Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Jenkin Au
Can you introduce yourselves to our readers? Please tell us your names, your b-boy names, how you got your b-boy names, and how you got started as dancers.
Juan: My name is Juan Esguerra, a.k.a. b-boy Siez Swift. My zodiac sign is Pisces so I liked the sound of name Siez. There was a b-boy in Montreal who was already going by a name that sounded exactly the same, only he spelt it S-E-A-S. I liked that but I decided to go with another spelling, taking the word “Seize” and just flipping the “e” and “i” around. I started using it as my graph name and b-boy name. I first found out about b-boying by watching my brother break and watching breaking movies like Break Street. Then I saw Bag of Trix on Much Music in 1993 and I spent a whole summer breaking and just got really passionate about it. I started learning about hip-hop and watched as many videos as I could.
Filip: My name is Filip Matovina, a.k.a. b-boy Fil Fury. I have gone through a couple of names before but I had a hard time finding one that stuck. First, I was going by Pop and then I went by Jinx .I finally settled for Fil Fury because I can still introduce myself as Fil, which is just the shortened version of my real name. And as for the “Fury” part of my b-boy name, that pretty much sums up how I see my style. It’s furious.
Adrian: My name is Adrian Bernard, a.k.a. b-boy Switch B. I am as sharp as a knife. I just looked in the mirror one day and I was like, “That’s it, that’s my name.” I started breaking when I was twelve on this television show called Element Five, which featured a lot of dope local b-boys who are still active today. I did that because I had nothing else to do and I was broke and I am still dancing today.
Noah: I am Noah, a.k.a. b-boy Winoski. I got into breaking because of my brother. He started off and quit and I just continued.
James: My name is James, a.k.a. b-boy James Bomb. I got my name from my team members because I hadn’t had a b-boy name for the longest time. I started breaking because I saw it at being done at a school dance and I just got inspired. I almost quit but then I saw Adrian perform and I changed my mind. I have been killing it ever since.
Mike: My name is Mike Smith, a.k.a. b-boy Tricky Troublez. My older brother gave me my name and it fits because I got into a lot of mischief when I was younger. I got into b-boying in 2000. One of my friends, who was from the Philippines, was just starting out as well and he was doing a lot of stuff that I had never seen before. He showed me some more stuff online and it looked crazy and dynamic so I was like, “Whoa, I want to learn that!” I have been in a couple of crews during and since high school. I met these guys at this studio and we began to work together. Here we are, five years later.
F.A.M. stands for a couple of different things, such as The Floor Assassins Militia, Future Art Movement, and Free Art Movement. Tell us about the origins of these names and the meaning behind them.
Juan: The Floor Assassins was the first crew that I was a part of back in 1996-1997. Later on, I met E-spin, who is another member of the crew, and he told me to come down to the studio. I came and started vibing with these guys. We decided to start a crew and we decided that The Floor Assassins was a dope name. I was doing a graffiti piece one day with Jar and I wrote F.A.C. and I took a picture of it and I showed the guys. I was listening to this Poor Man Militia CD, a local Toronto hip-hop group, a lot at the time. I suggested two different acronyms for two different names. I said, “Check it out. We can either be F.A.M. or F.A.T. : Floor assassins Militia or Floor Assassins Tribe.” The decision was unanimous. The guys were like, “Floor Assassins Militia, definitely!” Then, we just used the acronym as the starting point for other crew names. Free Art Movement was the next name we came up with. I used to write with a guy from DHS all the time when he would be down here – that’s how it started. He did this huge black lettering of the words “Free Art Movement.” It was huge. Each letter was as big as one person. It was sick. We just loved the idea of graph and how it’s free for everyone and no one has control over it. That’s how the name Free Art Movement came up. The name Future Art Movement came about when I started drawing and coming up with more futuristic ideas. I just wanted to explore that. That same mindset can be related to our breaking as well, in the sense that we want our dance to be the creation of a new movement.
What are some of the things that you guys have accomplished individually but not as a crew?
