Original Link :
Tell us, how did you end up in such a cool, offbeat and unconventional career?
“It was the music that really caught my attention,” Bgirl AmB says simply, when asked about what drew her to breaking and hip hop. As the first Bgirl in India and a founding member of the legendary Roc Fresh Crew, Ambarin Kadri has really worked her way up to carve a niche for herself. Hip hop wasn’t always a part of her plan, though.
Looking back, Ambarin describes herself as ‘a hardworking student who loved reading and sketching’. She marvels at how she was never into sports or athletics at all, and had been planning to venture into fashion design after graduation. “I could never have imagined that hip-hop would happen to me,” she says. “I hadn’t planned for it, but I listened to my heart and went with the flow. It wasn’t easy for me, but the journey wouldn’t have been so memorable had it been any easier.” Cut off from Youtube and Google without internet at home, MTV and VH1 became Ambarin’s only access to hip hop music back when she was in college. “I had watched the Run DMC video in my final year, and I was flabbergasted,” she recalls. “I watched the poppers and breakers in complete awe; I had never seen anything like that. When I saw the breakers, I thought, ‘What they were doing couldn’t be humanly possible. Those were definitely camera tricks!”
Fascinated by what she saw on screen, she started off as a popper, her first streetstyle, in her final year. “I approached my parents with my graduation result, with the news that I wanted to be a Bgirl,” Ambarin tells us. “They didn’t approve of it due to various reasons. I couldn’t blame them completely; they were clueless about hip hop, and dancing isn’t a stable choice of career, financially. Being a professional dancer wasn’t considered ‘suitable’ by many people in society.
How difficult was it and what were the challenges?
“The first three years of dancing professionally was a constant struggle; I would have fights with my parents, as I had to travel with my crew, which was a bunch of boys, for battles, commercial shows, ads and so on,” Ambarin shares. “The only advantage I had was that I had been financially independent since I was 17, as I had started tuition classes for younger kids for sketching, or subjects they were struggling with.” Not being financially dependant on my parents really helped her take a stand on what she wanted to do and what she believed in, she reflects in retrospect. “I became quite the rebel, and evolved from that obedient student that I once was, to fulfil my dream.”
What was the turning point?
Her transition from popping to breaking proved to be a pivotal point in her journey as a dancer. After completing her B.A. degree from Jai Hind College, FNS (founded by Young Soul & Bunny) asked her to join them. “I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in because I wasn’t really breaking, then. It was way too physical for me, as I had never done anything related to sports or athletics ever in my life, but somehow I was persuaded to come on board,” Ambarin says. “I was sure this wasn’t for me when I went for a practice session, and the guys were doing flares and flipping around. But in a corner, I found Bunny practising in a very structured format, and doing each element — i.e. Toprock, Footwork, Freezes, Power — separately. That was the very first time I saw Toprock and Footwork, and that’s when I got the confidence to even try breaking.” Ambarin recalls her journey fondly, and likens it to her ‘first true love’. “I feel like hip hop chose me, rather than the other way around. It’s become a way of life for me.” Due to personal and professional reasons, six of the nine members of FNS (Simon, Bunny, Wasim, Gani, Example & Ambarin) went on to form another crew in December, 2009, which came to be known as Roc Fresh Crew, named by Bunny.
What keeps you going?
“I’ve been blessed with an amazing crew and family,” Ambarin confesses. “We have won numerous battles, and we started to travel for competitions outside Mumbai much before others did. My crew is definitely my backbone, and is very important to who I am as a dancer. I don’t know what would I have been without Roc Fresh. The boys have always accepted me for who I was and never forced me to be otherwise, like a true family. Roc Fresh has members with such distinctive styles, so it’s inspiring to always keep it fresh, and be yourself, to contribute to the crew.”
Can you list out some of your successes?
When asked to recount some of her highlights over the years, she says, “Well, it’s difficult to choose. but apart from all the hip hop championships we have won, and the commercial success as a Bgirl and model, I would say Cypherholics (cypher jam), that I have co-founded and hosted with Bunny since 2010, being the youth ambassador for Adidas Originals, and the Bgirl Ambassador for the Indo-German Cultural Exchange Program would definitely come out on top. I was also inducted as a member to Ill Minded Stylez, a crew from Detroit, USA, and recently invited to Stuttgart, Germany to be a member on the panel discussion on ‘Women in hip hop’.”
In fact, Ambarin just returned from Stuttgart where she was a part of a discussion on being the female force in a male-dominated culture. Conducted at ‘The Jam Session’ in October, the event was organised by Nadja of Skill Sisters, an all-women hip hop crew, where Ambarin shared her hip hop story, and also engaged in conversations with other Bgirls on how to stay grounded and how to make an impact while staying true to oneself.
On girls being underrepresented in the Indian breaking scene, she says frankly, “When I first started breaking, I never felt that. I was at every battle, the only girl breaking and battling in a room full of Bboys. From the beginning, I never had athletic moves, but I earned my respect taking part in battles and cyphers — representing myself to the fullest.
Advice to students ?
“I’ve seen girls come and leave. I guess it’s really up to an individual if they just want to treat it as a hobby, or go on to make it their lifestyle/art. I feel the boys are really supportive, so if you want to make your presence felt in the community put in an equal amount of hard work as there are no shortcuts. Just go for it and earn your respect.”
On how the breaking space has evolved since she first started out, she says, “Starting out as the first few breakers in the country, things were quite different. Even though we battled almost every other day, we used to have a lot of fun and weren’t just consumed by competitions, the way a lot of breakers are these days. “I did it because I loved it. It gave me a purpose in life to fight for, to be different and to make a difference. The passion and fire we had was something else, that I rarely see these days.”
Bgirl AmB signs off with some advice she would offer young and aspiring Bboys and Bgirls in India, “Always remember why you started breaking in the first place, as it will always help you push, keep it real and have fun. Keep fighting for what you believe in, even if the whole world is against you. Help the other young ones coming up in the community, nourish them with the right knowledge and teach them things that took time for you to learn. Support your local artist, as you always build from small to big. Always be a student, and stay hungry to learn more.”