Scores of Yukoners have come in contact with Groundwork Sessions (GWS) on some spot-lit Yukon stage where its young members can be found spinning the crowd into a frenzy with mills, flips, freezes, spins and top rocks.
Perhaps you’ve met them through Breakdancing Yukon Society’s summer camps, a dance fundraiser, music festival or seen them around the Leaping Feats Studio in Riverdale where they train most nights of the week.
This (mostly) curly-haired, six-member breakdance collective is composed of Riley Simpson-Fowler, Jordin Reti, Karl Loos, Nick Robinson and twins Ben and Alex Robinson.
They’re sure hard to miss around town with their flashy shoes (they own 77 pairs, collectively) and charismatic b-boy ways, but if you don’t know these “hip hop kids” yet, you’re sure to become more acquainted with them as they plan on preserving the Yukon’s reputation on the b-boy map.
GWS has most recently represented the Yukon on the national b-boy stage at events like Winterlude in Ottawa, the hip hop convention, Street Groove in Vancouver and a b-boy battle also held in Vancouver.
The boys describe themselves as “very approachable” and often have their awkward moments like everybody else.
“Look out for some awkwardness onstage,” laughs Nick Robinson, who says they’re hoping to capitalize on their self-described clumsiness and possibly even incorporate some pigeon-toed maneuvers into their upcoming choreography.
“Al’s mastered the skill of being lame on purpose,” the boys laugh, describing Alex Robinson’s dancing as the most abstract.
Six years since GWS’s beginning, the members (four of whom are still in high school) have established a firm foothold on the national b-boying scene as well as recognized roles within their breakdance crew.
“We’re more like a cheerleading team than a family,” jokes Alex Robinson whose atypical b-boy style and comic relief secure his standing in GWS.
Sitting atop the Robinson’s car in the Leaping Feats parking lot, on a Friday afternoon, the boys delegate the remainder of official crew positions.
“Ben’s the crew narrator,” says his older brother, Nick. “He’s the responsible one who’s always asking, ‘Is this a good choice to make?'”
Simpson-Fowler is the dynamic, cool, calm and collected guy who likes to chill and play basketball. Crew member Nick Robinson, who studies physical education at the University of Toronto, is the social networker and organizer … and don’t ever expect him to show up on time.
Reti is the comedian and “creative cat” whose graffiti designs and artwork can be seen on some crew apparel.
Loos, who is preparing for the upcoming WorldSkills competition for machining, breakdances with GWS when he can and is described as the punctual enforcer who focuses the group when they’re off-task.
“We’re the type of guys who’ll carry seniors’ groceries,” says Nick with a smile.
GWS’s biggest accomplishments, to date, include the Bizarre Show, in Toronto, where the boys danced alongside well-known dancers of different genres.
Lenny Len, a hip hop choreographer, told GWS they “woke up Toronto” while friend and emcee Mariano Abarca, who ran the event, coined the Yukon crew, a fusion of “The Jonas Brothers and Michael Jackson” (again, it’s those curly locks).
This summer, GWS will be entertaining crowds mainstage at the annual Atlin Arts & Music Festival. They’ll also be hosting a national b-boy battle here in Whitehorse, on July 25 and 26, called Breakin’ the Ice, as well as partaking in a summer dance intensive.
“We want to continue developing the b-boy community in Whitehorse,” says Ben. Nick nods his approval, “And continue training and improving our individual skill.”
They all hope to develop not only as b-boys, but as well-rounded dancers training with as many artists as they can in other dance styles.
They’ve already trained with artists, across North America, such as Miles Faber and Jessie Cattibog, from So You Think You Can Dance Canada; Lady Jules, from Beat Freaks; BBoy Wicket and choreographer, Cole Walliser.
GWS spends a majority of their time in the studio with the stereo cranked as they train and choreograph, but they’re also fans of “fish, fun, friends, music, books, dragons, wizards, shoes, top rocks, barbecued asparagus, multiculturalism and high-fives.”
With such a busy schedule, the crew finds time to relax in the summer with annual fishing trips where they enjoy mountain hikes, no wristwatches and “a time to get grubby”.
Are you still curious about these bust-a-move go-getters? You can track them down on Facebook, under Groundwork Sessions, or search them on YouTube.
As for finding out where they purchase their vibrant multicoloured sneakers, GWS is more than willing to help point you in the direction of some unconventional shoe shop.
“Some people don’t really wear their shoes,” says Nick, “but we put our shoes on and we wear them.”
Aislinn Cornett covers dance and dancers in the Yukon. If you have an upcoming dance performance, please contact her at [email protected]