Filip: There is individuality in our crew. Every member does different things outside of b-boying and even within the realm of b-boying, each crew member has their own styles and specialities. Some members only do shows and stuff like that to make money and what not. The thing that brings us together is our interests. At the same time, we do other things as well. I am an artist and so is Juan. Adrian raps and makes beats. We have the b-boying aspect that keeps us together but we also have our individual lives.
Traveling within the b-boy scene is important. For those who do not travel, they are not able to experience the knowledge that can be gained from doing so. We know that you guys have traveled all over the world together. Please tell us about the some of the effects that extensive traveling has had on you guys.
Adrian: For me, every time I go somewhere I have never been I take in so much. Practicing every day can take you so far, obviously, because practice makes perfect, but there are certain things that I have learned from traveling that cannot be learned through practice. For example, the last time we went out and battled this dope crew called the Battle Born, we learned to push ourselves and to break harder than we had ever before. We came so close to winning that battle and I feel that our loss was just as important. We knew we were better than those guys and we learned from that experience and we learned to analyze our performance and improve on our mistakes. We also got to see how other crews operated and what they did. By travelling, I got to see things that I never thought I would see.
It looks like F.A.M. has built strong relationships with various b-boy scenes throughout Asia due to your years of traveling. You guys have represented Canada at the world championships in Korea and participated in international hip-hop dance competitions in China. Since you guys are situated so far from Asia geographically, how have you maintained your bonds with the Asian b-boy communities?
Juan: Keeping in touch with them is hard. You lose contact with people if you aren’t able to travel consistently. You don’t get as many opportunities to keep those relationships. We are trying to create new opportunities to go back to Asia. While we want to focus on our domestic presence and build our crew here in Canada and in Toronto by entering a lot of competitions and putting on a theatre show, we met enough cool people overseas that we want to push out new ideas and to keep expressing ourselves in ways that will appeal to people overseas. Actually, we haven’t won a major international competition. We’ve won national competitions and we’ve represented Canada overseas, but the next step is to win an International competition and connect with other scenes across the globe.
What are some of the upcoming competitions that you guys have your eyes on?
Filip: Adrian and I went to Vancouver last summer for Circle Prinz. We did well there. It was a national qualifier for an international event in Switzerland. It’s the kind of event that we like to do. It’s less of a show and really focuses on the competition aspects of breaking. We want to go back to B-Boy Unit if that is still going to go down. B-Boy Unit is pretty dope and it provides good, solid competition.
Tell us about the experience of winning the B-Boy Unit Canada competition in 2007 and what did that victory lead to?
Mike: We went to Korea and honestly, the whole experience of going to Korea happened extremely fast. The crew hooked up in 2005 and we would always watch online clips. B-boying was blowing up in Korea at the time and they were coming up with new moves and new tricks all the time, breaking records and doing crazy stuff. There was one group called Rivers. They are so nasty and so dope and we looked up to them the most. In 2006, we heard that B-Boy Unit was coming to Canada and the winners would get to go to Korea. We hadn’t even been together for two years and we already had an opportunity to compete on an international stage. If we accomplished that it would be inspiring and put us at an international level. I thought it would take at least ten years of solid b-boying to get to have the opportunity to represent Canada overseas. We were in Korea for a week and we got to compete against great crews and coincidentally, Rivers. It was fate. We got to meet a lot of dope b-boys and we have been keeping in touch with some of them. It would be dope if we could get back out there because we haven’t seen those guys for years. All in all, the experience was dope.
Filip: It was one of the most inspiring and powerful experiences in our breaking careers. It was a defining moment of our careers and we realized that, “Okay, this is what we can do, this is where we can be,” and it was definitely a standard for us to continue aspiring to reach.
The crew is already comprised of so many experienced b-boys, so in what way do you think the crew can advance and improve from here on out?
Adrian: We want people to notice us and have them go, “These guys are dope!” We want people to know who we are and think of us when they think of the Canadian hip-hop scene. We want people to remember us ten, fifteen years into the future, saying, “Those F.A.M guys were sick! Who’s got the F.A.M tape? Lend it to me!”
