Performers for the 2018 National Folk Festival
Dancing On Air Crew
Gravity-defying head spins, twirling windmills, and rapid-fire footwork are hallmarks of breaking, an urban dance style that, along with graffiti, MC-ing, and DJ-ing, makes up the expressive core of hip hop culture. The b-boys of Charleston’s thrilling Dancing On Air Crew (DOA) are on a mission, “trying to make a name for the Carolinas” in the breaking scene.
Practitioners of this dance form are called breakers, b-boys, or b-girls, and while popular media calls their amazing moves “breakdancing,” breakers themselves prefer the terms “breaking” or “b-boying.” Breaking first emerged among African American and Latino youth in the South Bronx in the early 1970s. The first hip hop DJs began experimenting with the “break-beat,” in which short, percussive sections from existing records were isolated and repeated. The “break,” said famed DJ Afrika Bambaataa, was “that certain part of the record that everybody waits for—they just let their inner self go and get wild.” Across New York City, breaking became popular as part of informal competitions between dancing “crews.” B-boys eventually incorporated elements from kung fu, acrobatics, and Brazilian capoeira to further dazzle the crowds, and breaking spread throughout American cities as hip hop become an international phenomenon.
DOA is a crew of b-boys who claim Charleston, South Carolina, as home. The original members became friends at College Park Middle School in Summerville. Inspired by popular movies and impressed by the moves of older Charleston b-boys, they formed DOA in 2010. Since then the group has added new members they have met through break battles. Performing in Salisbury will be six b-boys and one b-girl: DeVante (“Tahu”) Powell, Delma Rahming, Jonathan Singleton, Cody Soles, Adrian Valdivias, Gage (“Waya”) Calton, and Mel Stoll. As Tahu says, DOA is “like a family … we’re all brothers.” As the only organized crew in Charleston today, the group travels frequently to perform and battle throughout the Southeast and beyond. Their reputation continues to grow with each competition; at last summer’s CVC Greensboro (NC) Open, Tahu took home the top prize. They’re also intent on giving back to their community, using their dance skills to power an annual winter coat drive and summer back-to-school backpack drive to assist the needy. Several years ago, members of the crew, now mostly in their 20s, were invited back to their neighborhood elementary school, where they “just tried to tell them stuff we wish we heard when we were their age” about hope, perseverance, and teamwork—and then they dazzled the crowd with their breaking, inspiring the next generation of b-boys and b-girls.
photo credit: Michael G. Stewart
Charleston, South Carolina