WITS breakdancers attempts to become a recognised member of the Wits Sports Council (WSC) were frozen after they were told “it could never be a sport”.
Tyrel van der Merwe, who started the Roxolid Crew with fellow Wits b-boys (breakdancers) in 2007, says he had tried registering breakdancing as a formal club with the WSC in 2008 and 2009 but was personally turned away by the Wits sports director, John Baxter.
He says members practising “breaking” trained in the Old Mutual Sports Hall in 2009 and were allowed to do so because they joined the gymnastics club in that facility.
When the music they trained to was played during the day when the hall was not used by any Wits clubs, they were then told to use the hall only during gymnastics training hours.
They say they co-operated with this but there was no space to practise when they trained at those times. The members then drew up a proposal for a breakdancing sports club.
The proposal included a training and competing schedule, names, student numbers and signatures of more than 100 students willing to sign up to the club.
Gymnastics club members and b-boys attended a meeting set up with Baxter.
“The meeting was very short because he referred us to the SRC saying that breakdancing could never be a sport at Wits, it’s more of a social thing.
He didn’t really consider or acknowledge the interest,” says Van der Merwe.
But Baxter says he does not recall any application being made for “breakdance to be practised in our sporting facilities”.
He says: “As far as I am concerned nobody has formally applied to the WSC to establish a breakdance club. In addition, breakdance to my knowledge is not recognised as a sport by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).”
Umar Bradlow, one of Roxolid’s founding b-boys says, “We were not allowed to dance in the sports halls so we would train wherever we could. It got so hard that we had no choice but to move to places outside of Wits.”
B-boys practise for two to three hours a day about three times a week and some do strength training to condition themselves for intense technical moves.
Marius Henn, Wits sport senior administration manager, did not respond by the time Vuvuzela went to print.
Brendan von Essen, WSC chairperson, says, “In order to use sports venues students need to submit a request, as they are in high demand and are thus tightly scheduled.
“I am unaware of any such application by a Wits breakdancing club.
“Furthermore no one from a Wits breakdancing society has at any time approached myself or any other member of the WSC to intercede on their behalf.”
Roxolid competes in battles around Johannesburg and say they aim to challenge the negative stereotype of b-boy culture.
“If given the respect it deserves, [we and] our families will benefit in many valuable ways,” says Van der Merwe.