B-boying spins this community in a fresh direction

 
 
 

For the b-boys of Eerste River, coming together begins with breaking. Hip-hop pumps through the neighbourhood, drawing people to the source of the sound. At the axis of the gathering is Dmitri Nell. The professional b-boy switches effortlessly between backflips, head spins, and jaw-dropping footwork. Nell moves to influence the youth of his community with this unique style of dance. “Where I come from, we are exposed to gang violence from a young age,” Nell says. Fiercely talented, he is battling criminal activity from the dance floor. “Breaking saved me,” he says. “It can save this community.”

Nell discovered breaking around the age of 11 by watching others in the park. Before, joining a gang might have seemed like the only way forward. “All that changed when I started b-boying,” Nell says. The dance, which originated on the streets of New York, consists of athletic moves flowing in sync with the music. Pursuing this art takes extreme skill, courage, and tenacity. But the b-boy community of Eerste River is tight. With their backing, Nell worked his way up to being the reigning champion of the renowned Red Bull BC One Cypher South Africa. Nell’s stage persona, Bboy Meaty, is heralded as the symbol of a new era. “To me, it’s not just dancing,” he says. “It’s a way of life.”

B-boying has flipped Nell’s perspective on the world. With determination, he’s mastered the choreography for redefining life. His edgy, expressive, and bewildering physicality never fails to inspire the crowd he draws. “Although I had to fight my way to get here, I hope that it has cleared a path for others to follow my footsteps,” Nell says. His optimism is an infectious beat that moves all who hear it. “There’s always a way to change your circumstances,” he says. “Even if it’s spinning on your head.”