Devante Daniel Powell, aka Bboy Tahu, has been representing Charleston all over the world as a competitive performance artist for the last 12 years. During this time Powell grew into a prominent member of the locally based Dancing on Air (DOA) collective, a group that consistently pushes the boundaries of hip-hop expression through movement. 

Bboy Tahu busts moves in Marion Square that may take him and his crew to the Olympics | Provided

“While a lot of people call the acrobatic and expressive movement breakdancing, the practitioners of the dance actually refer to it as breakin’,” Powell told the City Paper

Other Dancing on Air members include Cody Soles, Delma, Ran-Z, J-wall, Aero, Sinobi the funkchild, Adrian and Willy the Hiphop drummer. And, all of the participants are Lowcountry residents who are closely connected to each other, according to Powell. Dancing on Air draws influence and knowledge from Charleston‘s first breaking crew, Hypnotic Body Rock.

“A few of my friends and I, along with my brothers, started our crew DOA in 2010 in the neighborhood called Carnes Crossing in Goose Creek,” Powell said. “The beautiful thing about that is that we all knew each other years before we started dancing so the bond I share with them is something truly special. These have all become my brothers over the last 12 years, and, together, we’ve been on a mission to show the world what Carolina breakin’ is all about.”

It turns out that the world has indeed been watching as Powell and others of his generation have deftly revitalized what many wrongly assumed was a lost art. Remarkably, it has been announced that this urban-street-dance style will make its official debut in the 2024 Olympic Games. That’s a huge breakthrough for a subset of dance that has been steadily, if not exactly quietly, regaining momentum for decades.

“It’s funny that breakin’ is becoming super popular again, as if it had gone somewhere and people had not seen it in a while,” Powell said. “But the weird thing is that it never left. It just went underground and slowly, throughout the years, it was building its way back up into the limelight.”

Still, Powell marveled at the staying power of the whole scene. “To see something that started in the Bronx of New York in 1978 by teenagers on cardboard making its way to the Olympic stage is nothing short of inspiring,” he said. “There are already Bboys that are being sponsored by major corporations such as Nike, Vans, Monster Energy and even Red Bull. So, who knows what the next level will be after it touches the Olympic stage.”

That said, Powell hopes that none of the bigger ideals that are part and parcel of the practice get lost in translation along the way. 

“Breakin’ is definitely more than just cool spins and tricks. It’s about living in the moment, truly being one with the music and representing hip-hop to the fullest,” Powell said. “Out of all of the four elements [of hip-hop], it’s my personal favorite, the other three elements being MCing, DJing and graffiti painting. All of the elements, however, share the core values of hip-hop which are rooted in peace, unity and having fun. So, although the head spins and other big moves are really cool, I hope that hip-hop overall is represented well at the Olympic Games.”

In preparation for the 2024 games, Powell has been doing his part to stoke the flames. And thanks to him, on Saturday, July 23, a number of Olympic hopefuls from the East Coast as well as a few rising stars from the Midwest will gather in the Holy City. The general idea is to battle it out for prize money, bragging rights and to “see who reigns supreme” at this art.

This special multimedia show, The Elements, will go down at the Charleston Pour House from 4 p.m. until closing. Breaking acts will go back-and-forth from the deck stage to the main stage with featured music performances by MIKE L!VE, C. Shreve the Professor, SK, the Novelist and Cypher University — plus a one-on-one breaking battle with a $500 grand prize, Graffiti by Illtac and a Scratch DJ Showcase.

“The fact that we are able to throw an event like this in Charleston is a dream come true,” Powell said. “I can’t wait for the people in our city to see what we see every time we go out of town to represent, and for them to see the level that the dancers in their own backyard are at. Ultimately, I’m also hoping that this event will spark more interest in breakin’ in Charleston so that we can expand our community and keep the fire burning strong.

“At this point in my career I’m only as good as my last event,” Powell said. “I’m always learning and I’m always a student. I’m so thankful for my crew for keeping me grounded and always believing in me on this journey of mine.”

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