Thank you for joining us today
Thank you Soulo New York.
Could you give your name, basic introduction, where you’re from
So you want my government name? Is this going to be used anywhere? *laughs*
My government is Abigail Herrara, by marriage, and my dancing name is AB-Girl.
So how many years have you been dancing?
I’ve been Breaking since 96’.
What other styles do you do?
Well, Breaking has been my life. Prior to that, I actually started Housing. Actually, I used to go to Teenie boppers clubs and the first time I went to my first club, actually the very first time I went to my first club, I actually saw a circle and these kids were like battle Housing. And that’s the first time I ever saw anything like it. So right away I was taken back. And I was like ‘Yo what is this? This is awesome.’ I just wanted to learn how to dance – like House style because it was what I saw but was just battling and that was super dope to me. So I think I just had a natural talent at it and I would always go to the college parties, any of the teen clubs in Jersey, where I’m originally from, and I really seeked just to learn Housing but I just kind of learned my style of doing it. You know you get to learn the basics of certain dance styles and then you kind of like create your own. So I kind of just did my thing, what I felt comfortable with and then it started there to answer your question.
How old were you when you started?
You were telling me earlier about how you got drawn into Breaking. Could you share a little bit about that?
From 16, my sister, my brother, and I – where we grew up in Jersey – we actually knew this kid. We also had friends that were like, we kind of somehow landed in this Hip-Hop culture, just like Rap music and we ended up hanging out with people that were just into that same style type of music. One of my boys that actually lived down the street from me, who’s actually also known in the seen, his name is Mozi from Soul Purpose, and he lived in our neighborhood. My sister was friends with him first, and then my brother and then myself. He introduced me more into the Hip-Hop scene.
So back then, this was back in 1995 to 96’, I was going to a lot of underground events. I’m talking about underground DJ events, underground Hip-Hop events, MC events especially, and then all of the sudden, one day we went to a club, it was called Vinyl back then. They had a Breaking room, a Hip-Hop room and they had a house room where Little Louie Vega, he was very well known, he was the main person spinning there. And then the other room, they had freakin’ Bobito and Stretch Armstrong. They were DJing. They were the residents there, you know? So imagine, if anybody knows what I’m talking about, this was the place to be back then, you know? So the first time I went to this place, I was already clubbing a lot by that time. I was young, but I was already clubbing a lot because I like to dance. So I went to go party.
So the first time I went to this club, we were in the House room, all the sudden, we went to the Hip-Hop room, and it was packed. And I remember there was a circle over there, and I walked towards the circle. To my luck, it was freakin’ Rock Steady Crew in that cypher and it was Crazy Legs, Q-Unique, Gizmo, and EZ Rock in that cypher. And that was the first time I ever saw Breaking – oh look I’m getting chills! – and that was the first time I ever saw Breakin’. And because I remember my first moment of being introduced to dance was seeing a battle of Housers, I was already attracted to that. I was already Housing battling at that point. So step forward, when I saw Breaking for the first time naturally, I thought that was totally awesome. And I knew the Arsonists at that time, which Q-Unique was part of the Arsonists, which is a Hip-Hop crew, an Emcee crew I should say. So I met Crazy Legs, I met all these guys, I saw Breaking for the first time and it was amazing. I was totally blown away.
Back then, I ended up somehow connecting – Q-Unique had introduced me to Legs. At that point Legs had just started teaching at The Point in the Bronx. And he was like, “Yo I know Legs just started teaching breking to the youth.” So I was like “Can I go?” I went there for the first time. Meanwhile I was still in Jersey, hiding behind my mom’s back, going all the way to the Bronx taking buses and trains and young 16, 17, and making on my way there and I started taking classes from Legs. At that time I was 17 like I said and that was my first introduction to learning how to Break.
What is Hip-Hop to you and how do you define it?
