The Flying Steps are a European-based break dancing crew, consisting of more than 35 dancers. For their latest shows, they’ve decided to partner with Red Bull, announcing a U.S. national tour called The Red Bull Flying Bach tour. In order to bring something special to the American crowd, they have decided to provide a mixture of high class and urban culture. So, they’ve gone as far as dancing to an adaptation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s classical “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” We sat down with three of the Flying Steps’ dancers–Uwe, Benny, and Anna–to talk about their rise to stardom, and the break dancing culture. Read more below.
RESPECT.: How did you get into breakdancing?
Uwe: Well, it depends on the individual. When I saw it for the first time — for me, it was love at first sight pretty much. When I was in elementary school, I saw people in the upper classes dancing, and I got excited and tried to join them. I asked my sister, she brought me in, and that’s how I started dancing actually. That’s how I started B-boying.
Benny: Yeah, for me, I started in 1994. So, a really long time ago. Just saw it in a youth club, saw some women do headspins, and from that day forward, I just started doing it every day.
Anna: I think my first memory is with my brother. Because he was actually doing it a little bit for fun when he was a kid, and then he just put a helmet on me and put me upside down, and made me do a headspin. Then my mom came in and she started yelling “what are you doing?!!” It was funny.
But the first real connection was when I started to work with the Flying Steps in 2013.
RESPECT.: And ever since then it’s been more official?
Anna: I mean, I’m a contemporary dancer also. But now, I’m gaining new influences from them, too.
RESPECT.: How did you guys all come together?
Benny: The Flying Steps started in 1993. And since then, of course, many new people have joined. Now, we have a completely new team than before. We are all friends. Competing in different places, we get to know b-boys from all over the world. So, when we need a dancer we just ask them, “Hey, you wanna join us/work with us?”
Because now, everything is really on a professional level. And not every b-boy is used to working on a professional level. We have to see if they can learn and accept the few rules that exist.
RESPECT.: So, it’s almost like auditions?
Benny: Not really auditions. Because we do it in a more family way. Because in the beginning, the Flying Steps were a crew of friends. And then a few dancers — they stopped. So we took new dancers from younger generations, and we grew slowly. So we’re really like a family. And when everything started getting so big, we had the opportunity to create new shows, bigger shows.
RESPECT.: What type of music do you like breakdancing to the most?
Uwe: Depends. Like, funk music. I started with funk. Funk breaks. Then later on–for energy–some hip hop tracks. The real, like, Eric B and Rakim. Stuff like that.
But everybody has a different type of music that they like to listen to. Whatever motivates them the most.
Benny: I think so, yeah. Most of us — we dance to all kinds of music. Because some of us also produce music, so we’re interested in all different types. And of course, every dancer should, or could dance to every music style. But mostly, of course, we all started with the funk and breakbeats.
Me, specifically, I like to dance to hip hop music. Most of the time I practice to 90s hip hop music. But I like the new style of hip hop, too. So I’m open to everything.
RESPECT.: Is it easier to dance to 90s hip hop, more so than the new generation?
Benny: Like, the trap music?
Uwe, Benny, Anna: It’s different *in unison*
Benny: It’s different, exactly. Personally, I think the dance style has changed a lot. Because we now also practice with the top dancers; Hip hop dancers, house dancers, poppers and stuff. And they use more new music because it has a lot of accents, and you can take that music completely different. Compared to the 90s music — the 90s speed is very easy. It’s the same loop all the time. It’s more easy to dance to in a way. But it’s just a different style, so we also try to dance to hip hop and house music. We try to be open to everything and combine styles.
Anna: Yeah, I like to dance to everything, too, actually. But I especially like dancing to house music a lot.
RESPECT.: Who inspires you? Whether it’s another breakdancer or someone in a completely different industry.
Benny: Michael Jackson. For sure.
Uwe: For me it’s hard to name just one. Generally it’s everybody I meet. Everything that leaves an impression on me. Even if he or she has only been dancing for one year, everybody can inspire you if you are open to it. So, it’s hard to name just one and say “he was my inspiration or my idol, I wanted to be him.” Personally, I don’t have just one. It’s really every moment.
Benny: I think for us, or for me especially, it’s all the crew members. Because now we’re more than 35 dancers, and really to me they’re all so talented. In their style, and what they do, they’re the best. I’m a fan of everybody, you know? When I see them in the practice room, for me it’s the biggest inspiration every day. Most of them are really young, from 20 to 24 years old. They’re in their prime. Really strong, you know? They have the craziest skills. Since I am older, I still have to keep up with them.
But it’s cool, because you see the mentality of the young [dancers]. Even if you’re older, you have to keep this [young] spirit, so like that you will always be really, really strong.
Uwe: Can’t stop, won’t stop, that body rock! *laughs*
Anna: Yeah, for sure. It’s a mix of both for me. Like, since I’ve joined the crew also, it’s crazy how I’ve switched the way I think about dancing. In many aspects, even the way I’m thinking about life. Like Uwe said, I think travel is a very big inspiration in general. Being able to see so many different cultures and places in such short amount of time, it creates so many new perspectives.
