BBoy Reflex - Giving Back
Support your scene.
Reflex, you’re one of Melbourne’s most consistent contributors to the Bboy scene from hosting seven Mortal Kombreak jams, to being one of the first members of KO Crew to providing opportunities for up and coming dancers. What keeps you coming back to give back to the community? What’s kept you dancing for all this time?
Dancing fulfils so many aspects of my life; my social world, my family, my exercise, my creative outlet and occasionally my means of income. I love training, battling, sharing and just being part of this worldwide community.
I have no reason to stop breaking and no idea why I would ever want to; or how I would stop for that matter.
Why I do it?
The big breaking events I would look forward to when I was younger was Throwdown. They meant a lot to me and it was always exciting to see other dancers like me and to see the best bboys in Australia battle. During my first few years Throwdown was the only time I’d see bboys who weren’t my crew-mates. Throwdown discontinued after its 10th instalment.
Bboy Lamaroc, among others, kept things happening but organisers were getting burnt out and for a good reason; it was a lot to take on, especially because they cared so much about the community and the role they played in it.
Though I appreciated having the events that were taking place, I wanted to hold the kind of jam I’d like to attend and compete in. I’m not a fan of preliminary battles where the top 16 or 8 are just picked, I prefer battles with at least 2 rounds so both sides have a chance to reply.
My idea for Kombreak was to hold a no-nonsense tournament, 2 rounds each from the get go and if you won the battle you’re through to the next round. I also wanted to show it was possible to run this type of battle in the same time as other jams that had preliminary pickups and 1 round battles.
I didn’t want meaningless battles people could win without breaking a sweat. I want bboys and bgirls to go hard so when they do win, it will be after a meaningful journey.
Competitions are different to cyphers, yes, but there is merit in both and I think anyone who can win Mortal Kombreak would also be able to hold their own in a cypher.
My friend and one time crew-mate, bgirl Minae ‘Unstoppabler’ Shirakata gave me the confidence to hold a jam initially. Together we held events like Mortal Kombreak, Twice as Nice, 1Plus2 and Break Day Out.
We put a lot of our time and our own money into these events and it was exhausting but what kept me going was hearing that people enjoyed themselves. Battles were so fun, back in the day, and I want the current Melbourne scene to have them and enjoy themselves too.
What has been the most enriching/memorable thing that you’ve been able to experience through being part of the dance scene?
Without question, the most important part of doing what I do is the people that I’ve met and that have become part of my life. Majority of my friends are bboys and my partner of 7 years, and now my wife, is a bgirl, these things I have to thank bboying for the most.
Where did you go to school?
I went to high school at Mount Waverly Secondary, Studied design at Swinburne TAFE and graduated a Bachelor of Arts Film Major from Deakin University.
Originally from Kings Only, to Neon Genesis to Conven Crew and Back to the Basics you dance with an original style. What inspires your art through dance? How were you introduced to dance originally? How long have you been dancing for?
Some people count from when they started taking it seriously but from where it really began, it’s been fifteen years since I started. It was around 2001, I was at my friend Alan’s house, we were watching a movie called Only the Strong. It was a film where these kids were being taught Capoeira to show them a better path in life (as dated as it is, I still recommend this movie). After that, it was handstands every day at school for weeks, until we met a kid at school who taught us how to six step; from that point on we copied from pictures and low resolution videos. It wasn’t as easy to find stuff back then as it is now, but the go-to website was bboy.org and when we found VHS tapes of any bboy event, we would watch them over and over. One of the more memorable tapes for me was Battle of the Year 1999.
My crews from the beginning
My first crew was technically a group of high school friends, we called ourselves Bboy Central. It was short-lived and only Bboy Tofu and I continued to break.
K.O. Crew – Origins
K.O crew was established in 2003 – previously Knock Out crew, now Kings Only. The three who initially started K.O were Alan Tofu Dang, Daniel DanDan Wu and Leonard Lion Hermawan. After Throwdown 4 in 2003, a battle held by Wickid Force Crew, Christian PoppinFresh Bylsma and I were added in. K.O Crew has a rich multi-generational history of great bboys and bgirls and continues on strong today.
In 2010, I parted ways with K.O during their transition to Kings Only. I still have love and respect for them all I just felt that, at the time, I no longer belonged there. I am very proud of what they’ve done and continue to do and don’t regret being part of it. Things change and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
After being part of a crew for seven years, not being part of one was quite lonely so I formed a crew with long-time friends and new friends as well. Neon Genesis lasted a few years and had good times but in 2013, as I moved to Japan for a year, the crew dissolved with most of Neon Genesis banded together to form FUN Crew,
Back to the Basics and Conven Crew
In 2013, while in Japan, I Joined Conven Crew – est. 2001 – and Back to the Basics – est. 2009. I was introduced to both crews through my wife, then girlfriend, who was a member of both. Through many trips to Japan I had spent a lot of time with them and, naturally after time, was asked to join. BTTB is based in and around Osaka while Conven are based in the South Islands of Okinawa.
