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Breaking science

By Michelle Osmond

Watching Memorial alumnus Tony Ingram dance is like watching a moving work of art. The current Human Kinetics and Recreation (HKR) master's student and practising physiotherapist looks like his body is moving involuntarily — but in one fluid motion.

Mr. Ingram, who earned a bachelor of science degree in 2006, is part of a growing trend called breaking or b-boying/b-girling. It might look like what was called break dancing from the 1980s, but it's much more sophisticated than that.

He recalls the first time he saw breaking.

"My mind was blown. I loved it because the moves looked like superpowers, as if from a comic book or video game ... it blew my mind that it was actually real."
He admits to being a "closet b-boy" in the '80s, doing hand­stands without knowing what he was doing.

He also admits that growing up in the west coast community of Port aux Basques wasn't the best place to learn.

The first time Mr. Ingram tried real breaking was in Memorial's dance studio, which is now the kinesiology lab in the basement of the Physical Education building.

"I walked by and saw someone in there practising spinning on their hand. I ran in and introduced myself ... I could already do little handstands but I couldn't dance at all. I had to learn the foundation."

He adds that his kinesiology courses have helped shape him as a dancer: understanding the mechanics of the body, how to train and the principles of motor learning.

Most breaking is free form, and as Mr. Ingram explained, there are two kinds of performance. A cipher, also known as a dance circle, where participants jump in one at a time and is more a shared experience, and a dance "battle," where dancers try to out-do each other, as well as steal their confidence.

Mr. Ingram views breaking as another form of communication, just with movement instead of words.

"I think anyone can learn to dance, if they open up to it," he said. "People tend to set limits on themselves when they are not good at something right away. Ultimately, it's about creative self expression, which is definitely all about communicating."

Mr. Ingram and some of his fellow dancers are trying to start a dance program in Newfoundland and Labrador's school system, similar to a program he and other b-boys started in Halifax, N.S., that is now in more than 20 Nova Scotia schools.
In St. John's, the group has already partnered with School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador to start a dance program called Street Movement. Getting youth involved is very important to Mr. Ingram.

"It's another option for activity as well as creativity for kids," he said. "This dance appeals to kids who otherwise may not be interested in traditional team sports that are typically emphasized in our education system. The creative aspect is also very important, as the dancers get to create their own style and individualize their dance, while still being part of a community. I can't think of many other activities that have both those qualities."

To see Mr. Ingram in breaking action, visit