Benny: When I started, I had my people that I looked up to. And today it’s still the same. I’ve always said that I still feel like a student, because the dancing world is so big. I’ve been b-boying for more than 20 years, and I’ve also done a lot of house dancing; And this world for me, it is so big.You have all the different styles within b-boying, you don’t have only the hip hop dancers. Like, you have the house dancers which is a world in and of itself, and then the poppers… And sometimes all the styles come together. And I like it all. Most of the dancers who inspire me now are at the top.The musicality and how they dance – the way they use the music is really on a different level.
RESPECT.: How would you like to inspire other people?
Benny: I think we’ve always inspired other people in a way. Because they see how we do it. We’ve always believed in ourselves, since we were kids. I mean, how many b-boys can have a good life by only doing b-boying? We just focus and try to give off good energy. Even if sometimes we face problems within the crew. It’s not always “everything is happy,” but still we try to teach the younger generation to be strong and always stay together as a team. Because as a team, we made it. And most of the teams I know, they all split up because everybody tried to make it by themselves. They wanted to make more money than the other crew member, have more fame, more girls…
So you really have to see your goal and work together. This is how we inspire people. Even after so many years, we are still the same crew.
Uwe: Living with the passion…
Benny: Yeah. Living with the passion, and doing it from the heart.
Uwe: I think that’s the most important thing. When you do it with passion and love, the others follow. They see it and they feel it.
Anna: Because then it’s honest. It’s not that you’re doing something just to show off. It’s because this is what you wanted to do.
Uwe: Honest feelings.
RESPECT.: Tell me about the tour and how has it been going so far?
Uwe: Especially touring through the U.S.A, the difference I felt when we did the first few shows was–because it came from here–the people, they know [the breakdancing culture] already. So whatever skills, or signature moves that you do on stage, people notice and react. Other countries, they would be waiting for the end of your solos to start applauding. But here, they go crazy during the solo. If they like it, they go crazy like, “Ohh shit, that’s fresh.” If they don’t, they’ll boo you. You know what I mean? They are honest. The entertainment factor here is so important. So yeah, it’s nice to dance in front of the U.S crowd. People in the U.S. grew up with this artform.
Anna: Yeah, Americans are very honest. Performing in front of them is also like a sharing thing. For example, if you are having a bad day, but you know that you’re going to go on stage and give something, and the crowd will give you something in return, it’s easier to focus your energy while onstage.
But I think it’s also cool to see cities that we’ve seen on television or in the movies, and you can see how it actually looks. Or if the people are as they’re portrayed.
Benny: Yeah, in general, just to see America and all the different places we wanted to see. Every city is different. Like, we just came from Denver earlier, and we realized–because most of us usually stay in L.A. or other bigger cities–the people in Denver were quite different. Really nice, lowkey…
Uwe: Very chill.
Benny: Yeah. It’s nice to see America from different states.
RESPECT.: What city has been your favorite so far?
Uwe: Chicago was also fresh.
Benny: Yeah, but L.A…. We’ve stayed there many times and we have a lot of friends there. So, we know the city, and we know the people. Plus the weather is amazing. The beaches…
Uwe: Yeah, a little bit more slow.
RESPECT.: You like slower cities? That’s interesting given that you guys are breakdancers.
Uwe: True. That’s also why. So we can balance it out. *laughs*
RESPECT.: You guys have won awards for your performances, how does it feel to be making such a large impact?
Benny: Yeah, it’s crazy. Of course, it’s our dream. It was always our dream to make something big. We just wanted to live by dancing. Only making money, and only doing what we love to do. This was the only thing we wanted to do. We worked hard for it, and everything came together perfectly. And also because of Red Bull and our partners, who have made it all possible. But at the same time, it’s hard to realize how big it is now. We are so focused on each step of the next project, the next show, the next city, the next country. Sometimes, you look back a little bit and you’re like, “Oh shit. Wow. It’s getting really good.” We have to use this opportunity to help our friends. Now we can bring more dancers into the crew. Even on the management side, we are surrounded by friends.
Uwe: Sometimes you need to calm down, kind of like take a break. Just to look at what happened the last month, or the last year. Then you’re like, “Oh shit, okay! This is what happened, this is what we saw.” You realize everything, and you can be appreciative even more. Like, “it’s happening now.”
Anna: Plus for me coming as a contemporary dancer, I think almost every show there’s a moment where I’m just looking at all of us onstage and I’m thinking , “Wow! How did it happen, the opportunity to work here, and share these good moments with these guys?” Like Benny said, it’s amazing to see how something that came from a family environment has grown into something that is so big now. It’s really amazing.
RESPECT.: Do you have a specific performance that has been your most memorable so far?
Uwe: Yeah… Some crazy stuff. *laughs* But it’s hard to name just one. Every location, every crowd is its own crowd so it’s just hard to say.
Anna: I remember this one show in New Zealand. In the last piece, there was a small boy, he didn’t want the show to be finished because he liked the music so much. So, he started dancing in the aisle during the last piece of the show. And I think to see that in a big theater, where normally you’re just sitting formally waiting for the show to end and to give an applause — to see that spontaneous moment mid-performance is an amazing feeling.
