COOL STUFF
Breaking battles
By Stephanie Berberick; photos by kc kratt

Highlights from a recent “Battle @ Buffalo” at Verve Dance Studio.
Break dancing never went away—it just went back underground, where it started. And it’s actually more popular now than it has been in years—especially in Buffalo.

Shane Fry, known to many as B-Boy Depree, has been “breaking” in Buffalo for more than ten years. One of the founding members of the dance crew dubbed the Differential Flavor Crew, Fry decided it was time to expand the art of his favorite dance and opened Verve Dance Studio at 910 Main Street in 2005. “I want to educate people about hip hop culture through the art of B-boying,” he says. “I also want people to come together and have fun expressing themselves dancing. The most rewarding aspect of owning the school is seeing people having fun and growing as dancers. It’s also rewarding to see the scene in Buffalo grow and know that the school has contributed to that.”

Stacy Sellka, a dancer at Verve, says that since she has been at the studio she has noticed it has seen tremendous growth, providing dancers with a positive outlet they might not have otherwise had. “It brings all sorts of different people together,” she says. “All walks of life, age, race, and background come together in the name of this style of dance.”

Verve isn’t just bringing Buffalonians together. Through its monthly events titled “Battle @ Buffalo,” people from all over the state and even beyond have been flocking to the studio. The “battle” is hosted at Verve on the last Saturday of every month, and it’s the city’s only all-ages urban dance competition. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the battle begins around 8. “The battle has grown a great deal since its start,” says Fry. “The first year we had about thirty to forty people, tops, at the events. Now we see anywhere from 200 to 300.”

The battle is only one small piece of what Fry does daily at the studio. Verve also offers classes for different skill levels, ages, and genders. And his vision also extends beyond just teaching the moves. “The studio provides a place for urban dancers to come and learn about culture and dance. There are different dance studios that offer ‘breakdancing’ classes, but I think most of those just offer up moves. Verve dedicates itself to educating about the culture as well as the actual dance.”

Sellka agrees: “A lot of people have a big misconception about what breaking is about. People see the top-forty stuff in the media, and it causes a lot of negative images. The culture is really so different from all that. Shane keeps it true to the foundations. Breaking draws influence from so many other styles, like tap and salsa, so there’s room for everyone to have their own style. But it’s important to know the foundations.”

Fry clearly knows those foundations better than anyone—he says he could probably write a book about the roots of B-boying—but in the interest of time he offers a short explanation of the birth of the culture: “Hip hop is about peace, love, unity, and having fun. B-boying is the dance element of the culture. It started in the early seventies at DJ Kool Herc’s jams in New York—he’s like the godfather of hip hop. When he started extending the breaks in records, the dancers that danced at those parts of the record would hit the floor for longer periods of time, and the B-boy was born.” Part of the fun is learning the lingo: “freezes” happen when a dancer holds a position; “power moves” require more ability, and include moves like backspins or headspins; “pop rocks” are everything you do while your hands aren’t touching the ground; and “footwork” refers to the moves a dancer makes on the floor using his or her hands and feet.

Fry says there are still new and exciting things happening in the movement, even four decades after its birth. “Breaking could never be dull. There are always new moves, new people, and different places where it’s going on.” Buffalo is one of these places, and as the size of Fry’s classes grows, so will local B-boy/B-girl culture, which is exactly what Fry loves to see. “I started the studio to spread the art of B-boying and hip hop culture throughout Buffalo,” he says. “I really enjoy seeing people express themselves through the dance, and as long as people are having fun and more dancers are born, I’ll be happy with the school.”

For more information on Verve Dance Studio, call 432-2761 or visit vervedancestudio.com.


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