Breaking in silence
From thirty to one – Seth Baker continuing his passion without a community.
Photos and story by Lauren Bacho
By day, Seth Baker is an Ohio University international development studies graduate student, a youth soccer referee, a teaching assistant, an intramural soccer player and a member of graduate student senate. By night, he’s a break-dancer.
Baker discovered the “breaking” culture after going to camp and experiencing hip-hop evening reflection. This is where he started to really listen to the music and understanding the different elements of the culture.
Baker said, “b-boying, breaking, the movement element kind of spoke to me.” He started watching YouTube videos and just seeing all these people do crazy things with their bodies got him hooked. Baker started off by doing handstands in his backyard and teaching himself from there.
Baker still often listens to the music used in the first breaking video he ever watched.
“It got me,” Baker said. Once he started getting into break-dancing he couldn’t stop.
By the time Baker arrived at OU, he had started to really get the hand of breaking.
Very quickly, he discovered Hip-Hop Congress, a student organization at OU, and they eventually formed Brick City Dance Crew.
In its hay-day, Brick City Dance Crew, BCDC for short, had around 30 members that would practice together in Ping Center and regularly perform at parties around campus. Earlier this year, the group had dwindled down to three members.
Today, Baker is BCDC’s only remaining member and, most likely, the last “breaker” in Athens, Ohio.
Break-dancers often refer to their craft as “breaking” or “B-boying.” It is considered a form of dance that is mainly based around extreme moves such as flips, popping and locking, krumping, and freezes.
Baker describes hip-hop culture has having multiple parts to it like the creation of the music, the MCs or rappers, the art side with graffiti, and b-boying.
“There’s a different level to this,” Baker said. Before he was a break-dancer, Baker wouldn’t even listen to rap music and actively avoided the culture. Now, hip-hop culture dominates his life.
Typically, breaking is all about the circle of people and the excitement, it’s not meant to be a solitary activity. Having that community helps breakers to bounce ideas off of each other and to learn new tricks and freezes. However, since Baker’s community has come and gone he breaks in solitude.
There’s something sort of strange about break-dancing alone. Hip-hop is a community heavy culture and while b-boying you’re supposed to feed off of each other’s energy. Without having a few people to just practice with, Baker misses the opportunity to be pushed and try new tricks with.
Baker refers to his solitary experience with breaking as spiritual. He has personal connections to the music and feels very strongly about the emotions that come with dancing.
He doesn’t typically dance in front of people, which is out of character for the typical breaker. It’s typically understood that you have to be outgoing and cocky to be a break-dancer. But, for Baker, “it’s just what I love to do that just so happens to entertain people.”
Now, Baker continues to break because he doesn’t know how to function without it. It has become a part of his everyday life. When he get’s hurt and has to take time off from breaking he says that he starts to lose his mind.
“It’s an outlet for me – it’s the only way I know how to release my energy and creativity,” Baker said. He used to write poetry and create art in other ways, but now breaking is all that Baker has left.
When Baker goes into an empty room, puts in his headphone and starts to feel the music he gets lost in the experience. It’s something Baker uses as a stress reliever as he is finishing up his final year.
He often uses breaking as a way to warm up for soccer games. Baker says that it’s the best work out he could possibly get and he can enjoy himself the entire time.
Baker said, “If I go more than a week without dancing I get massive anxiety.” He does everything he can to block out at least one day a week to practice.
He has been breaking for almost a decade and he’s starting to see the result of that. Breaking has taken a serious toll on him physically over the years. Baker said that he’s going to break for as long as his body will allow him to. He is not ready to come to terms with the idea of not being able to break.
“People will never understand how much it means to me,” Baker said. All of his hip-hop community has since graduated and moved away from Athens.
Dance has brought so many unexpected relationships into Baker’s life. He’s had the opportunity to break in Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Prague and more over the years.
“I could have more of a connection with a b-boy in Vietnam than trying to explain it to my girlfriend,” Baker said. It has created an outcast feeling for him.
But, when Baker finds people that break he says they “can have a conversation without even using out words.”
To most of the people in Baker’s life now, break-dancing is just a cool party trick. He feels that people will never be able to understand what breaking means to him. There’s a huge disconnect between his break-dancing life and his regular life.
Baker is constantly battling between dealing with all of his other responsibilities and his need to dance. He is a full time student, a teaching assistant, has a seat on Graduate Student Senate, is involved in clubs and student organizations, plays intramural soccer, referees youth soccer, and has a girlfriend.
From the outside looking in, you would never guess that Baker is a break-dancer. But for him, breaking plays such an enormous role. It is the most important aspect of his life.
Baker intends to continue breaking even after he graduates from OU in the spring. He is hoping that wherever he ends up moving that he will be able to find other breakers.