The sounds of hip hop beats and squeaking sneakers fills a Gymnasium hallway as a group of about 20 break dancers hone their skills. With no rules against practicing in the halls, the group has transformed the space into a hub of music, dance and hip hop.
“Folks have been practicing here as far back as the ‘80s,” Kevin Torion, the unofficial leader of the group said. “A well-known dance crew, the Renegade Rockers used this place as their practice spot.”
Shota Ebikawa uses breakdancing to help with the stress of being a college student and as a vehicle for expression.
”Most of us are trying to get better at it, so we have the same common goal,” Ebikawa said.
“The community here has just been growing and I think we’ve created a special bond with the small space that we have here,” Torion said. Even though the space is small, the group is working with what they have.
“We could take it old school and practice on concrete but then we’d have to atone for the weather and for injuries,” Torion said. “The hallway is a convenient spot for us to practice and the floor here is not bad at all. A studio would be a dream though and it gives us another reason to be an official club.”
The group is in the process of becoming a club, which would give them the ability to represent SF State in competitions. Until then, their only concern is practicing.
Dance studios on campus are primarily used for dance classes and dance majors, but occasionally are open to student organizations.
“We want to have some more respect toward us and show that we’re doing something positive here at SF State,” Torion said.
Torion believes there is a stigma attached to breakdancing as an improper form of dance.
“We’re trying to break that whole narrative and that whole perception of street dancers,” he said.
The breakdancing group has collaborated with the student club Hip Hop State of Mind, which focuses on all four elements of hip hop: breaking, MCing, DJing and graffiti.
Even without an official status, the group offers a place to meet new people and practice new moves.
Brian Lepp is one of the newest members, after stumbling across the group while looking for a practice spot for his own breakdancing moves.
“Since I came to San Francisco all the way from Southern California I don’t have many friends around here. I was looking for somewhere to practice and I heard one of these songs that I knew a lot of break dancers use so I started following the music and found this group,” Lepp explained.
He believes breakdancing can bring all different kinds of people together.
“There’s a wide variety of students here. We have freshman, seniors and some who are already working but then they come back here and practice with us,” Lepp said.
Finding a community here at SF State is one of the things Torion likes about the breakdancing group.
“The way we’ve come together is just so organic and I think that’s the beauty of hip hop,” Torion said.