Benny: Once during a live TV show, the stage started falling apart. There’s so many stuff that has happened to the point where almost nothing is surprising anymore.
RESPECT.: So the stage was falling apart, and you guys still kept performing?
Benny: Yeah, of course. Always.
Uwe: Show must go on.
RESPECT.: This was in Europe?
Benny: Yeah, there’s been different times that this happened. Once it happened in Turkey, then it was in Germany.
Uwe: Jersey, Denver…
Benny: Oh yeah in Denver, too. The morning show. But that was easy.
Uwe: The premiere in Germany, also.
Anna: Yeah, even TV professionals mess up sometimes. Like, sometimes the music doesn’t even play, or it’s the wrong music…
Uwe: It’s good that we’ve learned to improvise. To freestyle…that way we don’t get stiff when there’s a mistake.
RESPECT.: Is there a difference between performing on a TV set and a larger stage?
Benny: Normally, no. It’s usually easy. But sometimes maybe we’ll get stuck in traffic and there won’t be time to improvise.
Uwe: Or the set is too small and you can’t do most of your moves.
Benny: And one time one guy was throwing up the whole ride because we were partying so crazy the night before… We have crazy stories about partying. Like, we lost people once somewhere. *laughing* These are like The Hangover stories.
Anna: Yeah we could make films from those stories.
Uwe: Yeah those would be big.
Benny: Nah I’m joking. In general we’ve been really lucky, that we were able to do all these shows. Now with so many years of experience, we really know how to fix everything. Even the other day, one of the performers broke their arm just a few hours ago before the performance… and he was one of the main dancers, so we had to change everything.
Uwe: Yeah, change the whole show. 70 minutes.
Benny: Yeah. We still changed it, though. Everything is possible.
Anna: Sometimes things happen on stage, as well. Someone can get injured as the show is going on, and you have to get certain dancers to replace them. Usually if it happens, we fix it naturally. We don’t panic on stage and it gets fixed. I think that happens when you have good communication with the other dancers. So it’s not like *tilting head* “umm, I go left, you go right.”
Uwe: Exactly. The crowd shouldn’t notice. One time it was also really nice — I think it was in San Francisco – a blind man came to the show. He just listened to the music, and he sat in the back of the crowd. When you hear that, it’s awesome to see the spectrum of people you can reach. Shows that we had before Flying Bach, we didn’t have have such a wide spectrum of people coming.
Benny: Like, old people, young people, the kids. Even grandfathers and grandmothers who come with their kids – everybody likes it. [Usually] if it’s only hip hop, only the hip hop crowd comes. If it’s only classical music, it’s only the older people who come. But if you combine the two, that draws a larger crowd. And also, the younger generation has started to get in touch with classical culture, which normally never happens. It’s really something special.
Uwe: Which kid from the streets would go to an opera house?
Anna: And also the opposite. The old people who used to see breakdancing as something that’s just from the streets. They can see that it’s actually an artform.
Uwe: Another time, the guy who was selling tickets at a venue since he was 17; He came to us with tears in his eyes, almost crying, saying, “Thank you for making it possible, that I see people from all different ages coming into this place.” He had been there for decades, but he’d never seen kids in the opera houses. So these moments are when you realize, “We’re really doing something.” It’s motivation to keep giving it 100 percent and keep giving off positive vibes.
RESPECT.: Is there anything you do before performing on stage, sort of like a ritual or something?
Benny: Yeah. We do one circle all together. We talk a little bit, just giving each other motivation. Getting hyped up together, to create more energy.
RESPECT.: Being from overseas, how do you guys view American hip hop culture, and how much influence do you think it has overseas?
Benny: I think it influences [Europe] a lot, of course. Because we all saw it start here in America. Especially here in New York, in The Bronx. It was our first inspiration. So I think America influenced Europe a lot. But of course, then Europe created their own style. We always try keep our own style, and create new things to take it to the next level. We have our own style I would say — the Flying Steps. However, today hip hop is worldwide. It’s everywhere. You can go to Korea, Japan, in Arabic countries or everywhere. So today, it’s the whole world inspiring each other. But America is the main place for hip hop culture.
RESPECT.: What comes next for the Flying Steps collective, after this tour?
Benny: We have many ideas for new shows. We want to create new shows. We have so many young dancers in the crew. We also talked about competing and coming back to the battles.
The thing is everybody’s ready, everybody wants to [compete], we really feel like a crew now. We really grew together, we’re ready for battles. But right now we don’t have the time. That’s the only problem. We’re always traveling. Sometimes, we have three or four teams doing shows in different continents. We are touring in America and there’s another team touring in Europe. We really want to come back to the battle scene, though. Then of course, it’s also our dream to get a show in Las Vegas, or here on Broadway.
Making our own movie.. not just appearing in a movie, we’ve done that before. We want to make our own movie, and be involved in the production.
Uwe: Be independent.
Benny: Yeah, exactly.
Uwe: Just a matter of time now…
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