(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) In a shaded corner of the room, Alex Jose Gomes Eduardo quietly texts his friends. Introductions are friendly, albeit succinct. Nothing about this squat, unassuming Brazilian from the Sao Paulo region lives up to his billing as a fast, thirsty killing machine'. No, the man they call 'Little Pele' is nothing like his moniker's otherworldly inspiration.
That is, until he gets onto the dance floor. Erupting into a frenzy of back-flips, each punctuated by a glare of withering intensity,
B-boy Pelezinho announces himself. The room wants him to do the 'windmill'. He obliges, saying, ''You won't be able to get this on camera.'' He's right. Becoming a blur of wailing arms and outstretched feet, the 31 year old's transformation from Everyman to break dance champion is complete. If only for a moment.
The teaser over, Eduardo settles back down in his corner. ''Back-flips, I love them. They come easy to me since I was into Capoeira (the Brazilian martial art form) before I took up breaking,'' says Eduardo. ''Capoeira is very popular in Brazil. I mix it in my breaking because the moves are very similar. There is a real connection between the two.''
And the B-boy name is obviously sourced from football, right? ''Like many young Brazilian guys, I love football. My friends gave me the nickname Pelezinho, which means Little Pele, because I was good,'' he says. ''Capoeira and football “ it's all ginga' anyway.''
Ginga Brasileira is the indefinable, even mythic, essence said to be unique to the Brazilian soul. While perhaps best embodied by the fluidity of movement and samba rhythms “ joga bonito (play beautifully) “ of its footballers, ginga is a manifestation of the Brazilian approach to life.
In B-boy Pelezinho, that attitude translates into an acrobatic, powerful dance style “ characterised by unpredictability and scarcely believable moves. His dazzling skill set made Pelezinho a shoo-in for Red Bull's All Star team “ a 'Dream Team' of the world's finest B-boys who tour the world, displaying their gifts and passing verdict on the talents that stand up to be measured. Pelezinho was part of three-member judging panel that presided over the wildly popular Red Bull BC One competition in Oman over the weekend.
For Pelezinho, it's quite the step-up from a life in the shadow of Sao Paulo. ''Sao Paulo is the centre; it's the big city. There are many, many B-boys there and a nice hip-hop atmosphere. The first time I went to Sao Paulo was in 1997. It was the first time I saw B-boys dance in the city's centro,'' he says. He was hooked.
Eight years later, Pelezinho finished fourth at the BC One finals in Berlin “ his first international competition and his first time away from home. When the realisation of his achievement set in, it was ''like an explosion'' in his mind. ''I placed fourth out of 16 of the best B-boy dancers in the world. That opened many doors for me,'' he says. ''Breaking changed my life. It is my life. It gave me options. Now, I'm travelling with some of the best B-boys in the world.''
On this particular trip his two fellow All Star judges were French breaking legends B-boy Lilou and Lamine. The French connection notwithstanding, the two are arguably the faces of their individual, and some would say rival, schools of dance. Lilou, an unprecedented two-time winner of the BC One finals, comes from the brash, new wave style that emanated from the city of Lyon. While Lamine's skills were forged on the dance-oriented, old-school fundamentals learned in cultured Paris.
Behind his trimmed beard and glasses, French-Algerian Ali Ramdani (though the world knows him by his preferred 'Lilou') is every bit Camus' man of action. Bookish appearance aside, Lilou eschews contemplative moves for competitive drive. He burst on the breaking scene as an underdog success story at the 2005 championship in Berlin. No longer an unknown, he regained the crown at the New York finals in 2009.
''Maybe someone will win it twice too, but being the first and still the only one to do it, I'm part of B-boy history,'' Lilou says, twinkling eyes flashing that competitive streak. ''In a battle, you're in it to win “ it's not fun and games. And when you lose, you have to understand why you lost and what you need to do to win the next time.'' It's a mentality that was shaped by his martial arts background. Having been a black belt in Kung Fu since he was 16, Lilou knows the value of being on his toes. ''Kung Fu taught me to anticipate my opponent's moves and counter them. I learned to constantly develop new moves to stay on top,'' he said.
While Lilou draws inspiration from the grit and genius of football god and fellow French-
Algerian Zinedine Zidane as well as the dance stylings of Michael Jackson, it was the urgent, hungry vibe of Lyon that most spoke to him. ''The mentality of Lyon helped me out a lot. It is different from that of (other B-boy hubs like) Paris and Marseilles. The vibe is different. In Lyon, everyone practices together. It's good motivation. Our crew is kind of our family,'' he says.
Supremely confident (when asked whether he was ready to put on a show, he replied, ''My friend, I was born ready''), Lilou's diminutive frame belies his larger-than-life personality. A potent combination of mesmerising dance style and a personality that's as caustic as it is funny endears him to his audience. While on tour as a back-up dancer to Madonna in 2012, he reportedly managed to upstage the Queen of Pop with his signature move “ a stunningly original take on the air-chair. And on Thursday, the crowd at the Bait al Zubair Museum, which served as the venue for the competition, got a taste of Lilou's flair for showmanship. Topping his outfit with a massar, Lilou had the crowd out of their seats.
In contrast to Lilou's exuberance, Lamine is the quintessential suave Parisien, engaging in dialogue as eagerly and easily as he takes on challengers.
Schooled on the marbled floors of the Gare de Chatelet-Les Halles, the largest underground train station in the world and ''the place for the crme de la crme of the French scene'', Lamine Diouff stresses on breaking's foundations aspect. In particular, putting the dance back in break dancing.
''A good B-boy knows the history of the dance, gives props and respect to the old-school and, most importantly, remembers that it is a dance above all else. All the top B-boys, they do crazy tricks and power moves, but they all dance,'' says Lamine. ''In Paris, we have a really strong old school scene. Because of which, When I started breaking, I was already aware of the foundation and history. So I could relate to it. That made it easier for me to grow and develop my style.''
''Paris focuses on foundation, style and a little bit of power. We are more into the dance aspect of B-boying,'' he adds. ''Lyon is about tricks, combinations and power. They were one of the first who took it to the next level. They are more into the competitive part of B-boying. In Lyon, you always have to bring something new, difficult and dynamic.''
Still, Lamine stresses, the two schools share the same basic ethic. Expression. ''I've been breaking since 1991. I'd spend almost eight hours daily practising. I've learned more by breaking than in school. It was a way for me to express myself. In breaking, we get inspired by almost anything. Whether it's Paris, Lyon, parkour, martial arts, even Shaolin movies, you can find inspiration everywhere.''
And that, really, captures what B-boying is all about. An expression of the self that is unique to each practitioner. It's a marker of one's identity “ on that, the three B-boys concur.
''My breaking, like my passport, is my ID,'' says Pelezinho. ''People can tell I'm Brazilian from my different moves and the flavour. It's really important to have an identity that is yours alone.''
''We all try to incorporate a lot of things from our cultures and lives into our dancing “ traditions, family, mood,'' says Lamine, who has tried to mix in traditional dance from his native Senegal into his routine.
''Really, it's just a way to express ourselves.'' Lilou says, ''I am influenced by everything around me: my surroundings, my family and friends, kung fu and my culture. My culture influences me a lot. We are all different, unique, so don't be a stereotype. You can become perfect in your own way.''
Encouragingly, Omani B-boys appear to have caught on. Of the contestants he oversaw, Lamine says, ''They weren't trying to be anyone else but themselves. They stayed rooted to Oman and had their original styles'