© 2022 WEAA
background_fid (2).jpg
Your Source for Cool Jazz and More THE VOICE OF THE COMMUNITY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
We Need Your Support! Please make a donation today to keep this community resource on the air. Donate today!

Venezuelans create community around break dance in Colombia

Heber López, 29, performs a 'head spin' at a traffic light in the south of Cali, Colombia, as he dances for money.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Heber López, 29, performs a 'head spin' at a traffic light in the south of Cali, Colombia, as he dances for money.

Break dance, or "breaking," has always been nourished by migration since the late '60s, with the different ways of conceiving this dance between New Yorkers, Latinos, Europeans and Asians. The breaking that was traditionally danced in the Bronx or Manhattan was never the same after dancers adopted the rhythms of salsa, DJing and found inspiration in the acrobatics of kung-fu movies.

Colombia is no exception to that rule: Every year, dozens of Venezuelan migrants arrive seeking to deconstruct their way of conceiving breaking. "I migrated to make art," says Alexander Roque, who arrived to Cali from Valencia, Venezuela.

Bboy Alexander Roque keeps a photo of his mother, Ana Beatriz Rojas, who decided to stay in Venezuela despite the crisis, with him to keep the memory of his family alive in his life in Colombia. Roque arrived in the city from Valencia, Venezuela, in 2021.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Bboy Alexander Roque keeps a photo of his mother, Ana Beatriz Rojas, who decided to stay in Venezuela despite the crisis, with him to keep the memory of his family alive in his life in Colombia. Roque arrived in the city from Valencia, Venezuela, in 2021.
Joseph Azuaje, a bboy who goes by 'Alf,' performs a somersault during a short Rebel Warrior crew performance in front of a restaurant in western Cali, Colombia, in January.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Joseph Azuaje, a bboy who goes by 'Alf,' performs a somersault during a short Rebel Warrior crew performance in front of a restaurant in western Cali, Colombia, in January.

Someone who engages in this art — and future Olympic sport — is known as a bboy or a bgirl, with the "b" referring to breaking.

Carlos González, a bboy who goes by 'Titi,' gestures as a reference to Venezuela, in July. In the background are the attendees of the 2022 Hip al Parque, in Bogotá, Colombia. Around 70,000 people filled Simon Bolivar Park, where the event was held.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Carlos González, a bboy who goes by 'Titi,' gestures as a reference to Venezuela, in July. In the background are the attendees of the 2022 Hip al Parque, in Bogotá, Colombia. Around 70,000 people filled Simon Bolivar Park, where the event was held.
Alfonso Berti Ibañe, who goes by 'Murdeking,' kisses her wife, Daniela Mariceth Corcho, at a street in Cali, Colombia, in May. They met in 2016 in Barranquilla, Colombia, one the first cities 'Murdeking' arrived in after leaving Naguanagua, Venezuela.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Alfonso Berti Ibañe, who goes by 'Murdeking,' kisses her wife, Daniela Mariceth Corcho, at a street in Cali, Colombia, in May. They met in 2016 in Barranquilla, Colombia, one the first cities 'Murdeking' arrived in after leaving Naguanagua, Venezuela.

Some breakdancers migrate specifically to improve their skills and create a community — a family — around hip hop culture to help them face their own migration process.

Laura Mámbel, 30, performs a headstand on a terrace in the El Rincón neighborhood of Medellín, Colombia. Her main goal is having an economically sustainable life through dance.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Laura Mámbel, 30, performs a headstand on a terrace in the El Rincón neighborhood of Medellín, Colombia. Her main goal is having an economically sustainable life through dance.
<strong>From left to right</strong>: Ibsen Jiménez, Joseph 'Alf' Azuaje, Gabriel 'Gohan' Arocha (from Perú) and Jim 'Mighty Jake' Párraga, members of the Flava and Spice Crew, pose for a photo in the Santa Lucía neighborhood south of Bogotá, Colombia, on July 3, 2022.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
From left to right: Ibsen Jiménez, Joseph 'Alf' Azuaje, Gabriel 'Gohan' Arocha (from Perú) and Jim 'Mighty Jake' Párraga, members of the Flava and Spice Crew, pose for a photo in the Santa Lucía neighborhood south of Bogotá, Colombia, on July 3, 2022.

These bboys and bgirls are also part of an ongoing migration between groups. Medellín is considered by the bboys and bgirls as the capital of breaking. Flava and Spice, a Venezuelan crew led by Gabriel Arocha, won Bogotá's Hip Hop al Parque for the first time in 25 years this past summer.

