Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Amie Nguyen and Ryan Goldade
Photography by Alan Ng
Location: Montreal[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
Please introduce yourselves to our readers by telling us your b-boy names and what got you into dancing.
Promo: I am b-boy Promo from Sweet Technique, Flava Squad. I got into dancing because of this guy who I would see dancing at the corner of my street all the time. Then I met Fleo at some dance classes and then we both got into Sweet Technique when we met them. I got my b-boy name because my last name is Promtemps and Promo just seemed to work. Promo also means “professional motion,” so that’s kind of cool too.
Vicious: What’s up, I am b-boy Vicious and I got into dance when I was a kid. I was playing basketball with my friends one day when this guy comes up. He was like the neighbourhood big brother and he started to show us some breaking moves. He put his hands on the floor and kicked his foot into the air and grabbed it. I was like, “Whaaaaat?!” That was definitely something that I wanted to do, so I kept on trying to do it the next day. That’s how it started and I was in elementary school. My entire high-school life was centered around breaking. I would be cyphering and b-boying in the morning and then breaking during the lunch break. What made it better was that my boy T-Rex was in charge of the radio so I could have my choice of music sometimes. It was awesome, I could go to school and practice breaking! My friend Andrew Gagnon, a.k.a. b-boy Sick Step gave me my b-boy name. He would always make fun of my name, it’s Victor, and call me Vicious Victor. So there was this breaking competition coming up and I went into it without a b-boy name. I did the battle and I did well, placing fourth out of thirty-two. Everyone in the crowd started chanting Vicious Victor, so I decided to go with that name.
Fleo: My name is b-boy Fleo. I have been b-boying for three years. I started to break with a b-boy named Tiger who got me into the b-boy scene. He saw me in my b-boy class, which I took for five years with a guy who could not teach me how to do a windmill, so that was a waste. Anyways, Tiger came, took me to a jam and I have been breaking with Sweet Technique since then. I also recently started breaking with Flavour Squad, it hasn’t even been a year since I started with them. So yeah, I saw these crews and they were fresh you know, so I joined up with them. My b-boy name is just a twist on my name, Leo.
T-Rex: My b-boy name is T-Rex. I started b-boying when I was in high school. I was the bum in elementary school who everyone pushed around. I was not popular at all. As a result, I wanted to become famous really badly. And I got fame! Vicious and I were like cool kids in high school. All the girls wanted to run to us and everybody knew us. I would walk down the hallways and everyone would be like, “What’s up David!” I would reply, “Hi, do I know you? What’s your name?” So many people knew me, it was awesome. As for my b-boy name, Sick Step gave it to me because when I dance I hold my hands high and when I fall I would make funny noises, like “garrrgh!” My friends said I sounded like a dinosaur, so that was how I got my b-boy name.
Omegatron: My name is Jonas, I so by the b-boy name of Omegatron. I am also a member of Sweet Technique and an old school member of the Tactical Crew. My first b-boy name was Shockwave because I am a Transformers fan, and Omegatron is another name that is in reference to Transformers. “Omega” means “the end” and “tron” is just another riff from Transformers. My big brother was a hip-hop dancer in the 80’s at the time that Maestro Freshness was on, so he was my biggest influence. I wanted to be like him but in a different form or field. He used to tell me about b-boying and Walkins from the Montral Breakers. Back in the day, Walkins was a phenomenon, he was notorious. One day he came to my house and I had the privilege of watching the famous Walkins doing windmills in my basement. I was like, “Oh my god!” He brought me to McGill University and I breaked on the streets for the first time in my life. I was fourteen and I am glad that I started so young. Actually, I recommend people to start as young as possible. It’s important to start breaking in your youth because you can grasp it easier and your love for it will mature and grow as you do so that your love will remain a strong part of you once you are older.
You really need to grind and hustle your way through the b-boy scene. However, there is another side to the scene, where you need to make money to support your passion. What do you guys do on the side in order to feed your passion?
Fleo: I am in high school right now so it’s not really a problem. But when I am older I will have to make a choice between a life with a lot of money or a life doing what I love. I have already made my choice, I choose b-boying. Right now, I make money by playing a tv show (dancing on a tv show? Acting? Working on a tv show?)
Vicious: For me, I dropped out of school at sect three because of b-boying. It was my choice. School wasn’t that great because it was an adult class and my teachers didn’t really care. I was always thinking about b-boying and I would lie to my mom, telling her that I was going to class but in reality I was going to b-boy practice. After I dropped out of school I started to do more b-boying and entered competitions. I won this big competition in Montreal called the “Just for Life B-Boy Battle”. It’s held every summer. I won it and my family went to watch me and my dad was crying. That competition helped me to establish my name. I won $3,000 dollars and I used the money to travel to Europe. I went to Circle Kings in Switzerland. I went also to Total Sessions as well with some dope b-boys out there, like Natural Flav, Flexible Flav, and Supernatural is from Toronto. When I came back I had no more money, so I started to teach dance classes. I had this friend who was working at a dance school and she recommended that I start teaching. I didn’t have papers or anything. I just said yes and hoped that everything would work out, which it did. That was four years ago. I got the job and I have been teaching at that dance school ever since. They pay me well and I enjoy it a lot. The only thing is that it’s kind of dead in the summer. I have this summer job. It kind of kills me because I work every day, Monday to Friday, eight to five, so I have to work hard to find time to practice b-boying. This coming year I might go back to school actually. My girlfriend is in university and she is helping me out and motivating me to go back to school.
