Breaking hearts

The Reno dance crew Vibe Vultures break it down

Christian Camacho, Jose Peralez, Erwin Tiangco, Roberto Rodriguez, James Huliganga and Eddie Torres of Vibe Vultures freeze for the camera.

Christian Camacho, Jose Peralez, Erwin Tiangco, Roberto Rodriguez, James Huliganga and Eddie Torres of Vibe Vultures freeze for the camera.

Photo/Anna Hart

Members of Vibe Vultures work as instructors at the Heart and Sole Dance Academy, 5565 Riggins Court. And the crew meets every week on Monday and Wednesday nights at the Boys and Girls Club at 3905 Neil Road, with other b-boys and b-girls in the area.

“The essence of the music is put into a b-boy when he is moving,” said James “Killa Kimo” Huliganga, one of the original members of Vibe Vultures, a Reno b-boy crew that formed in 2009. “Breaking is representative of how dance has evolved alongside music. It’s one of those art forms that never stays the same.”

Vibe Vultures consists of six members, ranging in age from 20 to 35 years old, each with anywhere from 5 to 15 years of experience under their belt, all finding a commonality in their dedication to breaking and the culture surrounding it.

While each member of Vibe Vultures brings a different skill to the table, each member possesses an instinctive ability to merge inventive musicality and refined ferocity within the scope of their breaking.

Huliganga, Erwin “Rez 1” Tiangco, and Roberto “Tegroc” Rodriguez founded Vibe Vultures, and over the last five years, they’ve added Jose “775 Superhero” Peralez, Eddie “Bboy Touch” Torres, and most recently, Christian “Riddle” Camacho into the mix.

Vibe Vulture’s dedication as a crew has afforded them several performance opportunities, from the recent Reno InstaGrammys event and Reno Artown, to onstage with big name hip-hop artists, like KRS-One and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas.

B-boying, short for break-boying or breaking, originated sometime during the 1970s. The term “breaking” alludes to its creation, signifying the dancing that would occur when a DJ would take the instrumental rhythmic breakdown sections, or “breaks” of a dance record and extend them, by looping it, giving a rhythmic basis for “breakers” to improvise with.

The term “breakdance” is more familiar, but less accurate—and isn’t looked on favorably by the hip-hop community. While it seems like simple semantics, the word “breakdancing” has become a blanket name that inaptly places various styles of dance such as breaking, popping, locking and electric boogaloo under the same generalized label when it is publicized.

One of the biggest reasons that the distinction between “breakdancing” and “breaking” is so hotly disputed is that it’s seen as an unwitting construct of mainstream media. It’s often thought of as a phrase that fails to address even the most basic terminology of the pioneers of the genre, let alone the world beyond the head spins and the catchy nicknames.

“There’s a little resentment in the b-boying community against the word ’breakdancing’ because when hip-hop dance blew up in the ’80s, big business said, ’Hey, how can we make money off of this?’ and that’s when the term ’breakdancer’ was coined,” said Peralez. “Then everybody and their mom was a stinking breakdancer.”

In an art form closely tied with a culture and a history, “breakdancing”, which overlooks those ties, is burdened with the stigma of ignorance—it could be compared to trying to write a novel before you’ve learned to speak.

Nonetheless, the exposure to breaking in popular media has sparked its practice all over the world.

Breaking originated in New York, but has made its way to the west coast, to Canada, and has even gained popularity in places like Brazil, the United Kingdom, Russia and South Korea. Currently, there are competitions all around the globe for b-boying, with “Battle of the Year,” “The Notorious IBE,” and “Chelles Battle Pro” to name a few.

This international practice of the dance form shows the kind of atmosphere around b-boying that you’d find in the Reno scene today.

“Through breaking we are able to unite people of different race, religion, and outlooks on life,” said Huliganga. “No matter who you are, we want to welcome you into our culture.”

Break 'em off

Vibe Vultures wields a strong appreciation for the origin of b-boying, yet their style shows the permeability of cultural boundaries.

Besides the expected choice of using older hip-hop music with the characteristic drum-heavy “boom bap” of the late ’80s to early ’90s, Vibe Vultures also dances to jazz, funk and swing. There is even a place for the rock music of the ’70s, the ’60s, and all the way back to the ’50s.

Although each genre inspires a different set of nuances, along with providing a different set of challenges, the entirety of Vibe Vultures adapt to each change with a chameleon poise.

“We put sound into shapes, like the music flows in our body and tells us how to move,” said Tiangco.

To keep up with advances in dance and music, Vibe Vultures fuses their technique with elements from contemporary dance, cumbia and house dancing.

“It’s not just some dance trend people did back in the day,” said Rodriguez. “It’s still here, and it’s evolving.”

B-boying is an all-body workout, but it’s a feat that requires more than just brute strength. It requires agility, precision, and above all, training to hone the necessary skills—because when you’re propelling your body around, there’s a fine line between artistry and injury. Some moves take years to completely master and generate the calculated spontaneity that gives Vibe Vultures their edge.

“It is athletic, but it’s really based on passion and practice,” said Torres. “It’s based more on technique than strength.”

Back flips, whirling legs in the air, and heads spinning on the ground are arguably the most recognizable traits of breaking. But while these images might grab the most attention from the general public, it’s the appreciation for the intricate footwork, the aesthetic toprock, the distinctive freezes or poses as well as the balance between these and the acrobatic power moves that garner respect.

Just like in its early years, the artistic, yet viscerally combative nature of b-boy still remains in the form of dance battles.

Although Vibe Vultures does compete in b-boy battles against other crews from time to time in Nevada and California, they’ve focused more on growing the modest, virtually underground b-boy scene in Reno, by community outreach.

One of the crew’s biggest goals is to show what their representation of breaking and the hip-hop culture can bring to the general public—namely to the youth.

“Each one, teach one,” said Tiangco, echoing a hip-hop mantra.

Through interacting with city residents in local events, teaching dance classes and encouraging others to join them in open dance sessions, Vibe Vultures works to help others find agency and integrity through artistic creation.

“There are always those stories where people say, ’Dancing saved my life,’ but I was never in danger,” said 20-year-old Camacho, the youngest of the crew. “I will say, though, that it has kept me healthy, and I’ve met a lot of great, kind-hearted people in the b-boy community here. … They care for you like a family and that is motivation itself to stay out of trouble.”