April Artist Spotlight: B-girl Lisa Berman of BRKFST

Hey Lisa, thank you for taking the time to discuss your career with COMPAS! Can you tell us what your art form is and a little about your background?

I am a dancer. I always enjoyed dancing but never took any formal classes until I was in college. I took a few classes of Modern and West African movement and wanted to learn more. After college I did the program at Zenon Dance Company where you can work behind the desk and clean studios in exchange for free classes. It was there I met Bboy Jsun and had the opportunity to take his breaking class. I remember seeing Breaking in high school. There was a group of guys who would always practice headspins in the cafeteria, but I never saw any girls and was a bit intimidated. After taking a class with Jsun, he told me about the underground open breaking sessions that were taking place at MCAD at the time. I started going to the sessions, met the other breakers in the community and never looked back. Soon after starting breaking, I was involved in a number of Hip Hop dance work performances which lead to becoming a part of the “Collective Hip Hop Dance Company.” After 5 years with that company I moved to NY and danced out there for a couple years. Upon my return to Minnesota in 2012, I decided I wanted to start my own company. In 2014, I founded “In New Company,” now known as “BRKFST.”

For those readers that aren’t familiar, can you describe what Breaking is and what a B-boy and B-girl do and where those terms came from?

The term Bboy and Bgirl comes from back in the day when Dj Kool Herc would throw his block parties. He invented what is called the Merry-go-round technique with turntables where they spin the same record on both tables so that they are able to extend the "break" in the music. The "break" being the spot in the song where the vocals drop out and you are left with the instrumental breakdown. He noticed that people at his parties always got down to the break in the music and so they were called Bboys and Bgirls meaning "break boys" or "break girls."

Did you have any big influences?

Starting out with Breaking, some of my original influences were Bboy Remind and Bgirl Asia One. Although back when I started there was no YouTube so it wasn’t as easy to find clips of the dancers you liked to watch. One of my favorite Bgirls to watch now is Bgirl Movie One from Spain.

As the Artistic Director of BRKFST, what are your goals for the group’s performances? What do you hope the audience gets out of it?

My goals for the company’s performances would be to connect with the audience and have the viewers relate to the movement in their own way.

What do you get out of breakdancing with a group versus individually? Do you have a preference?

BRKFST is a choreographically collaborative company. So when we create work, it is a group effort. I believe this gives the pieces a richness of movement since it is coming from the minds of seven different people. When I practice breaking at a session, I am working on skills I want to accomplish or moves I have set as a goal. It’s a completely different vibe and focus. I enjoy them both equally because they both lead to the same thing, becoming a stronger dancer and performer.

What’s it like to be a B-girl in a more male-dominated art form? Do you feel like more females are entering the field than in the past?

The main thing is that I can’t think of myself as different just because I’m a female. If I work hard and train equally as a male, I can achieve the same result. The only difference is that some moves come easier to a male than a female and vise versa because of where our center of gravity differs.

What is your favorite part of teaching breaking and hip hop culture?

I love seeing the creativity and individuality that come out of students when they get into breaking.

Have you been working on any new projects lately?

We are working on a new show right now, which will be our first main stage production at the Southern Theater as part of the ArtShare lineup for the fall of 2017.

You joined the COMPAS roster fairly recently, what’s it like so far to be a COMPAS artist?

We feel very excited to be on the COMPAS roster and hope to inspire many people through our performances!

How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?

I attend breaking sessions two-four times a week which is where I am able to work on new moves and concepts.