What is Hip-Hop to me and how do I define it? Well, Hip-Hop to me obviously has to do with 4 elements because before I started Breaking, I was introduced to Hip-Hop culture even before I knew what Breaking was. I never saw the videos that a lot of people in their youth saw at a younger age like Beat Street, Wild Style, all of those. I was introduced for the first time seeing it in person. I’m not from New York, I’m from Jersey, so Hip-Hop to me was really the 4 elements, which is: MCing, DJing, Breaking, and Graffiti arts. But I was actually introduced to the first three before I was introduced to Breaking. So for me, it’s all tied in together.
Hip-Hop is truly a culture and community of people that share the same interests. Even if all these years, I’ve been involved in Breaking, it still goes hand in hand when you’re dealing with B-Boys and B-Girls that Break but they also can do graffiti art work. My husband Elmo, Street Masters, he’s also a graffiti artist as well. He doesn’t do it on the regular but he knows how to do it. I grew up seeing MCs in cyphers, like street cyphers, the real deal holy field where it’s so totally raw where internet was not poppin’ back then. You had to be there to see. To me, that is the culture of just everything tied in together, and community. All throughout these years, I’m 40 now and I started in 96’, so all these years Breaking has been my life and this community has been my life. So going back to your answer, it’s community.
You look exactly the same as when I saw you back in the day
Because of Break-life! I feel like B-Boys and B-Girls are like vampires like they don’t age if you really really stay in it because it keeps you youthful. It’s something special. You can be working a 9-5 but then you can go back to your culture of Break-life and it’s something so special and unique. I feel people are very lucky when they wholeheartedly love it because even if you go through your hills and valleys of being in the scene and going away because of personal situations or responsibilities, no matter what, you yearn for it. So I feel like B-Boys and B-Girls have something where it keeps them youthful like a vampire, you kind of never age. When I turn 60, I don’t know what I’m going to look like by then but you know.
When you were first exposed to Hip-Hop, was that in the House cypher?
Back then, I would still consider it in the same arena because back then Hip-Hop was Hip-Hop culture and House culture at the same time. And for the people that know, that came from that era 96, 97, 98, 99, we’re talking about Little Louie Vega time. The dancers were very likely also Breaking at the same time. So like I said, Vinyl was one of spots that became Wetlands back to Vinyls and it was a place where they had a dope Hip-Hop room, where they were playing dope Hip-Hop music back then, but also mixing with Breaks. All of the sudden you can go into the next room, it was Little Louie Vega spinning with all the other resident DJs. It was something very special back then. So I would say in my life time, it would go hand in hand.
So what made you want to start dancing?
I think I always had ants in my pants and I needed to dance! I think if you have it in you: if you see it and you wanna do it, it’s just in your blood. Like I said, I’m already at an older age now, but I still am trying my best to attend events with my friends. When I go, like we just came from the Massive Monkey’s anniversary, as well as the Supreme Beingz’ anniversary here in Queens. The way that these events were run, I was just so happy to attend these events because they had a lot of cyphers, it was really good music, good vibes, good community. It was just special.
I just saw it. It’s just people enjoying themselves, the music. If you love music, and you’re the kind of person that music can move you, I think if you’re a dancer you’re just gonna wanna dance. I call it “ants in the pants.”
Did you ever try anything else beforehand?
I wanted to. When I was in college I wanted to try other styles of dance just because I wanted to get better at Breakin. Cause I felt like if I did contemporary maybe I could move a different way but once I found Breaking, like damn, I couldn’t. It was just attached to me.
I know you got exposed to Hip-Hop through dance. In general, when you were younger, what was the first thing you were exposed to? (music videos, TV, etc.)
No, I didn’t even have cable! My parents didn’t have cable. Like I said, I was introduced through Hip-Hop through my friends in high-school. I did hang out with minorities, for some reason I identified better with them. I grew up in a neighborhood that was a majority of Caucasian, not to say there’s anything different about that, but I ended up identifying more with minorities and naturally, I feel like Hip-Hop goes hand in hand with minority culture.
