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Rhythm and Soul: A Glimpse Into Seattle’s B-Boying Scene

What does it take to become a hip-hop champion in Seattle?

December 5, 2016

Huy Pham, age 21, wakes up at 2:00 every morning to get ready for work. He works the overnight shift at a local Fred Meyer store from 3:00 a.m. to midnight. When he returns home, Pham sits at his desk and studies for the classes he’s taking at the University of Washington Bothell. Despite this hectic schedule, he also makes time for his true passion: b-boy breakdancing.

“I prioritize three things in my life”, says Pham. “They are school, work and b-boying.” 

Huy Pham perfecting his b-boy techniques.

Seattle, once known for its grunge and punk-rock, has slowly evolved into a thriving scene for hip-hop. The city and outskirts host a variety of dance-battle competitions throughout the year that regularly attract b-boy superstars and celebrity dancers.

Pham began dancing in 2008 after his friends introduced him to the world of b-boying. He was instantly hooked and breakdancing became his new passion. Unfortunately, his parents struggled to understand his passion. Pham says it could be due to the amount of injuries he gets from b-boying or it could be their differing cultural perspectives. Pham says his parents come from a culture and generation for which high expectations and hard work are practically daily mantras. Pham was born in America after his parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. 

“When I was 12, my dad wanted me to be a professional tennis player while my mom just wanted me to get a stable career after graduating from a four-year university,” explains Pham. “B-boying is my dream and if I can (also) focus on my studies to please my parents, then they couldn’t be any happier to see me strive for that dream.”

Hip-hop music and DJ's dominate Seattle-area breakdance battles and competitions

Hip-hop was founded by the African-American and Latino communities in New York in the mid ’70s, but more recently many Asian Americans have begun claiming the genre as their own. Pham says hip-hop empowers Asian Americans to defy the negative stereotypes of being weak, submissive and nerdy.

“I think that it’s wonderful that hip-hop has grown so much and is accepted around the world.” says Pham. “It really is for everyone and I’m happy to see other Asians using it to represent us in America.”

Pham waits for his turn to breakdance at a local battle.

 

It really is for everyone and I’m happy to see other Asians using it to represent us in America.



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Tim Han

Tim Han studied film and drama at the University of Washington and graduated with a B.A. in CineMedia. He has directed a total of four shorts. His professional experience includes working as a digital media producer for UW, a student video assistant for UW's School of Nursing, and an intern for KCTS 9. Tim has been working as a freelance filmmaker for the past five years and is a self-professed pug enthusiast. More stories by Tim Han

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