Cheering each other on, five students at Union took turns walking on their hands, spinning on their heads and flipping through the air on Friday to the rhythm of “Begging” by Frankie Valli. This new club at the college gives members an opportunity to show off their own unique skills while learning from their peers.
Tri Trang of Worcester, Mass., has been break dancing since he was 13. “When I came to Union, I thought they would have a break dancing club. When I found out they didn’t, I took the initiative to start one.” Trang, class of 2012, founded U Break last year.
U Break recently achieved club status and members are currently working on a budget. The break dancers participate in fundraising activities and perform at campus cultural events. The appeal of break dancing has no cultural boundaries. U Break’s group includes students of Asian, African American, Caucasian and Latin American backgrounds.
How does one get started in break dancing?
“Jump on the floor and try it out, it’s the only way to do it,” said Trang. “I would recommend finding a good group of friends. You can motivate each other, develop different styles and see each other progress. Break dancing is not easy to do alone.” During high school, when Trang became very dedicated, he and his friends formed a break-dancing crew. “It brought us all together and we were enjoying ourselves at the same time.”
The club practices in the lower level of the Alumni Gym at Union College. “This is a great environment,” said Trang, “They recently changed the sound system so all we have to do is plug in our iPod, there are smooth floors and mirrors and pads all around.” U Break members practice three times week, but next semester, in the nicer weather, they will practice four to five times a week.
The students dance to tunes called “break beats,” said Trang, which do not require vocals. Lately, they have been experimenting with underground rap and hip-hop from the 1980s. “Sometimes I run, sometimes I lift weights in the gym and do push-ups and sit-ups in my room, but break dancing is the hardest workout and the most fun.”
U Break is where Trang met Ben Rubin, class of 2013, who he now calls his best friend. “Break dancing solidified our friendship, and I am grateful for that,” said Trang.
Rubin had never danced before joining U Break in fall of 2010 after seeing a sign at a club fair. “I thought, ‘I’ve never even seen anyone break dance before, I should probably go to that.’ I’ve been doing it ever since.” Now, Rubin said, “I think the best thing I did on this campus was join this club.”
Other regular members of U Break include Zoralys Molina, ’13, Stefanie Charles, ’12, and Martin Cole, ’13.
The club is always looking for new members. “Right now we are doing our best to survive,” said Trang, “Some days, it’s just me and Ben.” There are almost 50 students on U Break’s mailing list, though only about seven active members. Trang said he understands students have a hard time with the trimester system, balancing courses and other clubs, but he has high hopes for U Break. “Once we get dedicated dancers, it will be easier to achieve all of our goals.”
The break dancers perform at many cultural shows for organizations including the Asian Student Union and the Black Student Union. Trang has also collaborated with the Bhangra Team and “One Love,” another hip-hop dance team at the school. U Break also does fundraising. They participated at Hoops for Help as the halftime show entertainment. The money from this event went to the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.
Future plans for the club include another halftime show at the next Hoops for Help. This event is being held in April to raise money for the family of a Union faculty member whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer. U Break will also perform a routine at the Bhangra Invitational. The club also hopes to do workshops in high schools to teach younger students the art. “It’s a good hobby, it keeps kids off the streets, and it’s fun to give back to the community; it’s fun all around,” said Trang.
Trang has other big plans for this club. He aims for U Break to attend “B Boy Jams.” At these events, break dancers from different areas come together at major cities to show off their moves, gain experience and learn from each other. Trang said this is a goal for U Break when they get more experienced. He believes the club will be able to achieve this, perhaps even next term.