Interview questions: Conversations with Bgirls on how to be a ‘lady’.
How do you define a B-girl?
Mantis: A female who breaks
Brie: She is determined as fuck. She has fire. She hasn’t been able to express herself anywhere else. I have my gear… There is a way she dresses and things she needs… The pants… Her shit. I recently support brands I stand for-building small companies… Unique graffics. Keep it large baby.
Rokafella: Someone who breaks using breaking vocab to the beats and knows the culture
Judi: Empowering, uber confident… In a sea filled with men… If you are a b-girl you need to be confident. You take on challenges, you are commited.
Anna: Someone who dances in the breaking scene. They are her people
Azara: If they define themselves as a b-girl someone who want that as their lifestyle
Lia: For them it is more than just dance, a lifestyle. It is a part of their personality. Some power inside them. They can do whatever men do.
How do you be a girl?
Kiki: By being fashionable. Glamourous
Mantis: As a kid, I got on with boys… I guess I was a tomboy? My Mum wasn’t that feminine… Alot of friends taught me about things like make up and how to do my hair… I learnt from Rokafella too…
Brie: I am a sexy girl yeah! I am definately girly. Girl to me is super playful. When I get together with my girls we are girlsss- talkative, chatty- sometimes we are badddd- we drink, we smoke, we party… Sometimes we are obnoxious… In my relationship I feel feminine. There is equality… Both of us have a stance and a role and a responsibility-an attribute to being a girl-it cant be one sided… I bring a feminine energy… What feels good I express. I love skirts and heels… On my days off I get down in dresses.
Rokafella: Minimal make up, celebrating my curves when I dance, keeping my nails painted, clean, bright colours, celebrating my feminine energy
Judi: It depends on you as an individual. Some are super feminine, some are not- just be you. As b-girls we can show our feminity in the dance… There are significant movements that we can do… But it has to be real…
Anna: I need to remind myself I am. I am reminded by people’s reaction to me- for example men asking for my number or sitting near me, and I think- ‘Ah it is because I’m a woman’. In relationships. In bed with my partner… I don’t have to be strong all the time.
Azara: I don’t try I am a girl. Being with women, its more about reminding myself to be free in whatever comes out… If I am more feminine one day, another day I might be more strong… For me it is about allowing that… Allowing my partner to unlock that femininity in me.
Lia: When you live like a gypsy, you are very strong. I have to remember I am a girl and calm down and enjoy my part and forget the need to be strong the whole time. We don’t need to have the control all the time. I am so used to stress I have to remember that. I developed myself as a strong woman. I decided. After 25, I decided to be more woman, find my sensitive part and listen to my emotions first.
How do you define a girl?
Lia: We have different organs… That means a lot of changes. From childhood, your family decide how you dress, if you wear earrings, if you play with dolls. From childhood you are driven to be a girl… I think you have to just follow your rhythm… Girls are the soft part the beauty the sensuality, the mother. The woman is a natural protector.
Azara: That is a difficult question… Being around trans people I have learnt the term Sis-gender (this is the gender we are what assigned at birth)… As we grow up, non binary-people disregard what they were assigned at birth. Eg a trans female who is female… For her she feels she needs to have long hair make up act a certain way. Society says a girl is this…
Anna: girl or woman qualities… Regardless of the sis-gender there are feminine qualities: intuition, six sense, nurturing, power to make life: a different kind of authority to men. What you are & feel is complicated. We are conditioned: relationships: the roles we play. In my childhood I was a tomboy: they let me wear what I liked. In Ballet I wanted to be the male role.
Do you enjoy to be/feel sexy? How?
Kiki: Yes-smiling everyday
Mantis: Sometimes… Breaking= sweatpants, tshirts… It is male dominated-you don’t wanna be ogled at for your body, but for your skill… So when it is that time… When I have time off, it is nice to feel sexy- Or to feel good about myself-the work we do- we work so hard and it keeps our body looking good-so yeah putting on a nice blouse/makeup… Maybe some low heels-that makes me feel sexy.
Brie: It is a mindstate- I channel it- there are certain things that help that. With my man, I just flip the switch… I can be dressed like this (we are at practise)- bleeding from my shoulder from training windmills, and be like I feel sexy because I am feeling myself… It is knowing who I am and loving that. R: I’m not sure-not when I break. Its about interactions… When I’m not breaking I feel I can intentionally pull sexual energy
Judi: It is how I carry myself. I am feminine, being me. Outside the dance-I dress up, heels, make up salsa dancing,… Sometimes I still break .
Azara: It comes from other people… Im trying to find that within myself more. I grew up not feeling sexy or attractive… I relied on other peoples attention a lot. To an extent I still do but I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I still need reassurance but I don’t necessarily need it from others. L: Its natural I love enjoying it. I love the reaction. Sometimes I dont want to be to sexy- I try not to get attention… In cuba sometimes I get angry when I am alone walking and the men are all flirty and heckling me, and I’m like ‘shutup’. But I love to feel sexy in a dress and heels and make up- it’s about the feeling. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing
Anna: Ive always been aware of others attention and enjoyed it mostly, but not always. Its something natural. I most enjoy it and feel sexy dancing tango. Its so intimate. Students say to me, ‘You’re so sexy when you tango-how?’ I think I use the other person to get off… Then i go home…
Do you ever try not to be sexy or play down your sexiness? Why?
Anna: I think it is a fine line between trying to be sexy and just being; I think Latin dance shows and in bed are the most clear times I try to be sexy/am sexy. As far as playing it down my sexiness, definately as a teenager and growing up in a Catholic environment, sexiness was something I would try to disassociate myself from. I would say I most often am able to be myself, which is perhaps a little sexy/sensual but this is not forced.