As again, I said before is that, we had our boy Mozi. Mozi was an MC forever that I’ve known him and he was the one that knew about all these spots to go. I would always roll with my boy Mozi and then we would see, he was an MC, so we’d always go to all these underground MC joints, like Lyricist Lounge. A lot of the underground scene that kinda everybody knew each other like how Breaking is, it’s the same thing in the MC scene. I would be at all those spots every week. So before Breaking, I was going to all these underground spots where you had freakin’ cyphers, like freakin’ dope ass MC cyphers. You had people spinnin’ on the mics and at the same time, we would go to underground DJ events.
That was something special because what you see now, it is different, if it was back then, we’re talking about some ill DJs that were putting it down in the scene and I was fortunate to be introduced to that and see it live! And this is not when the internet, pretty much didn’t even really exist, so you had to be there to witness and be in it. So I just always yearned to be there because it was just something special to me.
Did you see it in any movies?
No, no, well, of course I saw Juice, who didn’t see Juice back then!? But I was in there already. I didn’t have to see Juice to know what it was about. I already hung out with my friends from high school going into college and I was already in that scene. I was really fortunate. The people I’ve connected with and I really become friends with along the way were never forced, very natural. We just ended up connecting through the scene I guess.
Today we have Hip-Hop all over the internet, dance studios, and schools worldwide. How was Hip-Hop before all of these changes? What was the scene like? How were the jams like before?
Oh man. Jams. Okay so, let me repeat that question. So how were jams back then before the internet existed? So we’re talking about from my time 96’ moving forward, right? Like I said back then there was no internet. So you had to be there to witness it, and you also had to be part of the community to know where to go. I was fortunate to connect with Crazy Legs. He was my first mentor and B-Boy father in 96. He really really took me under his wing. He taught me so much about just life – not just teaching me moves. Because he’s been through what he went through with his friends back then, he would always tell me, “School is very important. Make sure you go to school.” But he was also teaching me dance and also teaching me about the industry making sure that you’re not underselling yourself and making sure you’re representing yourself well.
How was it like back then? The first time I went to a jam was locally in New York City, but I can also say that the first time I went to a jam outside of my state was in California. And again I was sneaking behind my mom’s back so don’t put that in there. I flew for the first time, my first travel was going to B-Boy Summit and this was when Easy Rock and Asia One were partnered up back then as True Essence. In any event, they were partners back then. They had this amazing B-Boy event called B-Boy Summit. That was the first time I ever traveled outside of New Jersey, my first time to be on a plane. And you have no idea. I mean this event was massive. It was massive. And we had all elements of Hip-Hop culture – again I’m getting those chills. It was my first time I saw Breaking outside of New York City.
Going back to your question about what was it like back then: you had to be there to witness. It wasn’t so easily accessible because there was no internet like that. The only thing you could do to witness is to go to the jams (either save some money to go to these jams like the B-Boy Summit) or these VHS tapes were getting passed around very scarcely. Every once a blue I’d get a VHS tape about Radiotron or Pro-Am in Florida. You know? Very rare tapes and that was what it was like. It was not easily accessible. You had to be there somehow, seek it, and find a way to find it. Part of the community is just talking about it and just finding out where to go to be part of that event.
You went to B-Boy Summit and then you experienced that whole fiasco?
Yes, I was there for that as well. It was insane. I was actually there for that. I was only probably 18 at the time. And really, when you’re 18, you’re still a child. Even when you’re in your early 20’s you’re still a child. So my first time to be at this massive event, we’re talking about things that were carnival like. Where there were freakin…so…I can’t even count how many people were there, but there were so many people at this event. There’s Breakin cyphers everywhere. It was so sick. You saw people just Breaking on the concrete, on linoleum, but it was outdoors. It was so massive and so amazingly dope. You had cyphers of MCs just going in cyphers, and you had people threading their black books, you know, cyphers of people sitting down piecing up their black books. It was just so amazing. And so yes going back to that, that was my first time going to an outside event, which was B-Boy Summit. And then from there somehow I kept traveling more and more and more. Of course what’s super dope is that my first introduction to Breakin was in New York City – even though I’m from New Jersey, the Tri-State area is all connected. Again, sneaking behind mom’s back I would sneak and go into New York City and go to the jams, go to the park cyphers, and find ways to go practice with anyone and everyone. You just start connecting with so many people when you’re in the scene you know?
