Here’s How One Of SA’s Top B-Boys Stay In Shape
“People think just because [breaking] comes from the street that it has no value, that we’re just spinning on our heads,” says b-boy Brandon Peterson. The 33-year-old started breaking whilst he was still in high school, and is now one of the best b-boys in the country. “People think that because you’ve learned it without any curriculum or any structure that it’s worth nothing, but it takes a lot of work and effort and practice,” he explains.
Breaking New Ground
The b-boy was in grade seven when he saw people ‘breaking’ in person for the first time. He was immediately drawn to the dance form which is associated with hip hop culture and was popularised in the United States. But Brandon didn’t know anyone who could teach him. It was only when he reached high school did he come across a few guys who could show him the ropes. “I just wanted to know more, to experience more and see what was under the umbrella of breaking.”
As he was starting out he didn’t follow a set programme. When he saw moves that he thought were cool, he would practice until he perfected it. “I trained as much as possible. During intervals at school, after school and weekends.” When boredom struck, him and his friends would try out all the moves they were obsessed with. “It was a world we knew very little of. We wanted to try everything and with such a huge variety of basics, it takes up a lot of hours to master.”
In October 2004, the Cape Town native was recruited by Brasse Vannie Kaap, a hip hop group that gained fame in the late ’90s and soon became a household name.
When a few of the guys left the crew, the group needed to find replacements. Although Brandon was only meant to fill in for a few months, his performance led to the group asking him to become a full time member. “It was a really huge deal for me and I was still in school. I became a little superstar at school,” he jokes. “It was really dope for me. Being part of the group helped me with my performance. They taught me how to project myself on stage, how to interact with people, how to use the stage and also the business side of working as an artist.”
I lost a lot of battles. It took me about ten years before I won my first one.
These skills came in handy when Brandon decided to start battling. “ I didn’t even know there were things like battles. I lost a lot of battles. It took me about ten years before I won my first one,” he explains. In 2009, he took a chance on himself by entering a major South African breaking championship. The b-boy made it to the semi-finals and it drove him to enter the competition again in 2010. This time he came home victorious. “After my performance in 2009, people started taking note of me. They invited me to participate in more events.” By the end of 2010, Brandon had won five competitions. His victories earned him a sponsorship deal with adidas.
Now I’m the first South African with 3 Redbull BC One titles. It still feels unreal.
In 2012, the Redbull BC One competition came to South Africa. “We’d always been watching this competition on YouTube and now [as South Africans] we were finally given a chance to enter.” B-boys across the country entered. The event was an opportunity for them to put their names on the map, with the winner heading to the World Championships. Brandon entered, and won, a feat he repeated once again in 2015 and 2016. “Once I got to learn about battles all I ever wanted was to be the best in SA. Now I’m the first South African with 3 Redbull BC One titles. It still feels unreal.”
Brandon goes beyond dancing to ensure he stays in shape. When injuries started piling up, he knew he needed to do more to ensure he would remain in dancing shape. “When I first started dancing there was no-one that would say, “guys, you need to warm-up, you need to stretch this muscle or develop this kind of muscle for this kind of movement.” Now the b-boy is privileged to be able to add gym training to his practice schedule. “We have a studio now filled with equipment,” he explains.
The b-boy focuses on muscle groups which are integral to his performance. “Most of our moves depend on our upper body because there are a lot of rotation type moves, so I focus quite a bit on my biceps and triceps and deltoids,” he explains. As a result of all the footwork that is required for the dance form, Brandon also works his legs.
But while he spends two to four hours a day perfecting his dance moves, he only spends half an hour before each session doing his gym training. “I can’t overwork my body. While I do want to strengthen my muscles, I need to be mindful that I’m not working muscles that will prevent me from doing all the moves I want to do.”
As he’s gotten older, warming up before training and stretching afterwards is integral. “If only I paid more attention when I was younger, I’m so sure it would’ve extended my dancing career with a few [extra] years.”
What Lies Ahead
The 33-year-old’s career is far from over though. Two years ago he shed the moniker, ‘The Curse’ and now the b-boy performs as ‘Man Like B’. “It’s basically to show that I’ve evolved from the ‘boy’ in b-boy to becoming a man in this industry. ‘Man Like’ is basically hyping up someone, which in this case is me, while the ‘B’ is for Brandon. I’m basically giving myself props – I’m not being big headed, I’m just acknowledging the work I’ve put in,” he explains.
And while the b-boy has become famous for his performance in battles, breaking has allowed him to do so much more. “Battling is just one skill. But I’ve done promotions, movies, commercials, TV series… basically wherever dance is included, I perform.”
When asked about the future, the b-boy admits that he would love to dance forever. “I see myself traveling more and competing at international battles,” he says. The b-boy also wants to help future generations of dancers by working with them and creating platforms where they can discover their talents. “My main focus is to turn breaking into a recognisable career, where the love of dance will never stop and you’re able to sustain yourself through it,” he explains.
It’s not impossible, but people still don’t really accept that we are an actual art form.
Having been in the industry for so long, he knows how hard it is to make a sustainable living through the art form. “It’s not impossible, but people still don’t really accept that we are an actual art form. It’s not just spinning on your head. People sacrifice a lot. We try and make an honest living with the craft and talent that we have.”
Breaking knows no race, no colour or age. Everyone and anyone is welcome.
The b-boy pushes hard for the art form to be recognised because he knows firsthand the positive impact it can have on one’s life. “This dance taught me how to be patient, to work hard for what you want, and to keep pushing. But most importantly, not to discriminate. Breaking knows no race, no colour or age. Everyone and anyone is welcome.”