Breaking down barriers

At the eighth annual breakdancing competition, Modi’in pulsated as ‘poppers’ – one from Karmiel and the other from east Jerusalem – demonstrated their teamwork.

breakdancing competition 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
breakdancing competition 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dean and Hassan leaned slightly, hats almost touching as they stood offstage now that their performance was over.
Breakdancing vibrated above and around them, but the Jew and the Arab with the sweat-soaked shirts, perhaps for the first time during this night celebrating movement, were still.
There are just weeks before Dean Partush, a 19-yearold from Karmiel, enters the army, while his dance partner, Hassan Enabe, 22, continues as an east Jerusalemite worker by day and an emerging breakdance artist by night. And though their weekly sessions will diminish further, Partush asserts that they plan to “keep practicing” and “make the best of it,” but “for now I have a good friend and a good dancer and I don’t need anything else.”
On July 7, Modi’in pulsated with the drumroll of poppers and b-boys, graffiti artists and moms with strollers, a conglomeration of street culture indulging in spun sugar and hip-hop music.
“For anyone who just arrived, this is the eighth annual breakdancing competition. To the left is parkour.”
Partush held the mike close and repeated this introduction with each wave of entrants, but his eyes were glued to the large square of white below him, the crowd compactly buzzing on the white square’s periphery as breakdancing flowed across it.
This was only warm-up for the night’s competition.
Professionals and enthusiasts breakdanced in freestyle for each other to applause and hooted as the DJ dropped beats. “Make. Some. Noise!” Partush bellowed as a 13-year-old walked back to his spot by his mom, having awed the crowd with his homegrown skills on the dance floor.
Enabe and Partush first met as opponents at a dancing event three months earlier. Both performed as poppers, adherents of the illusory art of minuscule muscle tensions and relaxations that make the body appear to jump out of its skin with an audible socketcracking pop: Tense-relax, tense-relax in tiny increments until the muscle spasms cohere into a dance laced with body waves and tricks that make the dancer seem jelly-limbed.
Performing as an “unknown,” the east Jerusalemite shocked his way to second place in the annual competition.
“I admired him for his passion for dancing,” Partush said, “and I decided people must see... must recognize Hassan. Because he deserves it.”
The two reworked their routines and began to dance together.
The hills below the breakdancing event glowed gently and the crowd wound toward the main stage, its floor highlighted with neon lights, where the real action took place. B-boys, or breakdancers, competed for a single spot to represent Israel in France this September at the 10th International Breakdancing Event.
While firmly in the world of breakdancing, Partush and Enabe’s subset as poppers excludes them from this competition. Instead, they watched their friends on stage, two b-boys at a time battling against each other, while they waited for their slot to showcase a choreographed performance.
At the foot of the stage, another, younger world exuded an atmosphere no less competitive. Six- to eight-year-old boys and girls flipped, spun on their backs, hitched their legs as they stood on their hands in imitation of the breakdancing moves they witnessed all afternoon. They danced together, their halfsized bodies jived to the grown-up music, and they had no fear: not of injuries as they threw themselves onto the ground, nor of embarrassment since, unlike the b-boys above them, they do not breakdance for three hours each day. This was their first taste.
It was almost night and the audience was insatiable with breakdance hunger. Partush and Enabe ascended, stood side by side on stage, and began to reverberate together. Tense-relax, tense-relax, and their tiny spasms stitched a web of motion and grace on the neon stage in Modi’in. Enabe dropped back to allow Partush a few moments in the limelight, and Partush did the same for his partner.
Although Partush and Enabe dance as a crew, popping, like breakdancing in general, excels at flaunting the individual skills of the dancer taking center stage: his style, his mood, his moves.
Their showcase over, the boys swayed a bit as they talked, one in Arabic-tinged Hebrew, the other managing in English.
“Yes, I’m an Arab and he’s Israeli,” Enabe said, finally addressing the obvious, “and there are no problems.
Why? Because we’re both human beings – and if we don’t do this, no one will.”
Partush jumped in, seconding that “when it comes to... street culture, people here are not judged by where they come from. You’re a dancer, an artist.”
Next year, if the army allows Partush to leave for a short break, he’ll compete against his Arab partner once more, he explains.
“I guess,” Partush said, the slightest hint of the competitive arc of breakdancing peaking in his voice, “and I guess the best will win.”