Breakdancing is usually defined by the battle — dancers trying to outdo each other with new and better moves. But the dueling breakdancers in a new dance show premiering in Phnom Penh this weekend measure what they can learn from, and teach, each other.
“Between Tiny Cities” is a 40-minute piece featuring Australian Aaron Lim, 24, known as “Projekt,” and Phnom Penh-born Mith Erak, 27. It arrives in Cambodia after a first performance in Melbourne earlier this month.
The two “b-boys” trained together for more than three years, and are now taking their show on the road, said dance artist Nick Power, a Sydney-based choreographer.
“Bringing these two together was at the heart of the piece,” Mr. Power said. “It’s about the differences between these two and also their connection and the underlying connection of hip hop culture that builds the foundation. But they’re two humans from different places with different styles, coming together.”
The show formed after two breaking crews – Tiny Toones of Phnom Penh and D*City Rockers of Darwin, Australia – collaborated in their two cities in 2014 and 2015.
Mr. Erak and Mr. Lim are matched in passion for dance, but their styles are opposites. Mr. Power calls them “Wild Style” and “The Technician” respectively.
“Aaron can repeat on demand,” he said. “Whereas Erak throws it out there and it can be this incredible thing, and I’ll ask ‘Can you do that again,’ and he goes ‘I don’t even know what I did.’”
As a kid, Mr. Lim developed an obsession with the technical side of dance from mimicking moves he saw in music videos, until he got schooled by an older dancer who brought “swipes,” a breaking move, to his dance floor.
Since those days, Mr. Lim has made breaking his career, forming the D*City Rockers under Mr. Power’s direction. While he “battles” with other b-boys, he also dances in theatrical shows and leads workshops in Australia.
But Mr. Erak, whose breaking is wild and unpredictable, took a very different path. He ran with gangs and fought people for money before finding dance.
Mr. Erak saw the Tiny Toones crew perform in 2008, when he was about 17. He was hooked by the flips, which he mastered as a kid, and the power moves, which he strived to learn. Taught the basics within a year by breakdance master Kay Kay–who founded Tiny Toones to teach Cambodian street youths how to breakdance–Mr. Erak said he practiced obsessively.
“I kept going, because that’s the b-boy life,” he said. “You’re tough to be a breakdancer. You need to be hard.”
Whether in a studio in Australia or the streets of Phnom Penh, breakdancing battles are a conversation, where one b-boy will try to show up an opponent’s moves. Mr. Lim said their duet progresses in much the same way.
“There’s a sense of testing each other’s metal,” he said. “And then winning each other’s respect.”
What: Between Tiny Cities
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Skateistan, #26 Street 135, Phnom Penh
Tickets cost $1 for students, $5 for adults