How were competitions back then?
I would say they weren’t televised. So competitions were different. There are many different ways that competitions were different. First of all, they weren’t televised. So you had to be there and you had to witness. It was very raw. Moves were not to what it is in 2019. If you threw a move “1, 2” and you’re out of there. And it was dope and you got your props. But it was more so, when you’re battling, how are you going in and representing yourself and bringing all you got competing against the other person. Competitions weren’t everything. Back then it was a lot about cyphers. Competitions weren’t just as big as they are now. So it’s very different. I would say that the difference between then and now is more about the competition. And that seems to be the more serious thing now for the new generation that’s what’s more important.
Around this time, new ideas for battles were starting to happen
Yeah, it was like that. Crew battles, then they had 2v2’s, 3v3’s.
Were these new concepts being introduced?
What do you mean new? It just was what it was. I wouldn’t say it was a new concept. Does that make sense?
How could you say it is for you to be a woman in the scene?
How is it like to be a woman in the scene? I can only attest to my story because in speaking with other women, my story is certainly different. Personally I’ve never had a doubt to my situation or capabilities because I always felt like women and men are just equal. They were just freakin human beings man. We’re built differently but we’re all human beings right? And I always felt that way. There was nothing different about us. So for me, being a woman, I felt like there were no limitations you just had to work hard. You can only do what you’re able to do. But as long as you know you’re working hard at it and you’re going to freakin put it all in there, you can battle the best and still beat them. I think it’s really just a testament to hard work and how much you really really want something to put yourself out there and to work at it – if you’re really passionate about something just putting it all in and making it happen. So that’s been my story and along my journey I’ve had a lot of support and really good family, friends, and people that we all equally support each other in a positive way. My journey has been a good one as a woman, as a female.
Have you ever felt sexually harassed or have you been made felt uncomfortable?
No because I’ll punch somebody in the face if I ever got sexually harassed, that’s what would happen. Yeah. I’ll step to somebody if they try to sexually harass me but I don’t recall any incident where I felt like I wouldn’t defend myself. And again that’s my story because I won’t back down from somebody. So I can’t say I’ve felt, in the scene, really sexually harassed by anyone specifically. And if it did happen in my journey, I probably stepped to them…cause I got these guns! I’m strong man, I’m strong! I may not know to box but I wrestle somebody down.
What advice would you give to a woman entering the scene being made felt uncomfortable?
I feel that women should know that men are no different from you, you’re no different from them, and just be confident about yourself. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people that will never make you feel any less than what you really are. Again, I’ve always been surrounded by good people, good friendships, and people that were positive. I would say if you’re not around that kind of people, you have to find new friends. And do push-ups and sit-ups so you could be strong! In case you gotta get into a fight, then you can hold your own, at least you could go out with a fight even if you didn’t win but at least you could go down in a fight and at least you know that you got a good sock in someone’s face! That would be my advice.
And my other advice to girls getting in the scene, like I said, in all seriousness, be confident. I do think it’s important to be physically fit because whether you’re in Breaking or any other areas of your life, you don’t want to be a weakling. You do want to be physically fit and strong in case you’re put in any compromising situation – whether in Breaking or not, so you can defend yourself. If you are physically fit and you know that you’re confident in your mind that if anything were to go down, you would be able to defend yourself and that is facts in life. So that’s my advice: to be strong.
How do you feel about when people put more focus on B-Girl battles? Do you think they should be altogether as one?
