Helen Lin arrived for her first year at the University of Minnesota from Missouri knowing exactly what she wanted to do in college: break dance. She helped transform the U's club from a loose group of six or seven students to a thriving group of more than 100 that performs all over the cities.
A HOP, HIP AND JUMP: I got interested in break dancing from watching "America's Best Dance Crew" and music videos that had break dancers. I got a good friend of mine to start teaching me. It's a learning atmosphere; when you fall -- we call it scratching or crashing -- everybody around you cheers for you to get back up. It's a big part of why I've stayed involved. You fall in life and they are there to catch you.
FISH OUT OF WATER: I was in competitive swimming for six years, which really helps because you need to control your body weight, to feel the position of where your body is, to be familiar with your own body. It's more about endurance during long battles that last several rounds and being able to keep the momentum up. I also really enjoy running to stay in shape for break dancing. Other members lift and do ab work.
GIRL POWER: Last year, it was just me, the only girl. I always joke that the only reason they keep me around is so we have a female face. We've been really working on that, so that people know it's not just for big muscle-y guys. Now we have three to four girls who show up regularly. It's tougher to do the power moves, so I stick to style, and I do freezes and footwork.
STAYING IN SHAPE: I've been super-busy this year, so I try to practice two to three times per week and run two to three times a week.
COMPETITION: A jam lasts about four hours, and it consists of teams battling each other: one vs. one, two vs. two, up to entire teams of five vs. five. Each battle typically lasts about six minutes. Sometimes the judges reward power moves, like spinning on your head. Others like footwork and style, actually dancing and not so much spinning and craziness.
BONDING VIA BREAK DANCING: We're a representation on campus of the modern hip-hop movement. Break dancing began as a nonviolent movement, as a way of getting people off the streets. Dances are similar moves to fighting. You take that passion you get from break dancing and turn it toward helping the community.
Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a Twin Cities freelance writer.
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