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    This Seattle b-boy helped select Team USA's first Olympic breakdancers

    By Ruby de Luna,

    2024-06-11

    Breakdancing, also called breaking, may not look like a traditional sport, but to compete requires strength, stamina, and grace — all the qualities one would expect in an athlete.

    Next month, 32 b-boys and b-girls will vie for Gold in Paris as breakdancing makes its debut as a sport in the Summer Olympics. A longtime Seattle area b-boy was among the judges who selected Team USA’s top breakers.

    A t a recent breakdancing contest at the Seattle Center, the crowd cheered on 40 young competitors who battled it out in groups of three. Each breaker took center stage, one at a time, developing their own flows as they interpreted the music.

    Seattle b-boy Jerome Aparis, also known as Jeromeskee, was the event's emcee. He explained that the dancers were freestyling, making up their performances in real time.

    “You’re creating something that you’ve never done — in the moment, with the music — that you most likely will never do again,” he said. “And so that’s what makes that moment even more magical and more rewarding.”

    “It’s the art of knowing but not knowing,” Aparis said.

    And that's what separates breakdancing from other sports.

    RELATED : Seattle's breakdance scene is center stage again — but don't call it a comeback


    Aparis has been breakdancing since 1996. As a shy, immigrant kid from the Philippines, Aparis said breakdancing was not only an outlet for fun; it was also instrumental in his personal growth.

    Aparis co-founded Massive Monkees, Seattle’s two-time world champion b-boy crew. These days, Aparis takes his passion for breaking into the Renton dance studio where he and his wife teach. Recently, he teamed up with former Microsoft executive and philanthropist Scott Oki and co-founded the Breaking Barriers Foundation to bring breaking to disadvantaged youth.

    Aparis has judged competitions worldwide. He’s a certified breaking judge for the Olympics, and adjudicated in pre-qualifying events. To the untrained eye, the swift, gravity-defying are sure to impress. But there are specific things a judge will look for.

    “What moves are original, and who’s copying, and who’s repeating their moves, because at that level, they’re doing 18 rounds to win gold," he said, adding that it becomes clear how much someone has prepped as the battle rounds advance.

    Breaking was considered underground when it burst into the pop culture scene in the 1980s. The street dance was developed by Black and Puerto Rican youth in the Bronx, an extension of hip hop culture. Even as it reached global appeal, it wasn’t taken seriously. That started to change in 2018, when the sport debuted in the Summer Youth Olympic Games where it was a big hit.

    Aparis said going all the way to the summer Olympics will only help teachers like him grow the next generation of breakers.

    “It’s about the skills,” he said. “If you put in the work, you’ll get respect.”

    A

    t the Seattle Center, the crowd remained enthusiastic even as the contest wound down to the final round. Competitors rooted for each other as several youth took winning titles.

    Abbey Phillips was watching her daughter compete. She noted that some parents were once breakdancers, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate it.

    “I love hip hop and so I always knew the music part, but I knew nothing about the community and all that stuff, it’s been really cool,” she said.

    Some families even traveled far to take part. Amanda Koop and her sons came from Canada. She says breaking brings people together regardless of age or skill level.

    “We met so many friends from all over, even Japan, Asia, America, everywhere.”

    All are looking forward to watching the journey of urban street dance culminate in Paris.

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