Like a tiger prowling his domain, Raphael “4Eyes” Natan enters the
three-meter square area looking like he’s going to knock someone flat.
With each swagger-filled step towards the makeshift dance floor at
Ra’anana’s Moadon Hamartef youth club, Natan makes the white-lined
boxed area almost feel like a wild animal’s cage.
He doesn’t ask permission to enter from the ten other breakdancers
standing around – he just strolls in, the hop in his steps and the
power of his eyes easily validating the legitimacy of his entrance.
If attitude could kill, Natan would be an assassin.
Natan, however, is not a killer – he’s only a gifted b-boy, or
breakdancer. A 20-year-old religiously observant son of South African
immigrants who live in Ra’anana, his superior hip-hop and breakdancing
abilities are well-known both in Israel and the US. He has competed in
competitions in New York, Los Angeles and in Atlanta – with much
After his “Kosher Flava” crew came third in an international event in
New York in September 2009, Natan says, people were absolutely shocked
by the dynamic Israeli style of breakdancing they were performing.
“We just had our own flavor,” he recalls, smiling. “We were not New
York, we were not Korean, and when we were called out, the DJ
introduced us as Kosher Flava. Since then, that’s who we are.”
Nowadays, when Natan isn’t away in the army, he helps to run the
Ra’anana youth club, which has become the nation’s breakdancing center
and the official headquarters of Kosher Flava.
Born in Johannesburg in 1990, Natan made aliya with his family in 1998.
Although he is the grandson of a circus trapeze artist and the son of a
musician, it wasn’t until age 15 that Natan that he discovered that he,
too, was a natural acrobat of sorts. Both schooled in the musical
classroom and breakdancing in the street, he was almost bred to be an
When he arrived in Israel as “a shy and skinny kid,” he says, he was
just waiting for the right musical outlet to express the undercurrent
of tribal rhythm that existed within himself.
AND THAT opportunity came when Natan witnessed a breakdancing
performance on the kitchen floor of a close friend’s Ra’anana home. The
moment he saw the moves, Natan recalls, he said, “Wow, I have to do
that!” He was hooked.
That was also when Natan’s b-boy alter-ego, 4Eyes – a stereotypical
geek moniker that effectively brings an element of surprise to his
dancing – entered his psyche.
“I’m called 4Eyes because I’ve always been this skinny little guy,” he
says, “though one day I just realized that my size is not going to stop
me, and from then on I just went forward and ignored any criticism.”
Natan attributes the ensuing rapid development of his skills,
confidence and flair to Elie “PolyRock” Haddad, the founder and head of
Kosher Flava, who pushed Natan to foster his talents.
“I remember that in the beginning, breaking was really difficult for
me,” Natan says, recalling that he initially lacked coordination,
rhythm and strength – all of the most important ingredients of
breakdancing. “So PolyRock told me to just practice my style, and then,
to start making up my own moves. By practicing the moves both faster
and slower, I eventually came up with my own style.”
When he begins something, Natan says, he goes all the way. He estimates
that he has spent over 10,000 hours practicing his moves in five years
of dancing, often spending all of his after-school time dancing and
coming up with new moves.
NOW, OTHERS stop dancing to watch Natan and bop with him as he moves
elastically in front of the audience, with astonishing grace and
hypnotic fluidity. For 15-second intervals, Natan enters another world,
spinning, kicking and balancing on his arms and legs in ways most
people can only dream of.
Breakdancing is one of the hardest dances to learn, Natan believes.
“You have to have coordination with all your body movements,” he says.
“You have to be very fit, really. It is very hard, but once you have
the basic foundations in place, your mind begins taking over and the
creativity starts to come in.”
Breakdancing as a modern performance art emerged among African-American
and Latino youths in the streets of New York City during the 1970s and
continues to evolve to this day.
According to the 2002 breakdancing documentary The Freshest Kids,
hip-hop and its connection to breakdancing can be traced back to DJ
Kool Herc, who threw parties on Sedwick Avenue in the Bronx for local
Breakdance “battles,” ritualistic dance showdowns, emerged when DJ Kool
Herc would spin rhythmic “breakdowns” from the records (known as
“breaks”) and loop them over and over so dancers could dance over them.
These loops provided the space for the dancers to creatively improvise
and “battle” each other to gain notoriety and street cred.
Natan believes that breakdancing first appeared in Israel in 1999, when
small groups of enthusiasts began performing and teaching the moves to
their friends. A decade later, walking into the club from Ra’anana’s
Rehov Ahuza is like being transported into a boxing gym, where each
person steadily focuses on building up stamina and diversifying
Natan, almost always at center stage, is constantly creating new truths
with his body. Gazing into space, he seems to move with complete focus
and purpose. And then, in the blink of an eye, the routine is finished,
and Natan walks over to his friends, a huge grin on his face. After
sharing a few laughs with his fellow b-boys, he jumps into the
disc-jockey booth to spin some old Eric B & Rakim for the kids.
4Eyes describes himself as “a nerd,” embracing this reality as fact
rather than looking to change it. But he’s a nerd who happens to be
super-cool – at least, to any who have seen him dance.