Promo: Like Fleo, I am in high school. We actually go to the same high school. My parents pay for everything so it’s easier for me! I know it’s going to get harder for me as I grow older but I am teaching dance classes right now too, so it’s a good opportunity to get some experience.
Omegatron: Of course, there is a struggle within the b-boy society. Like Vicious was explaining to you, you have to struggle on the streets and work to give what you have to give to the culture and to the kids, and if you can make a bit of money doing that then that’s great. However, if you want to live in that b-boy environment day in day out, you have to find out how to give back to the b-boy culture in different forms, like giving back to the community by doing events, competitions, and stuff like that. You also always have to keep your eyes open for information that you can use to elevate what you do. It’s a continual learning process that takes work and dedication. So yes, the life of a b-boy is a hustle and it’s kind of hard.
Being a younger crew in the b-boy scene definitely has its pros and cons. Some people may praise your skills and for being able to pull off difficult moves at such an early stage in the crew’s history while other people may regard you as too inexperienced and view your age as a detriment to your performance. What is like being an up and coming crew?
Fleo: When we battle, most judges do not see age as a factor. However, there have been times where haters use the age of our crew to insult us and put us down. Once, during a battle, we wanted to challenge the decision of a judge who was quite well known in the Montreal scene. He was condescending towards us and made fun of us based on the age of our crew, saying, “Oh, go sleep babies.” The age of our crew does not mean anything. We’ve won competitions together. We are a constant presence in the scene and people know who we are. We are not the most famous crew, but we definitely have made a name for ourselves. Actually, in our experiences, b-girls are really nice to us while b-boys are really condescending to us because of our age. I don’t know if it’s jealousy or what not, but our haters always like to bring up our age for some reason.
T-Rex: To be an up and coming crew is kind of chill. We weren’t known at all in Montreal when we started because all our members are from the South Shore. We came up and we called out one of the biggest names in Montreal, the 7 in 1 Squad. We saw them once and we were like, “These guys are whack, let’s battle them!”
We went head to head with them. Most people watching had no idea who we were. I had some friends I knew who were at that competition and who were really surprised that we were there to battle that crew. Anyways, the battle was raw. It went to a tiebreaker and we won. That is how we started to establish our name. We started to call other crews out and we just started battling more and more. It’s hard but you just have to keep representing your crew, and that is what we did.
Did your crew name come about as a result of that battle?
Fleo: No, we wanted a French name originally. We heard that song, “Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Eric B. and Rakim and we wanted to twist the name of that song into a French name for us. It’s a complicated and long story but to sum it up, our name became Sweet Technique. Our name is cool though. I find that our name is unique because it doesn’t incorporate a lot of common words used in b-boy names, like “styles”, “flow”, “ground”, or “rock”.
In checking out your videos, it’s clear that you guys have sweet technique. However, to someone who has never seen you guys perform, they might not have an idea of what your style is. Please tell us about your style.
Fleo: Every member of the group has a different style. There is no one in the crew who has the same style. All of us have good technique. Maybe there are some members who no longer practice as hard and therefore do not have great technique anymore, but we won’t mention them. But all the guys who go to battles and shows have technique because we practice very hard and we all have style and we all strive to be original in our dance.
Promo: I think that the different with our crew compared to other crews is that while we have great foundation and great technique, we also have the same flavour as a group. That means that we can work well together to convey a shared style that we want to express. Everyone is on the same page in regards to what we want to convey in our dance as a crew. Having that said, we are each still individuals and that individuality shines through in our dance.
Omegatron: Our crew is coming up with a young flavour that people are going to taste. We combine it all, authentic foundations, new school foundations, new school tricks, new school top rock, new school power moves, new school everything. And we might even throw in some old school stuff just to keep it interesting. Our name evokes the new flavour that we are trying to develop with our style. It’s sweet, so come get a taste!
Speaking of your flavour and style, it seems like everything is on YouTube these days and one can always refer to videos for moves. While it’s important to learn from the old school, it’s also important to be original, like you guys have been talking about. How do you guys make sure that your moves are original?
