IN PHOTOS: PH breakdancing breakthrough

Mark Demayo

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Filipino break dancer is champion in the regional finals of the R16 Korea World B-boy Masters Championship

MANILA, Philippines – Jesse Gotangco was crowned champion in the regional finals of the R16 Korea World B-boy Masters Championship for the solo category held in Singapore last June 22.

Out of 30 dancers from 7 countries, the 24-year-old Gotangco, known as “Reflex,” stood victorious, earning him a spot in the world finals to be held in Seoul, Korea on July 13. There he will be pitted against 15 other world class dancers from various countries.

Coming from his biggest win in his dancing career yet, he still finds it unbelievable.

“I had to double check my hand (during the winner’s announcement), because I was not just representing the Philippines, but the whole of Southeast Asia to win that jam,” he recalled.

This will be his second appearance in the 4-day urban arts festival supported by the Korean Tourism Organization, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the city of Incheon.

In 2010, he was invited along with two of his crewmates, merging with 5 Pinoy-blooded bboys (or break dancers) to compete in the crew category as Project P-Noise.

For Reflex, the win showed that Philippine bboys can make it big internationally.

“Here in the Philippines, I win some battles, I lose some battles. Pinoy bboys can make it big outside because they have mad talent. If I can do it, they can make it big too,” he said.

The professor

Reflex is a Fine Arts graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University. He received a special Arts Excellence in Dance award during graduation.

He has been a member of Battlekrew Philippines since 2005; Company of Ateneo Dancers since 2006; and in 2007 founded his current crew Soulstice. He is also a member of a hip-hop dance group, The Project and Locomotion Crew Worldwide.

Since then, he trained in workshops under various bboys worldwide and competed nationally and internationally in different events on his own and with a crew. Some prominent events he attended include the World Hip Hop Championships and Red Bull BC One South East Asia.

Currently he teaches breaking and street dance in Ateneo and in other dance studios in Metro Manila.

“It has been my goal as a dancer to bring street dances into the academe. Part of my goal is to create awareness for what it is. These are students, the future of the country; at least they know what bboying and street dance is and they can treat it in a professional sense and so they know what we’re doing isn’t a joke,” he said.

“A lot of students are having fun. They are getting more educated on what the dance styles are, what they mean, their history and that they are actually art forms,” he added.

Growth and ‘step up mentality’

Asked his opinion on the landscape of breaking in the Philippines, Reflex saw growth in the community.

“It’s definitely getting bigger and the quality of bboys is getting a lot better, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Reflex said.

“Definitely it’s going up because of a lot of international events coming in, international bboys are coming in and local bboys are flying out. It’s just great that there’s representation, that the Philippines is getting known,” he added.

Despite the growth, there are still misconceptions about the dance from the perspective of the everyday Filipino.

“Everyone still has that ‘step up’, Hollywood type of perception in dancing. We’re not really treated in a professional sense yet,” Reflex lamented.

Hip-hop culture

Reflex believes the culture of hip-hop has the potential to flourish in the Philippines.

“Filipinos are great in art in general,” Reflex said.

“Hip-hop grew from nothing. Back in the day, kids made nothing but just themselves, just artistic expression,” he noted. Hip-hop actually started in New York during the gang era in the 70s characterized by poverty and violence. 

“Hip-hop means peace, love, unity, respect and having fun. It’s a culture where you can cultivate your own craft whether you choose dancing, music or whatever.”

“That’s where it started, where it grew because they needed positive change,” Reflex said.

“I think if they apply it here with the lower class, it would really help them through life in general, maybe even [uplift their social status].” –

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