Veronica Beard ♡ BandierStep inside the world of B-Girl culture
I was still a very young girl, like nine or 10, when breaking was at its fever pitch. I loved watching and absorbing the ethos of it.
It's not just a dance; it's not just about moves. Breakdancing is about creating an identity, proving you're worthy of respect. Growing up in the Bronx, when it was coming up, you were left to your own devices... everybody was hungry. So for me, it embodied this urgency: Watch me, give me props, I deserve it because I'm equal. Everybody can participate. I'm short, I'm mixed race, I have a gap tooth. But I've got this dance that neutralizes all that. It was my magic carpet, my weapon. I'm really passionate about people knowing the history and socioeconomic factors that led to the movement. It's really about empowerment.
It wasn't till I started going to the clubs, when I was 17, that I realized this is what I wanted to do. I was getting recognized for my moves and, before long, I was asked to be a background dancer for a few singers at the time. When it slowed down, I started dancing in the streets, which is how I got the name Rokafella.
I was 19 and dancing in front of Rockefeller Center when the cops came to move us. They had a habit of breaking up our shows because we didn't have a permit and, you know, we weren't supposed to be there. I got really fed up because I was enjoying this independence—you're your own boss when you're dancing in the street—so I went up to one cop and told him it wasn't fair, that we were making an honest dollar, that for all he knew I could be related to the Rockefellers. I told him I could be an illegitimate child and could have him fired. He was cracking up and said, "OK, this is your formal invitation to vacate." I replied, "That's right. You address me like that every time you see me, sir." Every time I saw him afterwards, he would call me Lady or Duchess Rockefeller. Then other dancers started to call me that and it became Rokafella. Because, also, the name was a job description—I was rocking the fellas.
What's the backstory behind Full Circle Productions?
I started Full Circle with my husband, Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio, in 1996. We wanted to use dance as a storytelling medium to put stories on stage. Popping, locking, breaking—that's how we tell stories of triumph and struggle.
But, most importantly, we wanted to empower young people. These kids—their self-esteem is being attacked left and right. We help them establish their identify and find what it is that they are bringing to the world. It could be dance, but it could be something else, like graphic design or opening your own store. For me, hip hop is just the jumping-off point. Once you get the confidence, the swag, then doors swing open.
Can you share a quick breakdancing primer for the uninitiated?
You go from top rock to footwork to freezes to power moves. And then you have to get up gracefully but aggressively. I love that duality.
Top rock? Freezes?
Top rock is the intro dance you do as you're upright—because you're rocking on top. Footwork—those are the shuffles you do once your hand is on the floor and your feet are fanning out. A freeze is the final pose. It can be on the ground, up on one arm, or a contortion. Power moves, like backspins, are the most dynamic, acrobatic and dangerous moves. That's where you defy gravity.
From left: Odylle "Mantis" Beder, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Jennifer “Beasty” Acosta, all wearing Veronica Beard ♡ Bandier at the launch party
The windmill—when you're on your back, on your head, and your legs are spinning in the air. It was the first thing I saw that was incredible. There are even crazier moves, but it was the first move where I felt, if I can do that, then I can prove to everyone that women are awesome.
It was a boy's club back then—and, in a way, it still is—but more women are involved today. It's a given now that there will be women and they can take the men out. And there are a bunch of kids leagues, too. There's a tiny girl, B-Girl Terra, who, by the time she was six or eight, was beating adult B-boys! She completely moved the bar up. There are a lot of great female dancers, MCs and DJs out there too.
I'm excited by it. But I think it's important that the Olympic Committee keeps in mind the cultural value and the history of breakdancing in different places around the world. And, also, it cannot be an elite thing like how you have to have money to ice skate. Kids shouldn't not be able to qualify because they don't have the financial ability. They'll need pay for flights, pay for sneakers and for gear. The Olympics can't just appropriate breaking and give out medals.
I have a lot of different lanes that I'm going in and out of. I teach at the New School. I do choreography, music, poetry. I have my T-shirt line. I design earrings. I'm still creating this world, my world. I don't owe myself to anybody, and there's freedom in that. It's hard work, but the payoff is awesome.
"My inspiration behind this mix was to have nostalgic fun, and be a little playful with the music—much like the Veronica Beard ♡ Bandier collaboration. Working out does not need to be serious, and you should have music that allows you to dance between workout sets." — DJ Bec Adams of Les Filles
Laffy Taffy — D4L
Right Here — SWV, Teddy Riley, Franklyn Grant, Allen Gordon, Jr.
Been Around the World — Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Mase
Electric Relaxation — A Tribe Called Quest
It Takes Two — Robe Base, DJ EZ Rock
Return of the Mack — Mark Morrison
Hey DJ — Worlds Famous Supreme Team
Heartless — Kanye West
I Wish — Skee-Lo
Shoop — Salt-N-Pepa
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Hip hop is just the jumping-off point. Once you get the confidence, the swag, then doors swing open.