‘I break like Wind’ – IN CONVERSATION WITH BBOY WIND AKA VINAY GOWDA OF HIP HOP INDIA
In this interview dancer Vinay Gowda speaks to Akanksha Kumari about “breaking as his everyday practice and a source of joy”. While reflecting on his eight-year long career as a dancer and teacher, Vinay talks about his struggles, realizations, and experiments with the unique dance form of breaking. From starting on the streets of Bangalore to representing India in RF Jam, Singapore, and winning 15 solo B-boy battles, Vinay has carved out a very special artistic journey for himself. A journey whose story not only awakens us to the growth of breaking as a dance form in this country, but is also very likely to inspire all kinds of new-age artists.
Akanksha: Let’s start with your name ‘Bboy Wind’, how do you arrive at this name or how do people generally in the breaking field find their stage names?
Bboy Wind: Myself Bboy Wind aka Vinay, I am from Bengaluru, I’m a breaker.
See, the name, it goes like how one dances. It’s based on the character of how one breaks. It is how they are expressing themselves. So, when I break, people say ‘I break like wind’. And that’s how I got this name ‘Bboy Wind’. I got it from my master, Master Sritheren Pillai. I have a friend who does a lot of spins, so when people see him, they say, oh, he looks like a cyclone, so he got the name cyclone. So, Bboy or B-Girl are just breaking names, picked as expressions of the style, the flavour of breaking, or the artist’s individual personality. As is the case with our real names that we most often do not choose ourselves, here too, our names are chosen by the Crewmates or our OGs (Old Generation masters) or some other experienced persons in the field.
Akanksha: When did you begin dancing and how has your journey been so far?
Bboy Wind: I was 14 or 15 years old when I started dancing. I knew nothing about breaking because we never saw breaking in our community, in our culture. There was mostly Bollywood or other dance forms. Then one day on the streets of Bangalore I met our master, Sritheren Pillai, who had big hair fully deadlocked. As a kid I got attracted to his force, his look. He invited me to his studio to learn. The studio had big walls designed with graffiti, mirrors. As a kid, it took me by surprise. I was so happy. The first move which I got attracted to and learnt was baby freeze. Now, I’m one of the instructors in the Hip Hop India Dance Company. It’s been eight years. Time just flew.
Akanksha: How has your experience been with respect to the Indian audience or crowd as compared to the audience overseas?
Bboy Wind: When I represented India in the RF jam in Singapore, there was no audience really. I was surrounded by a community full of dancers. Also, the way people spread love, accept breaking as a culture, and give respect to each other is so mad! When it comes to India, it is still a growing community. Here, we get a good audience, by which I mean people who don’t do breaking themselves but only like to watch. Obviously, when people see you screaming, jumping around, they go crazy and support you more. The crowd supports us a lot, but they will still not send their kids to a breaking class. Because they’re scared that their kid’s gonna break their bones or get some injury. They just like watching but do not want to put their bodies into it….I think in Japan they are already considering breaking as a subject in schools, like it’s a part of their syllabus now. In India, the community and culture are growing slowly. But still, I tell this to the parents that you should trust your kids and their bodies. I mean, they are capable.
Akanksha: What styles do you do? And is there any particular movement or technique which, you feel, has led to some deep realizations for you about the body?
Bboy Wind: So, I started training with Hip Hop India which is an all-style dance crew, based in Bangalore. They teach all styles but breaking has always stood out for me. I also do hip hop, popping, and house so when I do break I use a little bit of groove from all of them. When I started out, I didn’t know what my body´s strengths and weaknesses actually are. Say when we place our hands on the ground to do a ‘handstand push’, you sometimes feel the right side or the left side is stronger than the opposite. I feel the same way too. When I first learned a move called ‘flare’All my crewmates were able to do more than five-six flares, while I could hardly do one. Later, I figured that all this while I had been doing it on my weaker side. After which, I rigorously trained for two weeks. Now I can do like ten-twenty flares easily.
Akanksha: So, what all comprises your everyday body strengthening practice?
Bboy Wind: Every day when I wake up, the first thing I do is pray to God to keep me strong mentally. If I’m mentally strong, physically I will/can push because I’ve been doing this for eight years now. I can easily say breaking is in my blood. I practice every single day. For developing strength in breaking, I do drills like 20 flares. This helps me to keep my moves more comfortable and my body lightweight. I do all kinds of drills like Russian abs, criss-cross, air flares, and sweeps. I also do a little bit of weightlifting. Other than all of this, it’s mostly one’s own body-weight training, which is enough. I can go and lift a lot of weight but that will not help me with my hand control. To work on my hand control, I have to work on the same move, keep drilling it multiple times to make it buttery. Breaking itself is a workout, we keep on squatting, spreading, just moving here and there, jumping around. So breakers are athletes and that’s why we have been able to qualify the Olympics.
