Letting go: often easily said but not so easily done. But watching Ronnie dance, it’s like he’s never held on. This is what B-Boying is all about: a kind of primal freedom of expression rarely seen in today’s modern world. Ronnie is one of the ‘original generation’ of B-Boys and is now one of the world’s most respected dancers.
Shave your style caught up with him at the Braun Battle of the Year, the annual show-down between international crews of B-Boys in Montpellier France. Despite his powerful presence on stage, Ronnie is something of a pocket rocket: diminutive in stature and with an easy-going nature, he immediately puts you at ease.
You’re from Las Vegas, which is not somewhere you’d associate with hip hop culture is it?
No not really, it’s a pretty commercial city but we definitely have a strong, underground cultural scene. Mainly the city’s all about casinos and gambling, but there’s an independent streak outside of that too.
Yeah – the Killers are from Vegas too aren’t they – their music doesn’t really fit the Vegas image either!
Yeah, that’s not really my kind of music though! Actually the USA team here at BOTY is from Vegas.
So how did you get into B-Boying?
I was from a traditional Filipino family, who wanted me to finish college. But I’ve always been dancing, since I was 10 years-old. I still went to school, went to college for a couple of years but then started travelling a lot and passed up school to start B-Boying as my career. It’s rare to make a career in this, and it was definitely a risk.
How old were you when you made that decision?
I was like 20, maybe even younger. I was working odd jobs, a starving artist I guess - like anyone else starting up! I’ve always felt that way, I’ve always wanted to dance. Now as a B-Boy I get paid to fly out and judge, but back then I was paying to get into the events, just to battle, because we loved battling so much. Eventually me and my crew started winning and it started paying off.
I’ve just been watching a battle backstage, and it got really heated – there was a lot of attitude. I guess that just spurs you on though does it?
Yeah, it’s a battle, for sure! It’s a way to express yourself in the circle, and sometimes it gets heated, sometimes it gets personal, but the whole main thing about B-Boying is you can express any emotion through dance. Whether you’re mad, happy, or sad, you can express it all. You know how it is in battles, they always look like they’re about to fight, but it’s all love underneath!
Had any moments where you’ve come close to blows?
No, never. If you’re a true B-Boy, you know it’s a non-violent dance, and a non- violent culture. But it did come from the ghetto, so it’s our way of expressing ourselves rather than fighting.
What does it feel like when you’re dancing?
Very exhilarating. There’s so many aspects of B-Boying, you can be battling, or performing in a show. If you’re battling, it’s a competition, but during a show you’re feeding off the audience.
If you weren’t dancing, what would you be doing?
I’m all about who I’m expressing as a person. I’m an artist as well and I love to draw. I just love anything that allows you to be you, that’s what’s so beautiful about B-Boying and our dance, because you’re able to create your own style and be you.I’m proud of where I’ve come from and what I’ve accomplished. A lot of times its hard for B-Boys to have their own unique style. I come from a generation where we didn’t have YouTube. You just didn’t have the means to check out B-Boys around the world at the snap of a finger. I come from a generation where we had to create it all ourselves.
How would you summarise your style?
I guess its intricate, it’s a threading style, it’s futuristic. I do moves where you don’t catch it the first time, you have to watch it back on video to work it out. But I’m so excited about the future. Look how big the scene is now – its really growing, it’s a really cultural scene, and they’re even making a movie about it! It’s huge.
And how does that come into your personal style?
I’m very urban I guess. And I’d feel naked without my goatee! I’m getting older now, so it’s definitely an older look!