Canberra’s Stephen Gow started as a gymnast more than 20 years ago and soon leapt into the world of break dancing – known as breaking – which has now been added as a new sport in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Stephen says the addition of breaking to the Olympics is huge and the tremors are already reverberating through Canberra’s dance community.
“It’s really exciting and there’s definitely going to be a massive boost in interest for breaking, whether people take it up as a hobby or even see what it’s all about as a spectator,” Stephen tells Region Media.
He has represented Australia on numerous occasions, winning World of Dance in New York in 2010. He was also a finalist at R16 World Bboy Championships in South Korea in 2013 and 2014.
Through Canberra’s Project Beats and other dance studios such as KultureBreak, Stephen says the scene in Canberra is growing and he is keen to be a mentor and coach to dancers wanting to break into the Olympics.
He is also on the board of the Australian Breaking Association which is working with the Australian Olympic Committee to develop a series of trials for the first Australian Olympic squad.
“I think it’s going to be great to highlight breaking as a sport and all the amazing things it has to offer,” he says.
“Just seeing the vibrancy of the movements and the athleticism and skills and the intrigue behind it really drew me to the sport. At the same time, movies and music videos were starting to showcase breaking as something amazing.”
There has already been an enormous backlash on social media against the IOC’s decision to include it; however, Australia’s top breakers are defending the decision by pointing out the high level of athleticism the sport demands.
“It requires a huge level of strength, balance, stamina, fitness and body awareness, along with conveying your own individual originality, style and self-expression,” says Australia’s number one-ranked female breaker Dr Rachael Gunn, who is also a Macquarie University lecturer in Media and Creative Industries.
Stephen, who has also taken a leap to work with international and Australian artists including Taylor Swift, Psy, Jason Derulo, Timomatic and Ricki Lee, says there is no argument about whether breaking should have been added as an Olympic sport.
“Breaking is competitive by its own nature,” he says. “After breaking was included in the Youth Olympics at Buenos Aires in 2018, people were so keen to be involved.
“The definition of a sport is that it has a physical aspect that is competitive. I think it’s definitely a sport, but it’s so much more than that – it’s an art, it’s a culture.
“When you see how hard Bboys and Bgirls work and the physical duress they put themselves through, they’re up there with some of the hardest working athletes there are.”
In competition, breaking routines are broken into four sections, known as ‘top rock’, where the dancer moves to the beat; ‘foot and floor work’; ‘power moves’ featuring headspins, windmills and flares; and ‘freezes’, where the dancer holds a static position.
Stephen says dancers will be breaking new ground to win an Olympic gold medal.
“Each competition and each battle, you see people coming out with new moves and new interpretations and new tricks that are becoming more intense and crazy. It’s definitely going to be great to see what comes at the Olympics,” he said.
The International Olympic Committee officially confirmed Breaking as a new sport in the 2024 Paris Games, alongside skateboarding, climbing and surfing. These new sports are part of the Olympics’ objectives to be more gender-inclusive and to appeal to the youth demographic.
If you are interested in finding out more about the culture, learning breaking or becoming a participant, get in touch with the Australian Breaking Association or see Stephen Gow’s website for more information.