Why is it especially hard for a b-boy or b-girl to cope with ageing?

It’s a human condition that we all share, but it’s different for a b-boy or b-girl because their identity has been shaped by their physical abilities, almost in spite of themselves. It’s about the perception of others, too, which weighs heavily on how we see ourselves. I often say that when you start out as a breakdancer you’re signing a contract that gives you superhero powers: you’ll be able to perform all sorts of amazing feats and impress people, but the small print says that it can’t last. The powers will be taken away, soon. And it’s a shock when it happens.

I feel like I’ve been spared: the Crazy Smooth identity is bound to a presence rather than to my physical abilities. But I’ve heard this kind of thinking in the community. There is a sort of fatalism, a shame associated with not being able to live up to expectations. In My Body raises a lot of perceptions about the ageing body, all of it based on my personal experience, and on shared experience.


You’re putting three generations of dancers together on stage. What nuance does each generation bring to the group dynamic?

First, there’s the OGs, the original generation, also known as the elders or pioneers: without them, it’s just circus. Their presence guides us. They are our living libraries. Their experience has value that cannot be quantified. We dance differently when they’re there. At the other end of the spectrum, younger dancers bring a kind of hope, they represent infinite possibilities—the same as in society. They’re not bound by constraints or responsibilities, and the exuberance and energy they inject into the group is essential. Street dance is youth culture. We need them.

Finally, there’s my generation, the in-between generation. We’re a bridge between young and old. There’s friction if we’re not there. We reassure the pioneers that what they have achieved will be preserved, and we reassure the youth that they will be listened to and understood even as we call them to order. This is the ecosystem everywhere in the world of urban dance, and which I wanted to transpose to the stage. No one group can exist without the others.


How do you maintain urban dance codes, like strength, intensity, and power, while allowing for some vulnerability?

It’s a big taboo. It’s part of hip-hop culture—just like in street dance—being the best, the strongest, the richest. Artists in this culture don’t talk about the things in life that make us vulnerable. It’s the same for dancers. Movement gets harder as you get older: it’s just life taking its course, but we don’t talk about it. I wanted to expose that taboo to avoid painting a picture of perfection.

The show has incredible feats performed to music… and it stops. Then we hear the physical demands on the dancers, the internal struggles dancers are constantly imposing on themselves. The dancers are at war with their limbs, their joints. There’s a beauty created in the rhythm of the contact and breath of a dancer fighting with the body to maintain the same level of intensity. That’s where the vulnerability and the revelation of what’s happening In My Body lies.


What does the Ghanaian word sankofa, which is pivotal to the show’s narrative, mean?

Sankofa is the transmission of tradition. Literally, the word translates as “looking to the past” in Twi, the dialect spoken in Ghana. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, on their achievements, to build on them. That’s the only way to maintain a harmonious ecosystem. No one can escape the friction of growing old. Sankofa is also about acceptance. Acceptance of growing old brings a certain inner peace. It’s a form of freedom.

One of my mentors, Tedd Robinson, told me the metaphor of the pianist: at the beginning, the pianist is reading the notes, and then eventually they forget about the score and they’re just playing. That state of being where you play without thinking, that’s the frequency of the present moment. I call it the “izm”—hence the name of my company, Bboyizm. I always aspire to that ultimate state of being.


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