I mean, I know that there’s people that have difference in opinions. Personally for me, I’m just not the kind of person that sweats things like that. If they have B-Girl battles, great. Then if someone wants to enter then great. It is fun also to watch B-Girls battle themselves – like females versus females. I’ve seen some enjoyable battles just females battling each other. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. There’s also battles where there’s 1 on 1 and females can join. To me, it’s just not a big deal, that’s just my opinion.
What do you look for as a Judge for competitions?
As a judge, for me personally, I want to see execution – is very important for me. Even if someone were to technically fall in a move, if you can somehow play it off that it turns out very smooth then you can still save yourself, unless it was a really bad crash. I look for just really good good energy. I would say really feeling the music. Foundation is very important to me because I also learned from Crazy Legs, which he always said foundation is very important for anything and you have to learn your ABCs before you can learn anything else right? So foundation to me is very important, incorporating footwork. I also like to see as a whole, execution with freezes, power moves, foundation. But all in all, execution is very important and making sure to incorporate good footwork because that’s still Breaking. You can do all these crazy power moves and tricks but you should always include footwork. That’s important.
Do you remember the first time you were asked to be a judge and how you felt?
I don’t remember the first time I was asked to be a judge. It probably was exciting because I can only imagine my AB-girl back then that if I was asked to be a judge I probably felt excited about it cause that means I was being recognized, that people valued my opinion. I probably was excited back then.
What are your favorite aspects about the dance, in general (the scene, community, sessions, battles)?
My favorite aspects are really really good good jams. Really good DJs, knowing how to work a jam, meaning working a party. That’s very important. Jams that are nonstop music playing versus just solely focused on competition, because again, where I came up of, from back then when I came up, the cypher aspect of a jam is very important. The jams these days that are solely focused on competition and then not remembering that people are not all entering competitions. You have to remember all those other people that are there to enjoy a jam. So for me, really good music and remembering that people are there just to dance and not necessarily compete is very important. Community of course. I love seeing…for example, at the Supreme Beings jam of recent and the Massive Monkees jams. When you have day to day things that you’re doing in your regular life outside of dance life, and then you’re going to a jam again and you see people you’ve known in the scene for many years, it’s like seeing an old friend again but it was like you just saw them yesterday. So that’s always very cool. You know? These are people you’ve probably traveled with and competed with in some areas of the world – years ago. But then when you see them: it’s like yesterday. And you could just share stories of journey together and like, you know, having kids, working a regular life, or the ups and downs, and this that the other. My husband of course, Elmo – Street Masters! – being with him has been an incredible journey for myself as well as us together combined because that’s partner in life and we have a very very good relationship. So being able to live break life with him is very special for us. I like that about being part of the scene and going to jams and enjoying that with my husband. Having my crew with me still, Domestic Apes family. Being able to vibe and practice with them outside of jams, and being part of jams, and just being able to cypher and get down in a cypher even if it’s just us. That’s very special. And again good music, of course shout out to the DJs, because without them, you know, there is no jam. And good competition. I’m not trying to saying competitions are bad, but it’s also good to see people that work very hard and they compete so well and just the level of Breaking, to see where it is right now is so awesome.
So you have so many years dancing with a wealth of knowledge and experiences, what will you and your peers do to keep the momentum going to help the youth seize the new opportunities?
Well, opportunities like this to be able to share my story, so thank you Soulo New York to share my story. You know there’s some people more meant to be able to mentor people and give their life to community and dance-life. That hasn’t been my journey cause my husband and I, we have our real estate business so that is our full-time job. There are other people out there like, shout out to my boy Paranoia and his girl G-I from NBK, and they give their lives to this dance like many others have as well.
