Overcoming my stutter & how I travelled around America for free.

Everybody has their own personal reasons to engage themselves with certain hobbies. My introduction to Breaking came about through a combination of different events. To put things into perspective, my childhood was difficult. It was difficult only because I found it extremely hard to communicate with people. At that time I had a severe stutter and, as a result, grew up with incredibly low self-esteem. Was an introverted person and would need others to ask people questions, or order food for me, on my behalf. During my school years I viewed myself as inferior to others because of my stutter. This put me in a tough position to socialise. Talking to girls was out of the question; was something so far away from my reach. I needed something that would boost my confidence and help me talk to girls.

When I was 15 I was thinking hardly anything would boost my confidence. That was until a friend told me about Breaking. Said he went to a class in the city (Glasgow, Scotland) and wanted me to join him. At first I was quite scared because I’d have to talk to people. I also wanted to gather knowledge on some moves to show I wasn’t a total novice. Pretty pointless because I definitely was a novice. I decided to check it out and see what the fuss was about. Turns out that I really enjoyed it. Which was pretty spectacular given that I hardly enjoyed anything except playing video games. I continued to go to the classes for another 18 months roughly. My friend stopped going and I was unsure about going to the classes alone. But I bit the bullet and decided to carry on.

Fast forward 8 years and I’m still Breaking; developed a passion for filming dance and I’m paid to film different international events across Europe. My stutter is hardly noticeable and my communication skills have improved exponentially. The circle of friends I have include males and females spanning 6 continents. How did this happen?! Turns out that Breaking opened up a new world to me. In the space of 2 years my confidence skyrocketed and other around me were noticing. Even the girls I was too damn scared to approach started to like me. Breaking exposed me to different kinds of music; different physical exercises and it enhanced my creative thinking. Since Breaking is one aspect of Hip Hop culture I’ve been in contact with some truly fascinating people. Musicians, artists, poets, photographers – the list goes on. Now I feel a sense of belonging. Something that was difficult for me in my adolescent years. The physical, mental and emotional benefits I’ve gained are truly life changing.

Now that I’ve experienced these benefits it’s important for others to know about them too. In Glasgow there’s a small number of people that break. An even smaller number of B-Boys teach regularly. In 2013 I wanted to travel and expand my knowledge of Breaking. Doing so would help for any potential teaching work I would get involved in. My close friend Sam informed me of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. An organisation that embodies the ethos of Winston Churchill. To learn information from outside of the UK – to bring back and benefit people in the UK. They have a Travelling Fellowship scheme that allows for people to travel for up to 8 weeks to various countries. All with the purpose of learning information that can benefit and enhance people’s lives in the UK.

Chaz + Lil' Cesar

Chaz + Lil’ Cesar. Julio “Lil’ Cesar” Rivas is an original B-Boy dance pioneer. Lil’ Cesar has performed on stages all over the world, including Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002. He has traveled extensively across the United States and over 37 countries in Europe, Asia, and Australia, performing alongside artists such as Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Ricky Martin, Doris Roberts, Ray Romano and Jason Alexander.

See lil Cesar in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pW-frEUqGE

At 21 years old I was the youngest person in 2014 to be awarded a Travelling Fellowship. Only 137 people were awarded one out of a total of 1182. When I heard I was successful, on Valentine’s Day 2014, I was overjoyed. I had to travel to London and be interviewed about my application. The interview stage was for the 256 people that were shortlisted. Flew down early morning with my dad beside me for moral support. With only 1 hour of sleep I was feeling pessimistic about the whole trip. I was forgetting what to say and was thinking this is a waste of time. When it came to the interview, everything came together and said exactly what was needed.
Nailed it!
I remember one of the interviewers walking to the bathroom and seeing me dance in the hall out of pure enjoyment for saying everything correctly.

Mijo (USA) at The Notorious IBE 2013

Chaz & Mijo (USA) at The Notorious IBE 2013

Katsu + Chaz

bboy Katsu (Japan) + Chaz

Fast forward 7 months and I was on a plane to New York. My Travelling Fellowship took me to the US for 8 weeks. To learn the positive benefits of Breaking and Hip Hop culture on young people from deprived backgrounds. I had 6 major cities to travel to: New York, Chicago, Seattle, LA, Houston and Orlando. From my knowledge these cities have some of the most influential crews and dancers in America. Hip Hop spawned from New York so it was important for me to pay dues and spend a lot of time there. During my 8 weeks I attended a few events; spoke to dancers that work within their local community; visited community centres specifically built to run Hip Hop programs and had meetings with representatives of social justice organisations.

Roxrite + Chaz

Chaz and Roxrite. Bboy Roxrite is an award-winning competitive b-boy from San Diego, California. As of August 2013, he has won 82 titles worldwide.

The whole experience was surreal! Met many inspiring dancers and was filming two of the largest Breaking events in the world – Silverback Open Championships (Philadelphia) and Freestyle Session (San Diego). I was constantly travelling and learning about different strategies to build communities with Hip Hop culture. There were some hard times that I endured through. Mainly due to a combination of missing home and undertaking a lot of work in a small space of time. On a few occasions I had no idea where I was staying in a city I was flying to in less than 24 hours. But hey, that’s the beauty of spontaneity. The whole experience was eye opening and filled my mind with an incredible amount of ideas and knowledge. I regret nothing.

Since returning home I’ve been trying to implement the knowledge and strategies I’ve learned into my local community. In the space of 7 months I’ve arranged an open dance session and, with two close friends, organised my first Breaking event – Resurgence. Two things I would have been reluctant to doing had I not carried out my Travelling Fellowship. To keep it short, the most important things I learned were:

Make Breaking accessible, consistent and cost-effective. Create as many opportunities as possible to inspire young people to engage with Breaking (and Hip Hop culture). A constant flow of classes, workshops, events and open practice sessions are the way forward. No exclusivity.

There’s many more things to be implemented in my dance scene. It will all take time and, with good networking and collaboration, I’m optimistic that Glasgow will have a thriving Breaking scene within the next 5 years.

I’ve known for a while I’ll be making a living from my passions. They keep me extremely happy and it’s a positive challenge for me. I only care for doing things that make me feel great as a person. That should be people’s motivation for pursuing their passions full-time. Even though there’s certain struggles involved, it’s working on projects you’re personally connected to. Sounds like a much happier life to me.

If you wish to learn more about Winston Churchill Memorial Trust you can check their website here: http://www.wcmt.org.uk

My final report is online and that can be viewed here: REPORT

From the events I attended, I created a few recap videos. The recap videos can be found here:

Silverback Open Championships 2014:

Freestyle Session 17:

Freestyle Session 17 – Day 1 Slow Motion:

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