São Paulo B Boys on the Come Up

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For the After Hours Athletes of São Paulo, “breaking” is more than just a good time – it’s a way of life.

We’d heard rumours that in the outskirts of São Paulo, breakdancing has been elevated to an art form thanks to the skills of a series of neighbourhood crews. Always interested in how underground sport varies around the world, we asked our local correspondent Emilia Mello to give us an insider’s look at the state of the “break” in São Paulo, from the favelas to four-star hotels. 

Though they all rep different neighbourhood crews, the four B Boys lounging outside the upscale Tivoli Hotel are united in a common goal: getting past the hotel’s doorman. The guys are here for a commercial shoot, but their tricked out hip hop gear has raised some eyebrows here in São Paulo’s upscale Jardins neighbourhood. For the moment, this curbside posse – Endrigo Baggio, João Paulo Rodrigues, Emerson Oliveira and Felipe Belizário De Santana – hardly seems stressed. After all, this is the life of an upstart B Boy, breakdancing in the favelas one day to earn downtown cred the next. That is, of course, once we actually get inside the hotel.

The truth is, expanding territories is what the B Boy scene in São Paulo is all about. Crews form out of neighbourhoods, and every neighbourhood has its own fresh style. Rivalries are fierce, but definitely more civilised than back in the day (we’re talking way back in the 80s) when competitions sometimes ended in tragedy. These four B Boys all come from far flung corners of São Paulo - Diadema, Morro do Kerosene, way up Zona Norte – favelas that are known more for violence and gangs than jaw-dropping dance moves. But lounging together on hotel couches (yes, we finally were allowed inside), they joke around with each other as though they’re all in the same crew.

Make no mistake – these guys are serious After Hours Athletes. “Break,” as they call it because their moves emphasize the break beat, has become a full-time gig for most of them; they practice at least 5 hours a day (and throughout the night) and survive on prize money. Mostly they meet at public cultural centres, where they can score some free space to themselves. Sometimes they go lo-fi and take carpets or cardboard out onto the street and train. And every month, different crews meet in front of Galeria Olido in downtown Sampa, as we like to call it.

It’s clear these guys love what they do. Endrigo tells me how breaking is an "an art form” that takes on different flavours and forms all around the world. He describes recent travels in South Korea and how B Boy crews there are all about "power moving,” which involves staying on their arms to pull off ridiculous tricks. Here in Brazil, it's all about aerials, jumping and flipping. And for these fierce B Boys, it's all about conquering new territory, one battle, and one hotel lobby, at a time.

If breaking in Sampa is so different from what we’ve seen in Seoul, Rotterdam or Qatar, we wondered what else the After Hours Athletes of São Paulo could show us. We’ve teamed up with VICE Magazine São Paulo to find out the State of Play. This weekend we sent bloggers from around the world—Ashley Simko, Justin Chung, James Nord, James Jannuzzi, and the Street Etiquette team—down to Sampa for a weekend with the team behind local favourite Papo de Homem. Check out their pages to see how São Paulo stacks up.

Top photo courtesy of Street Son Crew.

Bottom photo courtesy of Endrigo Style Crew.