Going back to that question again, for the youth, I would say just being present, sharing my story, and just being present at jams to show what it is to, in my style of even this day and age of dancing, which for me I love still to cypher and if I can remain healthy, I will still get down in a cypher when the youth is all seeing competitions but if they don’t know what the cypher etiquette looks like or the cypher culture looks like, I’m there to show that because they’re gonna see me in the cyphers with my peoples and so I would say recent, as a matter of fact, in the Bronx, the L PACK (Battle of the Boroughs). So we’re there, again, when you get older, you’re kind of in & out of the scene because you have responsibilities to take care of so you can’t live Break-life like you used to on a 24/7 right? So I went to this jam and these kids I’ve never seen before, they’re seeing us get down and all of a sudden I’m competing and this kid was like “Who are you?” and I’m like “I’m AB-Girl, nice to meet you.” So I think that was very cool because when they see someone out of nowhere and then they see them reppin’ hard and not just in a competition but really just getting down in the cypher, like really going hard and enjoying themselves and just feeling comfortable and having a good time. I think that’s very important because the generation now, not to say everybody is, but the generation now what they see is competition and it’s a lot about competition and that’s all that it’s all about. And what happens is the youth, when they lose in a competition, they’re really upset and the world is over when it doesn’t have to be like that. Competition ain’t shit. It’s just one aspect of our culture but it’s not everything. If you love this dance, you don’t’ have to just love the dance to compete, you can love the dance to share a conversation in a cypher with others that are at that jam and to me, that’s very special. So, I would say that’s what I’m gonna provide to the culture moving forward because, if my body will allow me, that is my area. My wheelhouse is just being able to rep in the cypher because competitions are so much bright lights, it’s hard to keep up with that.
Comment from your license plate (ABGIRL)
Sometimes I don’t want to keep explaining, I like to keep my professional career again I like to that life is so special intertwine everything people won’t understand it’s cold which I school I don’t want to learn it’s kind of an underground thing to me still. When they find out, a lot of people find it’s cool, I don’t want the world to know, it’s kinda like an underground thing to me still. Elmo had his too but he ended up changing it because you know, when you’re in our real estate business, you just can’t put that stuff out there like that.
Quick Fire Questions:
Oh God, I’ve been fortunate to live, I really did live a rockstar life in my life of Break-life, and thankfully, God has blessed me still to have good health. If I were to just go back in the history of time, it probably was in my youth where I learned from Crazy Legs and I couldn’t have been introduced by anyone better because, you know, he’s like wallpaper, not to say he’s old but he is like the foundation of Breaking amongst others who came up in that time, and because of him I was introduced to the industry and I was able to have a lot of opportunities. One time I got flown out to do a Wyclef event, from the Fugees, and we were part of this event in California where I had to go on top of this, I don’t even know what it was, but it was a high pedestal, kind of meant almost for bikers. It was high, really, really high and I didn’t even know what we’re supposed to be doing. I just know I was there to Break but we were put on this freaking huge platform that was high in the sky, on like, probably the size of this table in an arena and imagine you’re Breaking on a platform like this, like how many feet high in the sky!? So I guess that’s the first thing that comes to my mind, is like, something that happened back in my youth, so that was interesting. And of course, I would say, moving forward, just meeting my husband, Elmo. That was very, it was a blessing for me because I found a really good partner that we built our lives together. Not only in Break-life together, and we share that, which is very special for us. We also share the same friends, which fortunately, like we all, my best friends have become his best friends, so I’m grateful for that. And then we also started our business together as a real estate company and we’ve been able to build a very established business there too, so that’s something cool.
Any artists aside from Wyclef (Fugees)?
Yeah, this is where I have a really bad memory. But I’ve actually worked with a lot of different artists. I would say The Fugees. I did a couple music videos back in the days. This is where my memory is bad, so ex that out, forget the artists.
Pistachio ice cream, it’s really good.
I’ll go back to that, nothing really pops in my mind.
Interesting hobbies aside from Breaking
Cleaning my house. It’s really boring by the way.
I would say probably Spanish food. I love Spanish food.
You’re Filipina right?