Attempting to breakdance in Greenwich Park

Name: Erica Fernando

From: Welling, South East London

Job: Ambulance service support role

Lesson: Breakdancing, or ‘Bboying’

Ever since the days of face planting the sports hall floor at school discos, trying to do the worm, we’ve wished we knew how to breakdance. Fortunately, we met Erica Fernando at the Handmade Fair (where we’d taken a stall in the hope of meeting arts and crafters, but were pleasantly surprised by the variety of lessons we were offered) and she offered to show us where we were going wrong all those years ago.

Half expecting Erica’s offer to be too good to be true, we approached the Greenwich Park bandstand at sunrise on the first cold morning of autumn without too much expectation. Thankfully, amazingly, Erica was there! Smiling and waving, unfazed by the cold and beckoning us over. We started out by practising the ‘toprock’ – the step that links the big, how-the-hell-do-they-do-that, moves together. We managed to sync up after a few minutes, and felt like we were making progress, but that’s about where it ended.

The Teach Us team prepare to learn breakdancing in a bandstand in Greenwich park

Erica Fernando shows the Teach Us team some breakdancing moves

As soon as the moves got complicated (including Nick’s attempt at a headstand spin) we started to see just how tough breakdancing can be. It would clearly take a lot longer than a one hour lesson to master this skill, but it was exhilarating, enjoyable and the perfect way to start a day. Once Erica had taught us a small routine, and we’d messed it up way too many times, we asked our teacher why she loves breaking, how she got into it, and whether she’d consider teaching people like us again.

Erica Fernando showing the Teach Us team some breakdancing moves

How/why did you get into breaking?

I first started breaking about seven years ago one of my friends wanted to start dance classes. I said I’d go with her because no one else wanted to. We did salsa and flamenco and all the things she wanted to do, and on the list of classes was breakdancing. I really wanted to go and she didn’t at all, so I went by myself, loved it and just kept going.

Why do you like it?

I just love the feel of it. Once you get a move it’s got such flow to it, it just feels really nice. So, I like the feeling, I also like the social side of it. It’s a really nice community. I’ve met so many people through breaking, and that’s what makes me happy about it. I’ve got a great crew – we are in touch all the time and do lots of great stuff together.

Erica Fernando showing the Teach Us team some fancy footwork during our breakdancing lesson in Greenwich park

Do you have much teaching experience?

I’m still teaching. I’ve only really taught kids classes to be honest, but that’s only because adults don’t generally want to learn it as much as kids want to learn it.  And again, I’ve only taught to beginner level.

How long would it take to get to your level?

Breaking is hard, I’m not going to lie. It looks easy, until you come to do it and you don’t know where your arm should go or what leg to move. It messes with your head and the more you think about it, the worse it gets! It takes a while to get that kind of momentum in your body and find your balance, but once you’ve figured out what’s going where, it’s just about getting faster and learning to put things together.

Erica Fernando showing the Teach Us team how to do a head spin

I think if you practised regularly it would probably take a couple of years. I haven’t practised regularly, though. I was dancing around shift work, so I was doing maybe three weeks on two weeks off for years, and trying to find time in between. There are kids out there breaking who have been breaking for two years and are amazing, but they do it every single day after school, but I have other things to do with my life.

Have you ever competed?
I have taken part in one competition, but I’m not that bothered about competing to be honest. I just prefer the social side of it. I just like to go out and dance with my friends in clubs, and enjoy it.

Is there another skill you wish you had?

I’d love to be able to ice skate. My balance is rubbish and there are also no ice rinks near me, which are my main problems, but I think it looks amazing.

How were we as students?

You were pretty good! I was quite impressed. I’ve seen far less coordinated beginners so you did a really good job. You got everything, perhaps not particularly fast or cleanly, but you could do it all. Thankfully, you can learn coordination!

Nick of the Teach Us team attempts a handstand spin at our breakdancing lesson in Greenwich park

The Teach Us team learn to pop rock in their breakdancing lesson

Matthew of the Teach Us team stretches during our breakdancing lesson in Greenwich Park

What we learned

  • “B-boying” is how serious dancers refer to their sport
  • Toprocking is the foundation of the dance, and fundamental in linking bigger moves together
  • How to do a headstand (With your head flat on the floor, form a triangle by placing your hands about a foot behind you, fingers facing forwards. With the base secure, walk your feet towards your hands until you feel the weight shifting out of your feet, and slowly lift by engaging your core.)
  • Spinning headstands take longer than one lesson to master!
  • Greenwich Park bandstand is the perfect place for an early morning dance workout