In August 2010 I embarked on a three month journey to Seoul, South Korea to research the South Korean bboying (break dancing) scene. I had previously visited Seoul in 2009 for a week after meeting and developing friendships with the Gamblerz Crew from Seoul who performed in New Zealand in April 2009 (who were also sponsored in part by the Asia New Zealand Foundation). I had an amazing time experiencing Korean culture, the city of Seoul and the bboy culture over there and couldn’t wait to return.
The South Korean bboying scene is one of the biggest in the world, and South Korean bboys are known around the world for their technical and physical ability, performing amazing dynamic moves which have earned them wins in countless battles globally.
The dance form is well supported in South Korea, from humble beginnings where it was looked upon with scorn by society, to mainstream acceptance where large corporations and local government sponsor large-scale bboying competitions which are regularly broadcast on the country’s main television networks.
One of the reasons why the Korean scene is so remarkable is that it has developed very quickly over a relatively short period of time – they burst onto the international scene in the early to mid 2000’s and quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with –whereas other countries had been break dancing for a lot longer.
Returning to New Zealand after my 2009 experience, I developed the idea of a research project to investigate the differences between the New Zealand and South Korean bboying scenes to see what we could learn and pass this knowledge on to develop our own scene.
In 2010 my research project included training with the Gamblerz Crew and taking workshops with other top level bboys such as Born from Rivers Crew. This was a great experience, although my body was definitely pushed to its limit a lot of the time.
One of the reasons that Korean bboys have come a long way in a short amount of time is that they have an intense dedication to their art – many of them train five+ hours a day, six or seven days a week in order to achieve the amazing things that they do.
As well as training with the bboys at their studios, it was also chilling with them outside of practice, and jamming with them to the musicians in Hongdae Park which taught me more about their bboying scene and their culture.
There is also a community of bboys and bgirls from around the world, who are in Korea for various reasons such as study, work, competing in bboying events, or simply visiting the country to train and immerse themselves in the Korean bboying scene. It was great to meet them, train and chill with them and learn more about them and the scenes in their countries (plus it was good to be able to converse freely in English!)
During my stay I developed a blog – Bboy Benaza’s Korean Mission http://bboybenaza.wordpress.com/ – in order to share my experiences with the New Zealand scene back home and showcase the findings of my research.
While I was in Seoul I was also involved with a YouTube bboying video channel called Strife.tv who cover bboying events and do interviews with bboys and bgirls. I made friends with Dan and MisLee from Strife.tv during my first visit to Seoul, and helped out with interviews and ‘battle’ coverage while I was there.
I got some great ‘behind the scenes’ experience at some of the big events in Korea such as R16 and Monster Jam, as well as getting some of the best seats in the house during events! I also helped out MisLee with a bboying project that involved some of the best bboys in Korea along with Jay Park, a Korean-American pop star.
My experience in Korea was amazing, and offered me many opportunities and experiences in such a short time which I will treasure for a long time.
During my visit I developed a deeper understanding of how the Korean bboying scene has come a long way in such a short time, and I now plan to share this knowledge back home in New Zealand through my blog and in person, to develop our own bboying scene.
By Ben Tafau
Photos supplied (top to bottom)
1. Ben Tafau break dancing
2. Ben with Gamblerz Crew in Seoul
3. Ben Tafau break dancing