Juan: I want us to be able to better express ourselves. When we all come together, it’s amazing. It’s not only in b-boying either, it’s in art and music as well. We feed off each other and inspire each other. We put on the theatre production at the Canada Dance Festival and I liked the experience because it was so different from what we normally do. There is a lot of room to work with new stuff and to just experience new things. We are always talking about crazy ideas and just following through on those dreams and would be awesome. Every member of the crew has different goals, which is dope, and we will try to achieve them all.
Filip: Yeah, when we did that theatre show we entered the formal theatre world and worked with a conceptual theme and idea and tried to evolve ourselves into more than just a b-boy crew. We want to stay true to our art form in terms of battling and competing and stuff but we also want to dabble in other crafts as well.
How does F.A.M .play a role in reflecting the positive aspects of hip-hop to the local community?
Adrian: We can show kids how to break and how to be chill. We want to inspire kids to do something. Learn to play an instrument, be active, just do something. Don’t do nothing. Don’t just go on Facebook all day. Don’t just chill all day. Kids need to get inspired. We want them to see what we have to offer and want to do it.
Mike: People pick up on our positive vibe. We are pretty chill. In terms of getting along with everybody, we are one of the top five crews in Canada. We are down to teach anybody, we compete everywhere, we go to everyone’s events, and we are down to perform everywhere. Juan does a lot of DJ’ing and Adrian does a lot of MC’ing. Everyone in the crew can draw and write. We want to show people that there is more to hip-hop than just being a MC or a b-boy. Even outside of hip-hop, there are so many things that you can do to express yourself. We want people to realize that hip-hop is all about self expression.
Juan: I am proud to be a part of F.A.M because none of us are chumps. You meet other people and they will start fights and create drama for very small reasons. You won’t see that with our group. We always push forwards and we always maintain a level head. We focus on what we have to do, whether it is battling, creating, hustling, or teaching and etc. We keep moving. We want to give the community a message that is true to who we are and we strive to do that in everything we do.
Along with their personal experiences, a lot of people draw inspiration for dance from outside sources, like other styles of dance or even kung-fu movies. Where do you draw your inspirations for your dance from?
Adrian: From other people. For example, we learned our top rock from this really dope dude called Q. He was this native guy with dope tops. He would apply a lot of techniques from native dancing to his top rock. He showed us a lot of stuff. Aside from that, I like to draw inspiration from whatever looks dope. My boy Clint, when he top rocks, has his hands open like the character Voldo from the Soul Caliber video games. If I see something that looks cool I will try to incorporate it into my dance.
Mike: A lot of video games have inspired me as well. A lot of people watch Kung fu movies or other dance styles like jazz, tap, contemporary and ballet but for me, I was home a lot when I was in high school and games occupied much of my time. I draw inspiration from games like Tekken or like Street Fighters and I am always on the lookout for different movements from Martial Arts like Capoeira. Another thing that inspires me is Looney Tunes. I loved the musicality of those cartoons and how they had background music that worked in conjunction with the visual action. For example, the symphony in the background gets to a high tempo when action is occurring on screen and the music matches the footsteps of a character who is tippy toeing around. I was really taking it all in when I was younger and I realized when I was older that I should try to incorporate that into my dance and to have my visual actions act in conjunction with the music or beat.
The hip-hop scene is beginning to get more mainstream acceptance. What are your thoughts regarding b-boying’s gradual emergence from the underground?
Filip: Even if you are the top dog in the b-boy scene, the commercial scene is still going to try and undercut you with pay. It’s great to see b-boying receive mainstream attention as long as it’s shown in the right light. Like rap. If it’s presented properly and kept authentic, I like it.
Juan: We went to Korea and got to see how mainstream b-boying is over there. We visited Extreme Crew and saw that they had an office with secretaries taking calls and stuff. It looked like a corporate office and there were three studios. We were like, wow, this is how it’s here. Over in Canada, doing the theatre show this year and getting some grants was cool because we actually got some money to practice and put something on, but it’s nothing compared to Korea. You have to create your opportunities. In fact, in Toronto, in terms of jams that pay the most money, a jam that Mike puts on actually pays the most.
