With the push for break dancing to be added to the 2024 Summer Olympics, the future looks bright for Japan and its already prominent group of b-boys and b-girls who will strive for medals should the sport hit the floor in Paris.
Last October, Ramu “Ram” Kawai became the first b-girl champion at the Youth Olympic Games. Shortly before the 17-year-old won the girls’ final, compatriot Shigeyuki Nakarai, nicknamed Shigekix, won the bronze medal battle for boys.
Nakarai, a second-year student at Osaka Gakugei Senior High School, says the sport of break dancing “has profound depths” and it is “a total mind-body workout.”
At the Buenos Aires event for athletes aged 15-18, Japan showed itself to be a dominant force in break dancing. Large crowds gathered at the Urban Park venue in the Argentinian capital to watch the Japanese dancers put down their headspins, headstands and windmills.
“I was nervous at first but I felt accepted,” said Kawai, who is a member of one of the most famous breaking crews in the world, Floorrioz.
Kawai and Nakarai are among the million or so street dancers in the country, a figure drawn from Japan Dance Sport Federation data.
Established in 2011 with programs dedicated to ballroom dancing, the JDSF quickly set up a break dancing club when the sport was registered with the International Olympic Committee for the first time ahead of the 2018 Youth Olympics.
JDSF managing director Atsushi Yamada said Japan needs an influx of young breakers and should expect stiff competition to come from China and Russia if break dancing gets the Olympic nod.
Some question break dancing’s compatibility with Olympic values — similar to critiques levied on snowboarding and skateboarding — while the establishment of judging standards has also been controversial.
But a new generation of breakers is ready to prove the dance form belongs and can draw a new, wider audience. One upside is that cost concerns will never be an issue for Olympic hosts as the sport does not require extensive venue infrastructure.
“I was telling people I wish it would one day become (a full Olympic sport). This is great,” Kawai said.
The IOC has until December 2020 to make a decision on the inclusion of break dancing, surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, the four sports submitted by Paris Games organizers.