor at Princeton teaching break dancing classes and the history of hip-hop. What does it mean to you that it’s now an Olympic sport?
XAVER: I think it’s pretty interesting. There could be negatives and some positives, as well. I think staying on the positive side, it’s a great opportunity for the younger generation to have something to look forward to, as with any, you know, athletic sport, the older guys – you know, you didn’t have that. It was just battling. But I think now that the Olympics are, you know, on the table, this younger generation has something else to look forward to outside of what we’ve always had.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you think it’s a good idea on the one hand because it allows young people to be involved, to have it be formalized, to have it be a competition, acknowledged. What are the negatives?
XAVER: Oh, man. You know, I come from a place of – I could be considered the third generation of this dance. And when I got into it, there were only a handful of moves. And, you know, like I said, it was about competing against – you’re dancing against the guys in your neighborhood. Now, your body is not going to last as long. You’re now going to put it through some, I mean, extreme rigor. We’re already falling apart, and we’re wrapped up like mummies underneath our clothes. And that’s for street cred. But now you got an Olympic title on the line. You’re going to do everything you can to be the best. So the life expectancy of a breaker is going to go down tremendously.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, breakdancing, of course, originated in Black and Latino communities in the Bronx in the 1970s. It took off from there. Are you worried that the roots of this, the culture, the Black and Latinos who made this what it is, where it was born – that, somehow, it will be taken away from them and made into this Olympic, high-brow thing instead of where it comes from, which is, you know, the streets?
XAVER: I mean, it’s possible. It’s very possible. It depends on the individual and how you see this thing benefitting the culture. The Black and Latino community are responsible from the beginning. I think when the other countries began to make their presence within the culture, it washed out the ideas or concept that Blacks and Latinos were responsible. So when you leave that particular space with Blacks and Latinos at the forefront and then enter with everything else, you go, well, what happened to the Blacks and Latinos? We’re nowhere to be found. They’re there, and they’re highly respected by the other countries and other dancers. But the people who weren’t privileged to see how the dance moves forward – that’s what they see.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I’m assuming, though, you will be rooting for Team America…
GARCIA-NAVARRO: …Once they get to the Olympics.
XAVIER: (Laughter) Yeah, if America makes it that far, I will be rooting for them. And I’ll be there. I’ll definitely be there. I mean, I love to dance. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for the dance. And I will definitely be there, front row if I can.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raphael Xavier, professor of hip-hop dance history at Princeton and professional breakdancer. Thank you very much.
XAVER: You’re welcome. Thank you.
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