Interview by Iris Van Kerckhove
Contraband Curated: What's the community or scene like in Hong Kong? How does it compare to other cities you've danced in?
Joey: I started a Facebook page called BboyHKdotcom that documents all of the different stuff that’s going on in the local scene—like who won the battles recently, when the big b-boys are coming into town, or if there are workshops. I think the scene in Hong Kong is pretty good. But it's kind of small, just because Hong Kong is a small place. I don't actually know number-wise how many people…probably like a couple hundred b-boys or b-girls? But they've always been the strongest community in street dance in Hong Kong. Whatever other dance communities have done in Hong Kong, the b-boys did it first. And it's always the b-boys who are most united. When you battle, all of your beef is brought out in the battle. Other competitive street dancers are maybe nice to each other but then talk about each other behind their backs. But b-boys just talk in your face.
Eko: I used to feel that, for a lot of crews within Hong Kong, dance was a lot more move-based. They were fascinated with moves and tricks more than an essence of yourself. I used to be a little bit sour towards that. After hearing more about the way that they judge in Hong Kong, I learned it varies greatly between each kind of event, and that was actually OK. After being in the scene for so long and feeling sour about that whole aspect, in the end, it kind of just boiled down to whoever looks best when they do what they do.
You can have a guy that focuses completely on style-based movement who’s expressing himself originally and completely freshly. And you can have him going against someone that that does this one move amazingly, and if everyone thinks that guy that does the one move amazingly looked way better than that guy that is completely fresh and original, well then, good for him. In this case, he’s the better dancer.
So, I started to think, OK. Instead of being sour about it, how about I go off and work on myself? Do what I believe and what I'm feeling true to, and instead, just try to be stronger in that respect. And then I started to look at the Hong Kong scene a little bit differently because I realized that over the years, the whole b-boy scene here has evolved. And I think it's kind of nice because I used to compare Hong Kong to other places and think to myself, oh, other places are fresher. Other places have bigger moves. Other places have a more original style. But now I realize it's just because Hong Kong’s scene was young at the time. Hong Kong really does now have its own unique grounded style now. I kind of really like it and I’m really excited to see how it develops in the future.
But sadly—as a disclaimer—since I've come back to Hong Kong, I have not been hooked up with the scene nearly enough as I should be.
Joey: It's ok, you can always come back.
“When you battle, all of your beef is brought out in the battle. Other competitive street dancers are maybe nice to each other but then talk about each other behind their backs. But b-boys just talk in your face.” - Joey
Contraband Curated: You’re both creatives in your day job, though obviously, doing something very different to dancing. What do you think it is that breaking adds to your life?
Joey: I guess I used to be pretty shy before. It taught me how to express myself differently, and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Even without battling, just having the guts to go into the middle of a dance circle and do your moves while 20-30 people are all watching you judging your every movement—it’s kind of nerve-racking, actually. Especially if you're not confident and you know you're always going to have that fear of messing up your move or people thinking you’re a shitty dancer. But then you kind of learn to embrace the fear and enjoy it in a way because that is the thing that helps you improve.
Eko: I think one of the great things that it has done for me was giving me a sense of community. Not just for dancers, but the hip hop community as a whole. It’s so interesting because there are so many people with different mindsets about certain things, especially if you live in a country where hip hop wasn't born. And people have different views on hip hop itself. I would have never really gotten that if I wasn’t breakdancing and meeting these very different people who are always willing to know more about each other.
Another thing is having an identity. In hip hop, it's quite important to have an identity. The word “fresh” is so damn important. I never remember taking as much time to think about myself and who I am more than when I started to join the breakdancing community. It was the first time I actually sat down and asked myself, who am I? What am trying to achieve?
Contraband Curated: Favorite music for breaking?
Joey: James Brown’s Sex Machine.
Eko: I would say late 80s/early 90s breakbeats. If I’m battling people, I want to have those kinds of breakbeats because they're the perfect kind of tempo and they also have these small accents that you can play with. But with b-boying—compared to a lot of other dances—it's not very limited by the music you listen to. It just feels like the most unlimited dance I've ever felt in my life.