Iris: I’ve played down my sexyness whenever I was being me, was relaxed and not trying to impress anyone. When I was younger I didn’t wear much short skirts or small tops as I felt it was “too” sexy and would attract too much attention. I regret it now and think it was simply that maybe I wasn’t confident enough despite a tight washboard body!! I have the confidence now as a grown woman happy to embody her sexy self but don’t really simply on the body to do so.
Do you think being feminine has a different meaning in the Latin/ African American/ West Indian/Breaking/Salsa/Dance (etc) (your) community?
Kiki: In the Caribbean: the culture: the clothes: people in St Kitts wear less clothes. In England, there are so many looks and shops so more difference… There is more individuality here in the UK.
Mantis: Yeah… There are definately differences in women’s roles… In history-Native American women in some tribes were leaders- a matriarchy… In breaking I have seen it a lot that the girlfriend cheers on their b-boy boyfriend… There is one b-girl in each crew… Now there are more all b-girl crews… Things are changing.
Brie: Yes: In the Middle East, in my neighbourhood: I see so many orthodox Jewish women whose role is as a mum. The way they dress: wearing wigs, Stockings, long sleeves- they have a very clear identity and role. In my life however: I can do what I like. I have freedom, I make no boundaries for myself… I feel priveleged because of that… I am still limited by social norms & gender roles… But I have the freedom to decipher and stand for what I believe and find people who identify with that. I won’t be killed or beaten for that-in some countries women have no voice, are abused used almost as an empty vessel to procreate. In Breaking-I think we have equality? I am in a b-girl crew-I can channel that feminine energy when I am with them-I love both energies. I’m a gemini… I have that! You get looked at differently as a b-girl rolling around on the floor with big ass hips- and of course there are also physiological and mental barriers to deal with-so much is about being a beast… We have to break through what culture and society set out for us to find ourselves through breaking. So in breaking we are already breaking through cultural norms.
Rokafella: Yes: In vogue, the women are super feminine, and sometime the men too. In breaking it is toned down-there is no need for it because it is not part if the exchange. In salsa you can be more feminine and soft. House is not so much about femininity but I think there is more openness to that energy-the dance is more female. In Hip hop it depends- the choreography nowadays- yes definately. Then Popping & Locking not so much.
Judi: There are expectation from me: with my bgirl movement, I should be repping at battles cyphers eg bring it for my girls… I dont do this to fulfill expectation though, I do me. This is my song. Sometimes I’m in the corner… I feel the pressure now- It was easier when people didn’t know me… I don’t pay too much attention. I am old fashioned I feel men should approach women. Men should pay on the first date… A man should be a provider. A woman should work too, but the man should wear that crown… I like to be independant, but I want the man to be the man and feel appreciated… The roles are defined… Not so clear cut but… I often wonder why there is one token bgirl in crews, and why she is alsways the weapon to ben used on another bgirl in battles.
Lia: I think it is different in different continents: in India: the woman’s place is different: she is 2nd class… In South america, the woman is strong, jealous sensual. They do everything. They are entrepreneurs, they are dramatic… But it is also down to the individual. In Australia they have a woman’s day.
Azara: In breaking, I have not felt the force of having to be feminine it doesn’t ask for that, it allows the freedom to be you. It is you, it is how you express you. I haven’t encountered a push for a specific way to be. In breaking you may be praised more if you are less feminine. There is a blur between the lines of gender…
Anna: In Catholicism, the role of the woman is 2nd class. To reproduce. Support the men. In contrast, in tango: the woman is active. Women respond and reply with our body to the person we dance with. We interpret the music, we flourish. We are so strong. So Dominant. In Tango it is all about making the woman feel good.
How do you define a feminist? Are you a feminist? Why?
Kiki: Yeah, because I believe in equal rights
Mantis: Someone who believes in equality for women. There is still such an imbalance…as there is-if not more, when it comes to race. Yeah-if youre a b-girl it comes natural… With the territory-the industry is so male dominated instinct is I wanna represent the women… Show them the females can do it too.
Brie: Someone who takes a stand on certain issues: women’s rights and culture. I don’t like that title… But I like to stand for what I believe in… Putting myself out on the floor as a woman, naturally I am a feminist. I represent women in this culture- I have a responsibility and must set example and support other women out here trying it. As you advance you gain respect and it is not easy. For a woman it is so challenging… And our feelings too… I mean we all have feelings, but women and men are like Ying n yang-the woman has a different spirit and energy to men… Though I am a more aggressive woman child than most women!
Rokafella: Someone looking to defend the rights of a woman. Yes! Because so few in my community are… This is a perfect place to enforce that consciousness- hiphop is forward thinking-it has equalized & levelled the playing field people of colour and women. If I was going to break I had to represent for women… Without women its not really community. We have to have a consciousness about how important we are.
Judi: Yes- a woman. For women.
Anna: a feminist is… I don’t know how to define it… I think someone who believes in equality and works towards it: fighting, writing, talking. There are differences between men & women that are real, but feminists want to share things like work, the same space, respect, as led by women. I don’t know if I am one… actually I do… Yeah I am one. Woman have been a long time oppressed. I’d like to see that change, to see women with the same opportunities as men.
Lia: The people who recognise the world of women, the characteristics of women, but that but we are the same. We are human. At the end it’s only an organ that makes us different. Over time the male became the dominating energy in society- this led to prejudice, they have taken control. The people who are in power do not recognise the world of women, the characteristics of women. We are human. At the end it’s only an organ that makes us different. Men have become the leaders, women have stayed at home. These things need re-addressing. We need to be allowed to celebrate sexuality and all elements.
Azara: Yeah. It’s about pushing for equality, breaking down barriers. Eliminating preconceptions and blocks in society, and not keeping women oppressed. I don’t necessarily class myself as a feminist, but others might. I’m just me.