Omegatron: Well, I guess we stay original by being around each other. Of course, you can be influenced by anything around you because that is what dance is all about. But, when we are together we have this synergy within the group. Whenever I am going to create something and T-Rex creates something out of what I created, I am not going to get mad at him for creating something that looks like what I created. It’s a team effort and we share our ideas and we build upon each other’s ideas. Our way of creating is like a tree. The tree is one idea but then there are many branches on the tree that branch out in different directions or connect with other branches. One idea in our crew is shared, and it forms the roots from which another member can grow their own ideas. We inspire each other more than videos will ever do.
Fleo: Yeah, synergy is a natural thing in our crew. Speaking for myself, it’s a natural thing that when we are practicing, we try moves that we have never done before. Always try to evolve and be original. I think if you want to be original you have to take inspiration from everyday life and your other passions in order to keep your dance different and new. Moves that originate organically within the dance are original.
Omegatron: We stay original as long as we impress each other while we are cyphering. If I impress Vicious and Vicious impresses me, we know that for a moment, we reached a new level in our craft. Basically, that is the synergy that the crew uses to create different moves.
T-Rex: You can’t look at videos if you want to be original. You have to go practice and try new stuff out. Sure, you can be inspired but you can’t go biting the work of others. You can see a move and then change it to make it your own, but you can’t blatantly bite other people’s stuff. I try not to watch videos because that just destroys my creativity.
Vicious: Don’t rely on videos for inspiration. You have to travel the world and be exposed to new ideas. I experienced something like that during my time with Circle Kings. I had just won a big show in Montreal and I felt like I had seen everything, but I started cyphering at Circle Kings and I was blown away. I was shown just how little I knew and how much more information was out there. I was like, “Whoa, this is whack, what’s going on?” I was choking and I couldn’t perform my moves. I saw all the b-boys there getting down like crazy and Iwas not performing at their standard. The energy was raw, people were cyphering like crazy, and their style was progressive. I didn’t bite anybody there, but I definitely learnt a lot and I wanted their energy. I come back here and that experience helped me in my battles because I wasn’t scared of anyone and I had that energy. If you travel anywhere, whether it’s New York, Boston, Korea, anywhere, you will get a new kind of energy. Don’t watch videos though. Watch you own videos to spot your own errors, but definitely travel, see the world and see what b-boys are doing everywhere else.
Older dance crews that we interviewed before and have been on the scene for a long time, such as “Fresh Formats” and “Illmats”, actually told us to check you guys out. What are some of the challenges you guys think you will face when people show you that much respect. Do you think there will be pressure to keep up with expectations and to progress as a dance crew?
Omegatron: As long as we love what we are doing, there won’t be pressure because you will constantly be evolving. I have been down that road three or four times in my life, travelling, learning, and then coming back to Montreal with new ideas. People know your crew and they have seen the moves that you have and you have to come back and bring new stuff to the masses. As long as you keep your love of the dance you are going to find other inspirations, like new crew members. I used to be an ex-member of Tactical, so Red Mass used to be my babies. I used to influence them and tell them to go travel because that is what I used to do. If you have passion for what you are doing, it will be easy to evolve and improve and to meet those increased expectations that people place upon you.
Fleo: it’s cool to hear that people are giving us love. There is no pressure to meet expectations because I have no doubt that we will continue practicing, improving, and finding new ways to develop our dance. When we are ready and we win more competitions and we will plan other things, like going to competitions or shows in the states or Europe. The only real stress is from competition and that stress just drives us to stay sharp and to improve our skills to meet the expectations of our supporters.
What is HYPE?
Omegatron: HYPE is Something that is everlasting. It could be a flavour, but it’s everlasting. Something that is HYPE can be cyclical because it can go away and come back, but when it comes back, people love it and can’t get enough of it. It can be a new move or an old school move, as long as it’s authentic.
Promo: Being HYPE is to express yourself to the fullest. You can be anybody, and as long as you push yourself to the maximum and give all you have to what you have, you are HYPEd.
T-Rex: HYPE for me comes from my crew. They give me the will and the energy to be a b-boy. They give me HYPE. During a battle, my crew feeds me HYPE.
Fleo: HYPE is rawness and the ability to develop new things to show to the masses and be energetic. Personally, I feel that DJs play a very big role in whether or not I think something is HYPE. If the DJ plays some bad music, you can’t be HYPE. It’s important to have a good DJ during a battle. If there is no good music, your raw moves are going to look soft, and it’s not the Sweet Technique crew’s goal to look soft. Our goal is to look raw and original. That is what’s HYPEd.
Vicious: When I finish a jam and I say it’s HYPE, it’s HYPE because the beat was dope and I won the jam and I killed it in the cyphers. I don’t really mind, cyphers, battles, they are real. But you need good music though, no doubt. You can’t break to popping beats. You can do that in a party, when everyone is chilling and it’s all fun and games, but when it’s serious and you are in a competition, no disrespect, but some DJs play popping beats and all the b-boys are getting down and I am like, “What are you doing?” When it’s serious and you are waiting to battle you have to have the right music.