Stampede: Break Dancers USA get down and dirty
It all started for Will Sanchez at a community centre in The Bronx nearly 15 years ago.
Sanchez had always kept himself in great physical shape as a youngster through his training in martial arts but his brother exposed him to a new style of athleticism that would forever change his life.
“One day my brother comes down and he’s like ‘look at this dance style they call it break dancing,’ and I was like ‘What? That stuff is from the ’80s man, that’s old school, I don’t do that crap,” Sanchez begins, “But then when I saw I just thought ‘I have got learn that’ and one stop and that was it — been doing it ever since.”
Breakdancing has taken Sanchez — referred to by his stage name “Ill Will” when performing — all over the world with his fellow trio of acrobatic superstars known as Break Dancers USA.
The group, also featuring Antonio “Ready” Rosa and Jose “Mini” Colon, is headed by Julio “Klown” Santiago, a veteran promoter who originally led a group called USA Dancers in the ’80s. Sanchez met Santiago and began hassling him about bringing the group back.
“After about three weeks, (Julio) finally said ‘alright let’s give it a try,’ and it just took off from there,” Sanchez said.
The group has taken their astounding dance form to all corners of the globe — from Australia to Europe and all over North America. Sanchez explained that audiences have always been very responsive to the group, noting that even fans in Lebanon “were really really into it, which surprised us.”
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Break Dancers USA also frequents a number of busker circuits — where they are often required to put on three shows a day — as well as college and professional sporting events where the attendance can be as high as 50,000. The intensity and precision of their trade takes nerves of steel for Sanchez and Co.
“Somebody asked us the other day if we get butterflies and we said not really. I get them a little bit before halftime shows but only a little bit, it’s not too bad,” Sanchez said.
All of the quartet’s hard work finally paid off earlier this year when they placed first at the 2009 Street Performer World Championship in Ireland.
When the skies finally cleared briefly on a soggy Monday at the Calgary Stampede the Break Dancers took the Saddledome Plaza Stage for their second consecutive year at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
After much coaxing and comedic antics from MC Santiago, a group of curious bystanders gathered around for the group’s 40-minute routine. A number of audience members even gathered enough courage to join the break dancers on-stage to strut some moves of their own.
“The crowd makes our show, it wouldn’t be a show without the audience. If we have six people watching we are going to do the show, but it’s not going to be a fun show,” Sanchez said.
If you would like to catch the USA Break Dancers at this year’s Stampede, they perform daily on the Saddledome Plaza Stage at 2 p.m., 5p.m. and 8:30 p.m.