Dubraska Monterrey hugs his boyfriend Ibsen Jiménez, in an apartment located in the Santa Lucía neighborhood, south of Bogotá, on July 3, 2022. That night they slept under a check for $11 million pesos (roughly $2,500 US dollars) after winning the 2022 Hip Hop al Parque competition.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Dubraska Monterrey hugs his boyfriend Ibsen Jiménez, in an apartment located in the Santa Lucía neighborhood, south of Bogotá, on July 3, 2022. That night they slept under a check for $11 million pesos (roughly $2,500 US dollars) after winning the 2022 Hip Hop al Parque competition.

Some of the group's members are also part of Chicos del Barrio, another break dance group formed by six Colombian breaking dancers and three Venezuelans bboys, Ibsen Jiménez, Jim 'Mighty Jake' Párraga and Joseph 'Afl' Azuaje.

Bboys from Venezuela practice a choreography in front of La Tertulia Museum, in Cali, on January 7, 2022. Usually, before embarking on the tours in search of money, the artists meet at this point to fine-tune their performances.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Bboys from Venezuela practice a choreography in front of La Tertulia Museum, in Cali, on January 7, 2022. Usually, before embarking on the tours in search of money, the artists meet at this point to fine-tune their performances.

According to several Venezuelan bboys and bgirls, xenophobia was something that also manifested itself in the world of hip hop in Colombia during the first years of migration, around 2017 and 2018.

Gabriel Arocha, 36, moves to the rhythm of a song in the living room of his apartment, located in Medellín's Las Violetas neighborhood in July. Arocha, who was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, arrived in the city in 2017, when the migration crisis was just beginning.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Gabriel Arocha, 36, moves to the rhythm of a song in the living room of his apartment, located in Medellín's Las Violetas neighborhood in July. Arocha, who was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, arrived in the city in 2017, when the migration crisis was just beginning.
<strong>Left: </strong>Heber Lopez at one of the hallways of Cali Bus Terminal, on his way to Bogotá to participate in the 2022 Hip Hop al Parque, where he was a finalist with his crew the RBN. <strong>Right: </strong>Gabriel Arocha's Venezuelan passport. The bboy has travelled to more than 12 countries in Latin America and Europe for breaking competitions.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Left: Heber Lopez at one of the hallways of Cali Bus Terminal, on his way to Bogotá to participate in the 2022 Hip Hop al Parque, where he was a finalist with his crew the RBN. Right: Gabriel Arocha's Venezuelan passport. The bboy has travelled to more than 12 countries in Latin America and Europe for breaking competitions.

However, that mindset has shifted. Nowadays, the ongoing migration is perceived as an exchange of knowledge and skills between bboys and bgirls to transcend as a competitive art and sport.

Joseph 'Alf' Azuaje (center), performs a freeze during a battle between Chicos del Barrio, made up of Colombians and Venezuelans, against a crew from Bogotá, during the Free Style Session Latin America.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Joseph 'Alf' Azuaje (center), performs a freeze during a battle between Chicos del Barrio, made up of Colombians and Venezuelans, against a crew from Bogotá, during the Free Style Session Latin America.

For bboys and bgirls, migration is not only physical, it is also an exchange of idiosyncrasies, dance steps, tricks and finding people they can relate to.

Alexander Roque, 22, takes a shower in the Meléndez River, south of Cali, Colombia, to relax his muscles after 30 short performances under one of the city's traffic lights in February.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
Alexander Roque, 22, takes a shower in the Meléndez River, south of Cali, Colombia, to relax his muscles after 30 short performances under one of the city's traffic lights in February.
With a chalk, Heber López marks the 30 rounds of short presentations made at a traffic light in the south of Cali, on May 8, 2022. When a group of four or five b-boys work at that kind of place for almost three hours, each of one can gathered between $15.000 and $40.000 colombian pesos.
/ Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
/
Jair Fernando Coll Rubiano
With a chalk, Heber López marks the 30 rounds of short presentations made at a traffic light in the south of Cali, on May 8, 2022. When a group of four or five b-boys work at that kind of place for almost three hours, each of one can gathered between $15.000 and $40.000 colombian pesos.

This project was supported by the Semillero Migrante initiative.

Click here to see more of Jaír's work.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tags
Estefania Mitre
Estefania Mitre (she/her/ella) is a production assistant for social media who works with visual elements to amplify stories across platforms. She has experience reporting on culture, social justice and music.
Jaír Fernando Coll Rubiano