Interview by Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Alan Ng
Photography by Alan Ng
Halifax’s b-boy scene just got a little more crowded with the rise of Eastern Bloc, a young b-boy crew ready to channel their enthusiasm for dance into performances that will take the Halifax b-boy scene by storm. Dissatisfied with the lack of recognition that the Canadian b-boy scene receives in international circles, Eastern Bloc yearns for the chance to compete on large international stages to showcase Canadian b-boy talent. Although still quite young, the members of Eastern Bloc have a very mature outlook on b-boying and welcome new challenges and new experiences. There is always the fear that talent will be offset by immaturity, as can be the case with young crews, but Eastern Bloc’s willingness to improve their skills and to diversify their experiences displays wisdom beyond their years and promises a bright future of continued success and evolution.
justalilhype! traveled across the Iron Curtain in a bid to learn the secrets of Eastern Bloc’s rise to notoriety in the Atlantic Canada b-boy scene and as it turns out, there is no secret. There is just hard work and a passion for dance. Along with this revelation, we also got the scoop on the crew’s breaking origins, what it is like to be a young Canadian crew, and what the world can expect from them in the future. The cold war may be over and the Eastern Bloc may have dissipated, but another Eastern Bloc arises in the West and it is deadest on stretching its break dancing ideology across the globe.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you got into break dancing.
FT: My name is Fatlum Topalli, a.k.a. b-boy Kosodope. I am from Kosovo. I started break dancing when I saw my brother and Jeff do it. They were in my house, practicing moves and stuff. I use to make fun of Gerzen Faradgiv, a.k.a. b-boy Gerrr, who is now a member of our crew as well. Then, “Floor Wars” came around and I went out to show support. I saw the stuff that they were doing and it got me HYPE. That’s how I got started.
GG: I am George Grigoryan, a.k.a. b-boy Spike Nice. I am from Armenia, which is in Europe. I started learning how to break dance at a class called “Classes In,” which was taught by a guy named Toby. Shout out to Toby, he is now in Korea. Another member of the crew, Igor Geshelin, a.k.a. Igrok, also came into the class and taught us as well.
GT: I am Gezim Topalli, a.k.a. b-boy Kid Nasty, and I am from Kosovo as well. I knew George before we started break dancing. We would just chill and ride bikes together. All of a sudden, Drew Moore created the “Classes In” program and I was invited by Jeff to have some fun and learn how to break dance. I enjoyed it so I invited George and we all went down like that. We were very HYPE for a battle called Flow Rules and it was pretty dope. We lost to Luke’s kids, but Luke said that we should have won. That’s just life.
JL: Hey, I am Jeff Lin, a.k.a. b-boy Sokay. I am originally from Taiwan. I got into b-boying because of break dancing videos and my English tutor at the time. I would always watch cool break dancing videos on YouTube. One day, I asked my tutor where I could learn this type of dance in Halifax and she introduced me to Halifax Dance. That’s how I met Toby, Luke, and all those guys. I met Gerzen when he dropped by at a practice session I had with George and Gezim. We then attended the “Classes In” program and met the rest of the members.
Tell us about the creation of the crew.
GT: The crew name came from Igor. He would practice with us and found that we could never find the right name. He pointed out that we all came from the East and that helped us decide to call ourselves Eastern Bloc. We added more members later on.
What makes your crew unique? What separates Eastern Bloc from other dance crews?
GG: A lot of crews have crew members that are from the same place but our members are all from different countries. When we became a crew, not all of us spoke fluent English so we would argue all the time over routines and such. We would always work it out in the end though.
Many of you are still young. What is it like to be up and coming b-boys in the scene? Is there any pressure?
GT: It’s all good. It feels real good because we are getting down with all the heads. We get to chill, meet new people, and just vibe out with everyone. It’s all about having fun and getting our names and the crew’s name known.
JL: There is a new generation of b-boys coming up but there are still lots of old school heads that are still active and still able to perform. With that said, there are many new b-boys on the scene now and we will just have to step up our game and just strive to be on the top.
What’s coming up for the crew in the future?
FT: We have a battle coming up on March 3 called “Rock To The Top”. It’s going to be in Citadel High School. That one is mostly for Atlantic Canada and we are hoping to win that. Our boy Luke is going to be there with Koala Corps, our masters. We try to stay humble a lot, even though we know that we are better.
I am just kidding.
Living in Canada, it’s very good to see people from different cultures coming together to form a crew. How’s it like to interact with people from different parts of the world?
FT: You get to see where people are coming from. They always have something new to add to the floor because of where they are from, whether it is something from their culture or their life experiences. People from all walks of life can always give you more inspiration.
GT: It’s real good. I won the qualifiers for a competition called “Last One Stands” last year and I got to go to Holland. I got to see all these different styles of dance over there. I saw dancers from France and dancers from the U.S.A. You get to see the difference in how they move and how they hit the beats.
In order to have a nice set, music has to be a big part of break dancing. Tell us how you incorporate music with dance.
GT: We got DJ Lean Rock in the crew. He’s got all the crazy, classic, funky beats. We listen to old School Hip-Hop a lot, artists like De La Soul, Black Sheep, Slick Rick, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, and Big L, just to name a few.
What are some of the goals you would like to achieve as a crew?
GG: A lot of people around the world underestimate Canada and this is the first year that Canada’s been to the International Breakdance Event. My boy Kid Nasty went down. A lot of people underestimate Canada and if you ask them where Halifax is, they won’t even know. We got practice spots so watch out! We have heaters. It’s not that cold in Halifax. Once we get a little older, we are all going to get our Green Cards. We are going down to the U.S.A. to show our stuff. That’s what’s up!
What is HYPE?
FT: HYPE is when you are in the moment and you see something that you really like. You feel energetic and you want to get down.
GT: HYPE to me is inspiration when you see something crazy. You don’t even need to do anything that crazy to be honest. Just show a style for what it is. You could wiggle your fingers with the beat and if you do it right and the moment is right, everyone will go crazy. That’s funky. That’s HYPE to me.
JL: HYPE is the moment when you see something that you can never see on videos. HYPE is the moment you see something and you feel it. It’s that feeling of excitement. That’s why you should always go to jams and not just stay home and watch videos. You cannot feel the energy around the jam. HYPE is the feeling around the moment.
GG: HYPE is like my boy Sokay said: it’s feeling the moment. It’s like when there’s a circle going on, there’s hundreds of b-boys at a spot, and you see a b-boy take it to the next level and do something that no one has seen before. Everyone goes crazy and everyone gives love. Everyone is real. They are not jealous. The moment that someone does something crazy and everyone throws their hands up is what’s HYPE to me.