In 2013 you spent a year in Japan, what did you spend most of your time doing? Has influenced your artwork both through dance and through other media?
I’ve been to Japan almost every year since 2008, but in 2013 I spent the whole year there. You see a lot more when you’re somewhere for a significant amount of time. I used my year reflecting on what I really wanted to do in the future and I rediscovered drawing. I had put it aside for so long I starting telling myself I didn’t have time and wouldn’t get better — I’ve since made the time and continue to get better, I just needed get out of my own way.
Japan did influence me, I saw many friends working hard in jobs they didn’t care for and didn’t want that to be me. As far as breaking, there are both good and bad sides to the scene over there. For one, if you think jams are expensive here, a small battle has an average door fee of $25+AUD and big battles can be $40-$50 with very little time given for each battle. On the plus side though, there are a large number of bboys and a lot more bgirls than I’ve known there to be in many other countries — and they train hard!
I’ve met many bboys who’ve influenced my dancing, especially my crew-mates from BTTB and CVC. BTTB inspired me to simplify and execute with more emphasis and CVC inspired me to freestyle more and just enjoy it.
How was it breaking into the scene in Melbourne? What did you have to overcome? Are those things you still encounter now?
My style has developed quite a bit over the years, I was laughed at when I first tried footwork so I felt more inclined to train freezes – I received props for being good at it. Sometimes, however, I feel like people only thought I could do hand hops.
I actually like both sides of breaking. I love footwork just as much as power.
What were you doing before dancing?
Before dancing I was into drawing and video games, but nothing had grabbed my attention like breaking did. I was a chubby shy kid and breaking gave me a creative outlet which was also social — this affected my growth as a person immensely, and still does to this day.
When you were younger did you see yourself being where you are now? Or was there another plan that didn’t happen?
When I was younger I had no idea where I’d be at 28, but I think that’s like most people. I thought things would fall into place so I went to University because I thought it was what I was meant to do and only worked jobs to be able to visit Japan to see my girl.
I’ve always followed my interests each time and that has setup my current goal which is to do everything I want and do it well.
I’m currently happy and excited for what’s to come, and I’m in love with life!
So what can we expect to see from you in the next year? Is there anything that we should expect to see?
This year, and hopefully for years to come, I aim to hold more events in Melbourne and maybe out of Melbourne too — other than that you’ll just have to wait and see. Aside from dancing I’m freelancing as a digital illustrator.
If you’re interested check out facebook.com/AndJyoucanamGib or follow me on Instagram @andrewgibbonsart or @bboyreflex to keep up-to-date with my art, or stalk my life if you like.
What would you say to anyone trying to get into dance or just starting off?
Just do what you gravitate towards naturally. You don’t need to decide by week two that you’re a styler or a power head – be both or be neither when you want. You’re free and you’ll always be stuck with the limits you set for yourself.
You will never need to retire from dancing, or battles. Just dance when you want and battle when you want. Talk is cheap and you’ll look silly when your mood inevitably changes.
You will tire at times, like most, but you will feel refreshed when you come back after days, weeks, months or even years. It’s all good. I’m just saying keep yourself open and don’t be so quick to decide that you don’t like things. You may not like certain moves now but it’s naive to believe that you will always feel that way. Keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself and predetermine what you think you will like. Try everything and give it a decent go before you hate on it.
For those who’ve dancing for a while already
Yes, there is a commercial side to the dance that may not fit with the honest intentions of its Hip-Hop beginnings, but it also reaches so many people who may not have found it otherwise. Give people time to learn the meaning of what they are doing for themselves.
Don’t be ashamed to practice things you suck at, that’s what practice is for. It gets harder when you improve on some moves and want to practice things you aren’t good at, but don’t let that stop you!
Power moves as a dance are uniquely part of breaking so don’t hate on power movers
Footwork is tough, at least with quality, and is a lot of hard work so don’t hate on footwork
Get to know yourself over as you grow and change so you know when you’re not being honest with yourself — when you know yourself better you can know others better.
Be good to yourself and those who are good to you, do it because you want to not because you feel pressured to or because you’ll receive something in return. Empathy and good relationships make for a happier life, I have found.
Thank you to the Mind Society team for this opportunity. I could talk for days, clearly, but I don’t want to ramble on. I’m always open to chat, share and teach so don’t be shy to say hello.
Much love, Andrew Reflex Gibbons