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Hip-Hop News: Hip Hop Maverick Proves His B-boy Skills
Local b-boy dancer shows that his dreams can come true with the dance form of urban art.
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By Denis Wilson
12/8/2005 9:26:33 PM

When Jeremy Schweitzer first started break-dancing, he would dream about it while he slept. He would think about dancing during classes. Now, four years later, this French "b-boy" has bigger dreams of revolutionizing the international break dance scene.

A b-boy is a break dancer, and the senior French language, literature and culture and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major is a b-boy. His eyes light up when he talks about what it means to be one.

"Hip-hop has five elements," said Schweitzer, "DJ-ing, emcee-ing, beat-boxing, graffiti and break-dancing. If I say hip-hop, you'll think of one thing: rap. A lot of people don't know what hip-hop is."

Schweitzer, whose b-boy name is "Props," explains that the flashy fashion in rap videos shown on MTV and BET - throwback jerseys, twisted caps and gold chains - are not the real sense of hip-hop culture. He says this image has little to do with what true hip-hop is all about.

As a fifth-year senior at Syracuse University, Schweitzer has gotten the hang of dressing for Upstate New York weather. Some of November's first snowflakes swirled outside the windows of Schine Dining Center, but inside the well-heated dining hall, he has pulled off one layer: a thick gray hooded sweat jacket. Underneath, he wears a thick striped sweater, turtleneck style. Thin-rimmed glasses set on rest on his nose.

If his appearance is not decidedly hip-hop, then it's just another way Schweitzer has turned the American perception of hip-hop on its head, demonstrating how the growth of hip-hop in Europe and France has followed a much different path than in the United States.

Schweitzer is working on a one-of-a-kind project, the International Breakdance Federation. In theory, the federation would rank and register dancers and focus on the "power moves" of break dancing (or breaking), which Schweitzer thinks people are most attracted to. This would take his art into an area where it has never existed: the commercially viable realm of mainstream culture. Schweitzer said the federation would make breaking more of a sport, building b-boy crews into divisions for competition, much like soccer.

This concept may seem bizarre in America, where many people think break-dancing died in the 1970s. However, break dance events in Europe often attract crowds of over 5,000 people, and the world championships started in Germany attract about 15,000. In France, the cultural doors are more open for diversity to slip in, Schweitzer said. America has diversity, but he has noticed that ethnic groups tend to self-segregate here.

"The culture is different in France," Schweitzer said. "It doesn't matter who you are. The break-dance scene in Europe is huge."

Schweitzer was born in Paris 23 years ago to a Moroccan mother and an American father. In the early 1990s, he started to listen to French hip-hop groups like IM.

"I was more into French rapping because I could understand it," Swcheitzer said.

After he graduated from high school, Schweitzer moved to the United States to live with his father in Manhattan and attend Syracuse University. He would listen and read rap lyrics word for word and read The New York Times to improve his English.

Although many of Schweitzer's friends in France were already involved in breaking, he hadn't tried it himself. In Upstate New York, the scene was and is much different. As a freshman, Schweitzer decided to attend a practice held in the lobby of the Women's Building on the SU campus.

Schweitzer first met fellow dance crew member and friend Rachael Halter at one these practices.

"He's like a brother to me. We started breakin' at the exact same time," said Halter, a 2005 illustration alumna who went by the b-girl name "Roulette."

Eventually, the dancers were kicked out and had to practice in the basement of Shaw Hall.

"I'd do homework, then I'd break-dance," Schweitzer said.

Hal

More articles related to the topic Hip Hop can be found here.

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More articles related to the topic Breakdancing can be found here.

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