Indian B-boys waiting to sizzle after IOC included breakdancing as a medal event in the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The past few weeks have been one of the best for Arif Chaudhary, a breakdancer from Mumbai.
For someone who’s stayed away from the limelight despite being one of the top B-boys (a term used to describe the practitioners) in India, the 23-year-old Mumbaikar now carries a broad smile whenever he’s asked about breakdancing and the Olympic Games.
“I can’t wait for it. I think it's a great initiative by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take this step and lead us into a beautiful path,” Arif Chaudhary a.k.a B-Boy Flying Machine tells Olympic Channel when asked about breakdancing at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Breakdance, which made its debut as a sport at the 2018 Youth Olympics, was officially included as a medal event for Paris 2024 earlier this month. At the Paris Games, the event is likely to have 32 participants (16 B-boys and 16 B-girls) competing in 1vs1 freestyle duels called ‘Battles’.
And for Arif Chaudhary, it’s one of the best things to happen for the discipline. “It’s good. Now people will be aware of breaking,” he says.
“It's always lived in hiding. Not many know that India has a thriving breaking scene. Around the world, people recognise it but no one looks at it as something serious.
“I hope this motivates people to take up B-boying. I want kids who think football and cricket as sports to now look at B-boying as an option too.”
For someone who was introduced to breaking through a BC One (an annual international B-boy competition) video, Arif Chaudhary has been a self-taught star.
Growing up in Mumbai’s Jogeshwari suburb, the youngster was intrigued by the style and wasted no time in catching up to the beats, trying to replicate everything he saw on the streets and in the parks.
“I would wonder how they could do such steps. Initially, I didn't know that it was called B-boying. I used to watch those videos and try copying everything I saw,” Arif recollected.
“Then, I went to cybercafes (internet joints) and started learning more about it. That's when I got to know that it's called B-boying and that it comes from hip-hop culture.
“A few years later, I started competing too. Initially, it was at a small level. But with time I graduated and started travelling around for competitions.”
Turning up for his first ‘battle’ in 2012, the Mumbai lad surprised himself by bagging the title.
“It was my first competition. I didn’t know much about the scene and add to that it was judged by this B-boy expert named B-boy Bling from the Netherlands,” Arif says.
“But that win made me realise that I could devote more time to this and probably try and make a name out of this.”
The following years saw Arif Chaudhary form the BeastMode crew and grow into one of the best exponents of the craft in the country with three national titles, the most by anyone so far.
Arif also represented India in some high-profile ‘battles’ in Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia, China, Japan and Taiwan.
Having spent over a decade perfecting his craft, Arif Chaudhary, today, has a bird’s eye view of the breaking scene in India.
He’s also made a conscious effort in taking the sport to the masses. Be it through his various workshops or the battles that he hosts, Arif is keen to bring B-boying to the mainstream.
While its inclusion in the Olympic programme is a push in the right direction, for many, it's still hard to say if B-boying is an art form or a sport.
“For me, it's an art form,” Arif Chaudhary says. “When I started I didn’t know much about it. And back then, it didn't matter if it's an art form or a sport. It just made me feel good. It satisfied my soul.
“Later, as I grew into it, I realised that B-boying is a perfect mix of both art and sports. It's not like any other art form. This is very intense and you need to be in your top shape.
“If you see, hip-hop has constantly evolved. Every now and then you see new things being added. People doing some really crazy stuff.”
Moreover, Arif Chaudhary also believes that B-boying showcases that sports and art can coexist.
“It (breakdancing) started in the 70s on the streets of New York. It was influenced by various things. It's not something that’s original. It derives its existence from things that have happened around it,” Arif explains.
“B-Boying is inspired by gymnastics, jazz and other art forms. And now, you see gymnasts taking cues from B-boying in their routines.
“Airflare in gymnastics (floor routine) comes from B-boying. It’s all about coexistence. This art form has always stood for that. It started from the streets to the clubs to the stages and now it's a sport.”
With a thriving scene in India, the All India DanceSport Federation was established only in 2004, Arif Chaudhary is banking on the association to grow and he hopes to make the cut for Paris 2024.
“The Olympic recognition can only help us in shedding some light on what B-boying is. Not many know that such an art form exists,” Arif says.
“My plan is to change people's perspective towards breaking. And I am not stopping. I am hopeful that more sponsors will kick in too.
“And I am hoping there will be support from the various sports bodies in the country as well. I will surely be at the Paris Games.”