RISING STAR: Robby Graham

Omagh bboy RawB is too raw for reality tv

Your stagename is RawB?

Well, my name is Robert, so all my friends call me Robby. My style as a bboy has been described as "raw" so it's a play on words: RawB.

Your biography describes you as a self-taught bboy. How did you get into breakdancing?

In 98 my friend Paul Martin studied in Belfast and was lucky enough to meet the Belfast City Breakers (BCB) who taught him some of the foundation moves. We started from that point, formed the Bad Taste Cru (BTC) and never looked back.

Did you always plan to make breakdancing into a career?

If I knew then what I know now I would have went about my career differently. There are some amazing dance schools in the UK, but I was convinced the only real career route was an academic university degree. In the end though that led me to study in Newcastle upon Tyne, which opened a lot of doors for me. I suppose in some ways I'm glad I never studied dance, sometimes when your passion becomes your living you lose the hunger and inspiration to improve. Dancing purely for the love can be different to dancing to earn a wage.

Are you a breakdancing purist or do you incorporate other styles of dance into your routine?

I was a purist for years. I think it was borne out of ignorance on my part since I wasn't aware of a lot of the amazing ways people could move. I also thought that dance styles like contemporary were too abstract, and others like ballet too formulaic. But at the end of the day bboying has taken inspiration from salsa, martial arts, capoeira, Lindy, and so on and the reason why it has developed so quickly as a style is partly due to that willingness to incorporate. Once we close off other styles we're limiting the potential of our own style.

Other than breakdancing what's your favourite form of dance and why?

Hmmm... I love the coolness of tap, the energy and lifts of lindyhop and the flow of contemporary. It really depends on the dancer I guess. I love watching someone who's not afraid to mix it up.

Breakdancing can be a very physically strenuous sport. Have you ever hurt yourself and was it hard to get back to dancing afterwards?

I injured my miniscus and cruciate ligament really badly about four years ago. I was a student, I couldn't afford physio and the NHS service was a joke. They wouldn't even give me crutches although I literally couldn't walk. I was out for 11 months in the end and I found out later a simple keyhole surgery procedure would have sorted it in two months. It was hard to get back into it; I had to work so hard just to get back to the level I had already been at. Quitting never even entered my mind though. I was just biding my time until my body was ready again.

Do you have any signature moves?

Bboying is all about originality. I have moves that I do that I know no one else does, although maybe not as many as I would like. It's hard sometimes, you'll see a move and a month later you have forgotten where you saw it and do it thinking you came up with it yourself. Then your cru mate will tell you what video it's from. There is a generic corpus of movement within bboying open to everyone. To steal a move is called biting. The line between them is subjective I guess.

In addition to your work with 2FacedDance you've represented the UK in a number of dancing competitions. What was it like going up against all those other dancers?

In a word, daunting. Our cru is quite grounded, sometimes maybe we're too grounded. We were at these international competitions thinking, "We're just a group of lads from Omagh" and we were up against these guys we aspired to as we were coming up. It can be a bit overwhelming, but the more you battle the easier it gets. And it's always the UK and Ireland that we represent, we make sure of that.

This is your first time dancing professionally in Northern Ireland isn't it? How does that feel?

I'm excited to come home and perform. My mum, sister, and nieces have only seen videos so it'll be pretty special for them to be watching. I'd love to come home to work in Ireland on a project at some point though.

Reality shows like Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent have been criticised for being damaging to the creativity of the musical industry. How do you feel about the similar reality dance shows that are on TV? Is it unfair competition for dancers who've been working to establish themselves or a great platform?

To each their own. It depends if you want to make it commercially or as a theatre company. If you are a commercial company it is great publicity and a definite way of generating interest in what you do. It can be damaging for theatre companies who want to be seen in a more artistic light. Personally I don't think some of the judges are qualified to comment. I'm a bboy yet I would be called a hip hop dancer on those shows. They are two separate styles.

If you were going to appear on a reality TV show (any reality TV show) which would it be and how do you think you'd end up leaving?

If I had to choose one it would be 'So You Think You Can Dance', purely because you learn from respected choreographers and receive feedback from people who are established within dance (for the most part). I would probably go out when it came to the more traditional choreography in styles like ballroom or something, as I haven't trained and my lines may not be as good. I'm working on it though.

Just too raw.

RawB and 2FacedDance will perform a gritty new work Still Breathing on 19 and 20 Feb at the new ‘Theatre at The Mill’ in Newtownabbey.