Filip: The thing is that everybody is trying to be professional. You have to act professional. If you are going to hold a jam, you have to do it right. If you are talking about contracts, it’s not show business, it’s the business show. It’s all about how are you going to treat people in a professional and fair way.
One of the biggest challenges of being a b-boy is balancing every aspect of life, especially since b-boying is still, for the most part, an underground scene here in Canada. What advice do you have for up and coming b-boys if they really want to pursue a career as a b-boy.
Mike: I have been living off of b-boying since I was nineteen in 2005. People always get agents and try to get headshots and resumes done up but I don’t have any of that stuff. I think the best way of getting noticed is by putting your all into your craft. If you are not giving it your all, the universe is not going to give it to you. I’ve been in different crews and seen people quit because they would rather do something else. I want to be a b-boy. Do what you love to do and the rest will come. Do not work for money. Work for what you love and money will work for you. You have to stay determined. Go to a lot of events and put your face out there so people will know you. Train all the time and push yourself to be the best you possible. People call me all the time telling me about gigs, and I make sure to double and even triple book myself sometimes. That’s how you put yourself out there. Be optimistic because there are many opportunities for dancers in general out there, not just as b-boys. You can work on TV shows, movies, hold workshops, teach, hold camps, and stuff like that. Furthermore, you can work for sports teams who need mascots or work as a stunt double. Always keep your eyes and ears open at all times. If there is a community event, show up. Even for events where I am underpaid, there is a positive because it’s often for a good cause, like for a charity or for high school kids. Seize every opportunity, work hard, and it’s all about how you present yourself.
Filip: Staying inspired is hard. The best way to do that is to surround yourself with inspiring people and keep your eye out for inspiration. You may find inspiration in the weirdest places. If you give up on it, you will quit. Inspiration is one of the key things that you should lookout for.
Juan: First off, never stop. Keep doing it. Secondly, you have to be versatile in breaking and in everyday life. Dance wise, the more versatile you are, like KMEL, a b-boy who is excellent at blending styles, you will have more opportunities. Also, be versatile in everyday life and in the different things that you do, like art, dance, or business. Dabble indifferent crafts. You never know. You may get injured and you won’t be able to break for a few months so what can you do in that time? Some people love b-boying to death and may never find time to do anything else but if you got the heart and talent to do other things, try them out.
On the business side of things, you guys have told us about your grants. What does that money contribute to?
Filip: The grant that we got went towards creating a show. The grant funded the production aspect. The guy was like, “You have to pay yourselves.” If you have to rehearse a couple of times a week, it gets tiring. A small cash incentive helps. Paying your dancers is number one. Making sure we have a tight production is another thing. We paid for our music, having our music mastered and mixed, the lighting design, and costumes. We spent the money to make our show and it was done very professionally. I had to show the grant a plan and show them what we were spending the money on. They got to see that we were using the money properly.
Juan: The coolest thing about that was that we were able to pay ourselves to practice and rehearse for several months. This is a job and you don’t feel like it’s a job. We were excited every couple of weeks because we would pay ourselves for the hours that we worked.
What is HYPE?
Mike: Excitement. HYPE allows people to feed off your energy and get an adrenaline rush. It makes them want to jump out of their seats. People say that a move is HYPE or something that happens is HYPE, but HYPE can be applied to many things. HYPE is something that is exciting and gives people your energy without physically touching them.
Filip: HYPE is when your reputation precedes you. Not just in terms of what people think about you but in terms of your notoriety. We have all seen people who are experts at something and you see them and you feel their energy. Their reputation transcends their body and is omnipresent. You walk into a room and you can feel their energy.
Juan: HYPE is creativity. HYPE itself is a word that was invented to express something. Hip-hop is HYPE because it creates words and forces people to express themselves creativity.
Noah: HYPE is a feeling. Like when you walk into a jam and you get an adrenaline rush.
James: I guess my definition of HYPE is that it is basically an expression that goes beyond the five senses. It goes beyond the physical body.