Frank Hernandez, a 46-year old Washington Heights native, served as a back-up dancer for the legendary hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. back in the 80s. Afterwards, however, Hernandez hung up his breakdancing shoes to start a career path as an accountant, but now the man has returned to his roots, and with big aspirations. He’s creating and producing a new breakdancing league that is officially launching next month, with hopes of turning the b-boy hobby into a legitimate sport.
For a two-day tournament (January 24th and 25th) at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, 200 break-dancers will compete for $5,000 worth of cash prizes. Entitled World B-boy Battle #1, Hernandez hopes that this event will showcase both the art and the competitiveness of this urban past-time. “I’m approaching it from a theatrical perspective, but it is a sport, because we’ve applied numbers and mathematics as a tracking setting, to rank the movements of the dancers. Still, we’ve kept the essence of the culture in tact, which is really beautiful.”
Beautiful sounding indeed, and it’s also been a long time coming as the idea for this gestated almost a decade ago now. “Around 2006, I was looking at all the media explosion coming from breakdancing, from movies and TV shows,” Hernandez tells FDRMX. “The thing is that I knew from my experience that people weren’t being paid or compensated for their work. I thought to myself: ‘Snowboarding and skateboarding make money. Why not the B-boys?’ I then tried to flesh out this idea and make it real. The thing is in 2006 the B-boy community wasn’t ready for it to become a professional sport.”
After this initial failure to move forward with his goal Hernandez left it alone, but actually found success as a filmmaker. “I wrote and directed a short film about breakdancing called The Ninja B-boy,” explained Hernandez. “It screened downtown in 2011, and won the award for “Best Dance Drama” from The New York International and Independent Film and Video Festival.” There’s no doubt that Frank retained his position on B-boy culture, and says that last year it finally became clear that others were finally agreeing with him that it needed to evolve in order to survive
This continued interest in legitimizing break-dancing as a sport was only augmented by the international flavor Hernandez discovered in it. “It’s more popular overseas than in the United States. I have people from Russia coming to perform in my event. The evolution is amazing. These kids defy gravity, and you see glimpses of it in movies, but you see the full capabilities in competition. It’s a really beautiful and inspiring culture. I did research and found that many of these participants have their own jobs. They’re engineers, firemen, and all sorts of other job backgrounds, and it’s disheartening that they can’t make money doing what they love. This was one of the motivating factors for me to make this competition.”
Already, World B-boy Battle #1 has been garnering quite a degree of attention and sponsorship “ESPN is interested in televising it, and in the first year we’re concentrating on New York City, and next year we’ll spread around America, and then next year it’ll be world-wide.” Hernandez has even made it a goal that within the next three years the top-prize at the event will be nothing short of $1 million. “I want to make the first million-dollar b-boy.”
Hernandez also hopes that music will take an integral part with breakdancing mainstream exposure, and may even expand beyond hip-hop. “I really see this evolving, and a fusion taking place. As long as the beats are energetic and motivating for the athletes, I think a lot of artists will take part in these events. We will have half-time shows featuring rappers and hip-hop dancers too. In the future we’re hoping to get big names like Lil Wayne and Drake to help out, and already we have Hot 97 DJs supplying us with some artists.“ He also stresses that it’s a mission of this league to encourage younger generations to stay away from violence and drugs, and give support to poverty-stricken communities. If World B-boy Battle #1 does succeed in garnering the public’s interest, we may be looking at the next great movement in hip-hop history.