Bboys Are Professional Artists
Breaking Down the Barriers
Video by 161 Content Studio - Dance Equity blog written by Dance Outreach Consultant Jon Reid.
As a Bboy with deep battle experience, Styx knows how to fight for his dues. He was one of the youngest Bboys in Canada to win 1 on 1 competitions at the highest level of the breaking community and this June Styx won an international championship in France – something very few Canadian Bboys achieve in their careers at any age. He is an educator, performer and a force on the international battle scene.
Being part of competing crews, I have stood across the battle floor from this artist, and when his rounds drop, you always know you cannot hold back, because Styx never does. His work ethic for getting better and better is a constant motivation for the Canadian bboy community to elevate and claim its spot on the world stage.
What really struck me during our conversation for the Dance Equity Campaign was how much change meant to him and his goals to sustain a career in the Bboy ecology. There are only a few dancers in Canada that have made this much international noise, and when your still concerned about fair pay & unfair working conditions while being at the top tier of your form, it makes you wonder why the events keep getting bigger but the artists share of the pie is so consistently small.
The reality of most competitions are that you have to pay to perform, and that in itself is problematic. But this model has been how the Bboy community has survived following the 80’s boom, bust and as again as an international underground community. Now the dance is back into the world spotlight, and the artists are determined to not see the exploitation their elders in the culture saw in the 80’s boom.
One of the key things that happens in this industry, is when entering an event, you are often given a contract by the producer giving them rights to record and distribute your performance, while not providing any insurance or compensation, outside of the prize – usually exclusively for the winner.
Contracts coming from the producer obviously have a specific slant, and the only way to protect professional artists who live and breath this competitive craft, is to create a contract that comes from the artist side and perspective – as well as support for negotiate respectful terms. Producers must begin to recognize that they are bringing artists into a work space, a performance space, and they have to offer respectful terms and working conditions.
Much of this on-going challenge centres around a resource deficit for competitive forms, as they are frequently not recognized as ‘art’ or a ‘performance’ – and thereby not eligable for much of the ‘presentation grants’ offered to dance. But as new commercial funding has been reaching the community as well as the not-for-profit system beginning to catch up to the professional dance cultures outside of performing arts spaces, we are observing a need to ensure artist protection and representation or we are faced with potentially repeating the hardships that the Bboys & Bgirls endured during the 80’s boom.
Personally, as a Bboy myself, it means a lot to hear Styx express the struggle we go through in professional competition. Breaking down misunderstandings we experience when taking our art form to new places only can be done by the people who become connectors , bridges and champions of change. Styx speaks clearly, Bboys are performers – they should be treated as such. He is right, and Equity is changing to support professional Bboy work. Thank you Styx. Your voice speaks true for our culture and where it needs to go.
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You can seen more of Dance Equity ‘DANCE VOICES’ Series on our campaign page. Please keep the conversation going by tweeting @CanActEquity with #probboysforchange #DanceEquity #movementforchange #dancevoices