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These are the breaks

The Cambridge University Breakdancing Club straddles both sport and dance with a culture that celebrates innovation.

  • WORDS
    LUCY JOLIN
  • PHOTOGRAPHY
    ADAM LAWRENCE
- 3 minute read
Breakdancer

Fancy learning how to do a windmill? Or maybe you just want to perfect your jackhammer? Then the Cambridge University Breakdancing Club (CUBiC) – where all you need to get started is an old-skool hip-hop beat, a shiny wooden floor and bags of enthusiasm – is for you. But don’t worry – nobody will expect you to be spinning on your head on your first night.

“The basic moves are intuitive and easy to pick up,” says president and third-year economist, Tim Yiu (Downing). “And in addition to our welcoming community, our classes are very structured and geared towards people with absolutely no dance experience.”

Free-flowing and wildly innovative, breakdancing is rooted in hip-hop culture, with skateboarding, DJing and graffiti added to the mix. It borrows from gymnastics, tricking (a sport combining martial arts, gymnastics and dance), martial arts such as capoeira and even tap dance.

Breakdancing is like carrying out a conversation: every time you do a move, it’s like bantering or telling a joke between people that you’re comfortable being around

And, although it has much in common with both sport and dance, there are no exams or defined standards – just a culture that encourages experimentation, sharing expertise, and getting out there and doing it.

“It’s the culture that keeps me coming back,” says Yiu, who started breakdancing in Hong Kong when he was 13. “It’s a great mixture of passionate people from different backgrounds. We all teach each other and ask for advice. When you train with someone, you can talk to them afterwards – you go for a drink and end up hearing their life story. That kind of free, inclusive culture is very hard to find in a lot of sports and dance, so it’s what we aim to offer here at CUBiC.”

Breakdancer

CUBiC’s beginner sessions are open to anyone, and regulars include all ages, from 18 to 70. Experienced breakdancer Thomas Bignell runs the classes from 7pm to 8.30pm on Tuesdays, teaching new moves and concepts to build up members’ dance vocabulary. There’s no pressure to perform, but you can if you want to. A team including Yiu danced at the Fitzwilliam May Ball, and the club also took part in the student-run breakdancing competition, Break Central Vol 5, last year. “That was my first time in a UK competition,” says Yiu. “We didn’t advance to the top 16 but I’m glad I did it – it was a great experience.”

Dancing can be nerve-racking, particularly if you’ve never done it before, but CUBiC is a great place to start. “Nobody’s judging you,” says Yiu. “Breakdancing is like carrying out a conversation: every time you do a move, it’s like bantering or telling a joke between people that you’re comfortable being around. We’re all passionate about it, and we love to teach it and share it.”

From top: Dayna Cheah is a second-year NatSci at Magdalene; Tim Yiu is a third-year economist at Downing; and William Xie is a third-year NatSci at Fitzwilliam.

Follow CUBiC on Instagram @cubreaking for class recaps, breakdancing culture and more.