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UBreak inspires community, growth and self improvement through breakdancing

UBreak at UMN empowers students through dance and fellowship.
Image by Grace Henrie
Breakdancers at UBreak practice moves.

UBreak, a breakdancing club at the University of Minnesota, allows community members and students to come together to practice breakdancing skills.

From an outsider’s perspective, UBreak may seem intimidating, with the loud music reverberating through the Barbara Barker Center for Dance and participants spinning on their heads, but, stepping into the room, it is apparent UBreak welcomes everyone.

Breakers wear joggers, sweatshirts, sneakers, hats and other clothing that facilitates movement. Hip-hop booms from the speakers while breakers practice movements on three different mats, often encouraging and helping each other.

Nini Satsangi, a fifth-year student at the University and co-president of UBreak, said the group is “super chill and nonjudgmental.”

“We create a good environment where people are able to express themselves,” Satsangi said. “People who are older in the club make it clear that they were once where you are and are super willing to help out.”

Breakdancing combines many different genres of dance, gymnastics and martial arts, Satsangi said. There are four main categories of movement within breakdancing: toprock (standing movement), floor work, freezes (like spinning into a position and holding it) and power moves (like backspinning).

“It’s a very dynamic dance where you’re both on the floor and standing up,” Satsangi said.

Andre Allen, a fifth-year student and UBreak co-president, said despite the technical aspects of breakdancing, trying it should not be intimidating.

“We aren’t gonna start you off with the hardest thing,” Allen said. “We’ll start you off with the easiest thing to understand what the movement’s about.”

Satsangi brought UBreak back after the COVID-19 pandemic, having originally joined in 2019.

“We started from bare bones,” Satsangi said. “We only had one day with a reserved room so for other sessions, we would go practice in the Gopher tunnels or under Walter, wherever we could find space.”

Breakdancing originated around the 1970s in the South Bronx, according to Allen. People would rewind vinyls to the breaks of disco songs and dance battle with each other using the breaks in the songs.

Allen added members of the greater Twin Cities breakdancing community come to sessions and will help coach participants. They often watch breakers to correct their movements or help them achieve a new move.

“It’s pretty dope,” Allen said. “It reflects on the origin of breaking where it was just kind of like you and your bros hanging out trying to be the best breakers around.”

Claire Wilcox, a third-year student and dance major at the University, had only tried UBreak once before. She said, as a dance major, she is okay with trying, failing and trying again, which is crucial when learning to breakdance.

“I want to get better and keep coming to build community and learn to break,” Wilcox said.

She added she felt encouraged by the more experienced breakers who come to UBreak.

“There are some really great breakers that come here and are generous and willing to teach beginners like me,” Wilcox said.

Satsangi said she breaks because she thinks it is important for self-improvement to be consistent in working on being better at something.

“It’s a form of expression for me; I do it mostly for fun and it’s a good social aspect,” Satsangi said. “It’s good to have goals and it’s very creative because it’s not structured, it’s freestyle.”

Allen said it is important to him because there is a physical aspect to breaking, which is good for mental health and incorporates building discipline.

UBreak sessions take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays in the Barbara Barker Center for Dance and on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. in Peik Gymnasium.

Satsangi said UBreak is hosting a breakdancing battle at the University Recreation and Wellness Center on Dec. 9 called “The Snowstorm Showdown Breakdance Bash.” A lesson will precede the battle and the winner receives $200.

Satsangi and Allen said UBreak is always looking for new members and for officers to take over for them after they graduate.

“We just want it to keep on growing,” Satsangi said. “We don’t want it to die again.”

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  • Emily
    Oct 23, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    Great article! It would be more authentic if you used the words “b-boy” or “breaking” instead of “breakdancing”.