Calgary breakdancing conference celebrates b-girls from across the country

·3 min read
Kotaro Kajita with The Breaks YYC says every participant in the conference is getting paid a performance fee.  (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Kotaro Kajita with The Breaks YYC says every participant in the conference is getting paid a performance fee. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

A breakdancing conference in Calgary is highlighting the talent of women and girls in the sport that's rising in international popularity.

Rise of the B-Girls is a three-day conference being held this weekend where 16 girls from across the country are participating in breakdancing (or breaking) workshops and competitions.

Kendra Melanson, a b-girl and co-director of Elementz dance studio in Medicine Hat, says breaking is still a male-dominated sport. So, a conference like this is a great opportunity for young women.

"I think it's really cool just to allow girls to have a chance to network and communicate," said Melanson.

While breaking originated in 1970s New York, the sport has grown in popularity across the world in the decades since. Melanson said part of the recent resurgence in interest came after the sport was officially added to the 2024 Olympic Games.

Highlighting b-girl talent

Melanson said she's never seen an event like Rise of the B-Girls before in Canada — one where female breakdancers are celebrated.

Kotaro Kajita with The Breaks YYC, a non-profit organization in Calgary that supports the western Canadian breaking community, helped organize the conference, which is sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts. He said this event celebrating b-girls was put on for a simple reason.

"There's no one else doing this," Kajita said.

While he has seen some initiatives and projects highlighting b-girls across the country, Kajita said he and his co-organizers wanted to make a statement with this conference about the rise of female talent.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

The issue is, the number of b-boys still far exceed the number of b-girls in Canada, according to Kajita. He said there's 90 registered breakdancers with Canada DanceSport right now who are aspiring to be Olympians, and only 10 of them are women.

Sarah Trawick from Edmonton, who's been breakdancing for about 18 years, thinks the number of b-girls in the country may be low for a few reasons, including the fact that there aren't many female instructors, and it's simply a difficult sport to stick with.

"It's intimidating, and it's tough," Trawick said.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

But Melanson believes the sport's rising popularity and events like Rise of the B-Girls will get more young women interested.

"As it hits 2024 in the Olympics, I think it's only going to blow up even more when people see the love of dance mixed with the love of technicality of breaking," said Melanson.

'Free yourself and feel the music'

While the conference features an open breaking battle at Fort Calgary with a $2,000 prize, Kajita said every participant will be compensated for their dancing.

Unlike other conferences where attendees may have to pay to attend, Kajita said the b-girls at this weekend's conference are getting paid a performance fee.

"This way everyone walks away with something. No pressure, just have fun so we can showcase b-girl talent," he said.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

Kajita and Trawick said they hope the conference will continue for years to come and attract more people.

For Trawick, the beauty of breaking is that anyone can try it.

"As long as you're ready to … free yourself and feel the music and enjoy yourself in the circle, it's for everyone."