Akanksha: How are you currently experimenting with your style? If you could speak with reference to the work Wind that you have presented in the AIB open studio 2022?
Bboy Wind: I try to bring different styles to break by adding some movement or quality from boxing or ballet. When people see me do breaking they say ‘you make everything look easy’. So that is what I try to do, to make everything look easy. If I struggle then it’s not ‘wind’ bro! Once I come back from performing, I still go hit my lab so I can do the same move in a different/better way. Sometimes, I just hold one position and try to play to figure out different deviations. I also use some violin music so I can explore different rhythms. I try what they call ‘animal walks’. So this is how I try to improve my style.
Akanksha: What is it that drives you as a dancer?
Bboy Wind: I can say everything! The passion, the moves, and the process that goes into learning those moves. The pain, the scratches on my body, the lowest movement, the happiest movement, even the loneliest movement. Right now, I’m sitting here talking to you in the same place where I have spent a very lonely time thinking about movements, losing so many competitions, and wondering whether I will still be able to reach my goals and dreams.
Akanksha: What does the space of a dance battle mean or represent for you?
Bboy Wind: Battles are like opportunities for artists. If I’m putting myself to work every day, I should also get rewarded for it. Also, it’s not just about winning but about being/surviving in the scene. These competitions help you reach out to real people and make a name in the field.
Akanksha: How has your experience in the battles impacted the way you dance now?
Bboy Wind: Battles push you to work harder. If you want to be one of the best in the country, you have to work hard. The difficult part is if I’m battling the best in the country and I win against them, the next day, I can’t celebrate the victory as I have to put myself in the work. Because next time when I battle against the same person I should be better than even winning. So, battles encourage me to do that one move each time right.
Akanksha: So how was your experience of performing at the AIB Open Studio?
Bboy Wind: It was different. When we entered on stage the previous performance had just ended and the crowd felt very low on energy. We were like, bro, you can’t do this. Because we need energy. If you give energy, we’ll give it back to you. When I stepped in, I was not sure whether the audience would clap or not. But then they gave really good energy. Our plan was to stay steady with our energy to survive the whole five minutes of performance and bring out our best moves. But after reaching the stage I couldn’t control. I was keeping the energy so high that I messed up in between. Although people would not have noticed. It’s not easy to perform for a whole five minutes, do all your power moves. But I couldn’t give up.
Akanksha: How has the pandemic affected your practice and how, do you think, your dance has survived?
Bboy Wind: Some days I enjoyed doing nothing, just staying home. But, for the first one week I also felt quite depressed thinking that I did not have a space to practice, I couldn’t go out, and train with my friends. Soon I stopped complaining and started creating space. I cleared out all the stuff from my small room. I created my signature move there, and when I went out on the first battle after the lockdown, I was the winner because of that move.
Akanksha: Were you teaching during the lockdown?
Bboy Wind: So, for the first one month I had no classes, no students, no work, I was just staying home. Like, I had no option, I survived somehow. I’m the only one who takes care of my family, so it was hard. At Hip-Hop India, my master was not in a position to pay anyone, as the classes weren’t running. Every day, the thought of tomorrow was affecting me mentally. But when I went back to my practice, it gave me hope.
Akanksha: Why do you think there are not enough female artists in the scene?
Bboy Wind: If you ask me, B-Girls are really strong. It’s like they are on the same level as B-boys and can chuck any international competition. Just that they have to put themselves in the work despite all the struggles, money problems. We all learn in the same place irrespective of our gender. In our community, everyone teaches. If the class fee is too high for someone, pay me less or whatever you can. But I’m not gonna do it for free because this is my bread and butter.
Akanksha: How do you imagine the future of dance in India?
Bboy Wind: Breaking scene is gonna be more dope in the future for sure! I’m super excited about it. Because new generation kids, they will have a lot of opportunities and good pay as well, hopefully. For breakers, it’s going to be the biggest achievement if breaking becomes like a legit subject in school. As when breaking becomes part of the school curriculum, then breaking artists can find employment and a stable source of income. Most of the OGs (Old Generations) will get paid for their work. Also, the parents will not stop their kids from dancing.
As we know, breaking is now recognised as one of the sports in the Olympics. This will open more opportunities for the breaking artists. We need change. We need to give dancers more support and opportunities. There were some breakers who secured a place in the Olympics qualifiers but the authorities did not even provide a visa to send them to Paris to compete. Only our country was not there. That’s not right! People should really not take our hard work for granted because we train hard in all situations; happy, sad, or sick. But yeah, hopefully, everything will be fine one day. I am hopeful.
 Contributing over 15 years of experience, Sritheren Pillai, established HipHop India Dance Co., in 2005.
The flare is an acrobatic move in which the performer alternates balancing the torso between either arm while swinging the legs beneath in continuous circles. It is a fundamental b-boying/bgirl power move, and in gymnastics it may be performed on a pommel horse or during the floor exercise. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 22, 2022.