“B-Boy” Brothers Rep’ Break Dance Culture For Burien

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by Rachel M. Lusby

Burien brothers Donovan and Calvin Smolich began break dancing in their early teens.

This year at a break dance battle called “The King of the Hill Graduation Jam” in Marysville, Donovan won top honor out of eight final contestants. He says he was surprised because he is somewhat of an “underground” b-boy while the others were fairly well known in the northwest region.

“He doesn’t even have a crazy b-boy name,” says Calvin.

Donovan says he practiced for a month straight, several days a week, to prepare for the battle in Marysville.

Donovan, 19, was the first brother to take the steps toward becoming a “b-boy,” a term coined in the early 1970s when DJs would play parts of songs that only included a beat.

Young people who would dance during these “breaks” became known as “b-boys” and “b-girls.” The dance style itself originated with James Brown’s dance moves to “Get on the Good Foot.”

Donovan says he started to learn to break dance because a girl he was friends with danced and he wanted to, as well. He chose break dancing over other styles.

As for Calvin, at first he was more like the roadie for his brother.

“I was the guy who carried the boom box,” says Calvin, 18. And one day, he says, he decided he was bored and wanted to give breaking a try.

Places to actually practice are hard to come by, according to Donovan and Calvin. They try to break outside, often on the concrete, and Donovan taught a course at the YMCA in Burien for a little while.

Schools, Calvin and Donovan agree, are not usually willing to allow kids to break on campus for fear a student will be injured.

Donovan says if you do not attempt anything above your skill level you are not likely to get hurt, however he did not follow that lead himself.

When he started to learn Donovan ended up spraining his back from attempting moves far too advanced for him at that point.

“He had to go to the chiropractor regularly for two weeks!” says Calvin.

Laughing at his own expense, Donovan says “basic moves are okay, you won’t get hurt. You shouldn’t start out with hard stuff.”

“Every time I hear music,” says Donovan, “is when I practice.”

Music selection is a key element to break dancing.

“Anything that has a funky beat,” says Calvin. The rhythm is the most important piece to the music breakers use.

Donovan and Calvin say they break to a lot of “old skool” hip hop, old funk, Latin and any other music styles that have a solid beat.

“New music has too much going on in its rhythm” says Donovan.

Today, Donovan and Calvin are both skillful breakers. They even have a protégé.

Sebrae “Saber Tooth” McCoy, 18, has been taught by the brothers. Late nights at Sylvester Middle School made for a good practice grounds for the teens.
The three teens agree break dancing, if done often enough, is also good exercise. Sebrae lost 50lbs when he started training.

“Break dancing is a culture,” Donovan says. “You meet so many people doing it.”

According to the three teens, breakers from the region, (the Washington, Oregon and the near by region of Canada,) get to know each other.

Break dance battles can break out at any time be it at a competition such as the one Donovan participated in, in Marysville, or just out on the street. The teens say breakers seem to recognize other breakers.

Donovan and Calvin say there is not a big break dance scene in Burien, so even though they live in Des Moines, they are “reppin’ for Burien.”

Here’s a video of B-Town’s “B-Boy” Brothers in action at the Highline High School Variety Show in 2009:

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