A b-boy (or break-boy) is a male dancer who practices breaking or b-boying, the acrobatic hip-hop dance style. Breaking is a style of dance that evolved among Black and Latino American youth in the Bronx, New York, during the 1970s. It is danced to both hip-hop and other genres of music that are often remixed to prolong the musical breaks.

In Mumbai, it all started two years ago, when 19-year-old Akash, who prefers to be called Aku by his friends, entered the world of dance. “I joined a computer class where they offered to teach us Breaking,” he recalls.

Aku, a resident of Dharavi, is more than just a regular college-going student. He has been b-boying for two years. “Two years ago, HeRa taught us. We didn’t know anything. First we saw videos. I got scared that we would break our hands and legs,” Aku laughs.

“But don’t call it breakdancing,” he adds. The term breakdancing, though commonly used, is sometimes frowned upon by those immersed in hip-hop culture because the term was created by the media to describe what was called breaking or b-boying.

The boys don’t lack dedication, but they lack space. As the city has a space constraint, the boys are unable to afford to hire space. “We practise at Sion fort. We’ve cleaned up this space. But the authorities constantly harass us and drive us out of here. We have approached schools and colleges but they don’t want to entertain us,” laments Aku. - Text by Dilnaz Boga and photos by Pal Pillai.

Dilnaz Boga is an Indian journalist and the recipient of Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for her work in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pal Pillai is an Indian photojournalist based in Mumbai.

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