Born in Barreiro, Belo Horizonte region, Itsa has been practicing breaking since she was 11 years old. Now 22, he won for the second consecutive time the National Breaking Championship, held on October 3rd.
During these eleven years of career, he joined the group Corpo, Cirque du Soleil and now, in November, he lands in Poland to represent Brazil in the World Finals of the dance competition.
Sport is a new Olympic sport and Brazil occupies a prominent place
Breaking emerged in the mid-1970s in the ghettos of New York and soon spread around the world. Dance is contemporary with other urban cultural manifestations such as hip hop and rap, and from 2024 onwards, it becomes part of the Olympic sports scene. Brazil occupies a prominent place in the international competition and our athletes, as happened with skateboarding in 2021, are a mirror for the world.
To talk about dance, the recently won award and tell about the gifts and challenges of the profession, the Brazil in fact talked to Itsa. In the interview, Itsa, who identifies himself as a non-binary person, states that in addition to art, he also brings reflections on society and the role that culture plays in our lives to the breaking stages.
Brasil de Fato – At just 22 years old, you already have two national breaking awards, an extensive curriculum and an 11-year career. Tell us how your relationship with breaking started?
I started dancing when I was 11 years old, after my cousin who was already dancing moved to the side of my house. He had an MDF board and he always put it in the backyard and danced. One day I decided to jump over the wall and ask him to teach me. And that’s when it all started.
He took me to the Lindeia Regina Cultural Center and also to a program called Escola Aberta. Since then I started dancing and never stopped. The Cultural Center was where I started to participate in dance battles and other breaking competitions. And then I didn’t stop anymore.
I participated in social projects such as Valor de Minas and the Corpo Cidadão social project. At the age of 17 I joined a dance company in Belo Horizonte where I stayed for nine months, then I taught at an integrated school for a year. That’s when I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil.
In addition to art, Itsa also brings reflections on society to the breaking stages
So I started working with Soleil in 2018 and this whole year I’ve been traveling and performing at various shows all over the world. Then, by chance, in 2019 (and I really like chance) I was on Cirque’s break. It was a very rare thing to happen, for us to come home between tours, and then I came back and there was the Red Bull regional qualifier here in Belo Horizonte.
I participated in the regional and won. I had another break right at Red Bull’s national final, which was in São Paulo. It was really by chance, because that was very rare. And then I participated in the national final. I had just recovered from an injury and danced with my foot bandaged. I think it’s important to say this, because it was only possible to dance because I had psychological and physiotherapy support from Cirque, after I was injured at a concert. This support ended up helping me to prepare for the final and I won the national final in 2019.
I’ve already suffered discrimination, a lot of discrimination. It’s sad.
And it was quite a surprise to represent Brazil in the world final in India. It was a very enriching experience.
In early 2020 I went back to touring with Cirque de Soleil and the pandemic hit. I traveled a lot, I didn’t stay at home for a week, I stayed at home again for a whole year. It was quite a feeling. And still had all the financial difficulties because the artistic sector was completely broken. So it was really hard. Thank God I have father, mother and sisters who helped me, who welcomed me.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the cultural sector has been one of the most affected by the worsening economic crisis. Added to this, the government’s negligence in providing support to the sector, with the extreme delay in enacting the Aldir Blanc Law. How do you see it?
It’s a shame because our country is so culturally enriched. It’s very difficult for us to watch this, without being able to act one way or another. Looks like the system is working so I can’t support myself and survive. And I have to keep running to a job there, another one here, and when I see it, it cuts the money from here, cuts it from there.
Look at the work that was the bureaucracy for us to be able to take Aldir Blanc. Look at the wait that had to happen. I see so many friends, so many people go through the same thing. It’s very painful for us. I’m a very patient person, but when this anger comes down, this indignation in my heart, then I really have to be an artist. Then we have to use a lot of this tool, to turn it into something good, because otherwise it will corrode me. This will break me down.
I dedicated the trophy to my grandparents that I lost to covid.
But even so, we can’t stop talking, we can’t stop talking about what’s wrong. It is wrong to cut the culture budget. Wrong. Look at the amount of effort and time it took the culture to get this passed. Look how much life the pandemic took from us. Look how much life art saved in the pandemic? He knows. And the same happened, for example, in education.
And that’s why we have to take a stand, because if we don’t take a stand, we will continue to be taken. They’re going to take a little piece here, a little piece there, like a miner eating around the edges.
It’s still sinking in. Look how chic, Brazil de Fato interviewing me?!
In this pandemic myself, in order to survive I worked in a supermarket, as an application delivery person, I worked on what I had. Although it’s very painful for me as an artist, one day it’s being applauded in a large theater for thousands of people and the next day I’m working in an area that has nothing to do with ours. This is very painful indeed. But we have this talent for adapting. It was very difficult for me. But I got over it. We have to look ahead and keep walking.
It’s a you won the national breaking championship in the female category and you are a non-binary person. And just like in other sports and cultural events, we still see a male predominance in these spaces. How do you see these challenges?
We need to learn, even if hard, that this space is for everyone. I can enter this dance circle, I can enter this championship, if I want to even enter as a judge, DJ, producer. He understands? Because we’re used to only seeing men in these positions of superiority. Generally straight and white men.
But yes that has to change. It has to end. The Paris Olympics is a hook for us to pull. She is putting this idea of being 50% male and 50% female. We have to pursue the maximum and not let it go, even though we have less benefits for women.
We need to put women and people from the LGBTQI+ community in these places. Now it’s your turn to scream, occupy and participate. I’ve already suffered discrimination, a lot of discrimination. It’s sad.
Breaking is already a visually speaking masculine dance. Sometimes the gestures are very sexist, objectifying the woman. Unfortunately, it is a heritage that we have from this entire culture, which we still carry. And the first step in solving this is realizing it. Am I in an environment where I am the only woman? Where am I the only non-binary person? Where am I the only black person? One minute. Why is it just me? Why isn’t there anyone like me here?
The second step is to question the people around you about it too. And then things change. Until a few years ago, a woman joining a dance circle was a very rare thing. And nowadays it’s getting more common. So we need to realize and question ourselves and others and encourage this idea that everyone has a right.
And there is another daily battle which is to understand that we have the right to be in these places. I questioned myself a lot when I was at Cirque because I was one of the only people who didn’t have college and most of the people around me were white and graduated from developed countries. And then I put myself in such a bad place right now, thinking, “Wow, I’m so unprepared. I don’t deserve to be here.” So until I understood, that I deserved it, it was a lot of struggle, a lot of suffering.
As that phrase from the Emicida says: “how many Emicides did not fall into the ditch for me to get here?”. Our country loses a lot in this regard, because we tend not to welcome people, not to dialogue and not understand people. We need to talk more, exchange more, understand how my experience is, how your experience is. Then we practice citizenship. Then we start to visualize a new scenario, a new society, which dialogues that grows together and evolves.
Going back to the competitions, how is all your preparation and this expectation for the world dispute and also for the Olympics?
I went to São Paulo with the face of someone who didn’t want anything. “I’ll see what happens”. And then, thanks to God, I received the ticket and accommodation, because I really couldn’t go. I dedicated the trophy to my grandparents that I lost to covid.
And so much has happened that we are forgetting the value we have, our mission, our dream and our aspirations. I always go to competitions with the idea of giving my best, enjoying myself in the healthiest, wisest and most positive way possible, respecting myself and taking care of myself.
And I pray so much to God that I will have memory throughout my years of life, so that I will always remember that day. It’s still sinking in. Look how chic, Brazil de Fato interviewing me?! I just have to thank you.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Arturo Hartmann and Elis Almeida