Written by Kimberly Manzanares
As a student, I have been interviewing people for different projects for a little over seven years. I think it’s one of the most important tasks of our generation. I believe in the power of the spoken word and when joined with the power of the pen, I believe that these histories are un-fucking-stoppable. I have a personal stake in these histories because these kinds of stories rarely make it into books or movies. Now that I am [almost] finished with the formalities of academia, I am very excited to take on this project. One of my passions is repping where I come from, so you know I had to focus on Chicago-based artists. This is part one a project on the four elements of Hip Hop, as practiced by four phenomenal Latina artists of Chicago.
On the day I interviewed Vital, I took a long ass train ride and bus. My trip was over an hour and the interview was just over ten minutes.—but it is arguably one of the dopest moments of my interviewing career. Vital is a B-girl from Sour Apples Crew. I’d like to thank Jam One personally for connecting me with this woman. She’s not only talented but also an extremely lively spirit (hence the name).
So, thank you for taking the time to do the interview with me. I have a couple of questions about you. How did you first start break dancing?
Well I was 17 years old, and it was in the summertime. My boyfriend at the time and we always used to go to his cousin’s house. We called it the G-spot, because that’s where all of us went to just chill and hang out, and I seen them. My boyfriend at the time, he started getting into it. I was always just like a spectator—I’d just sit in the back and just watch them. I was always so passionate to learn because—I’ve always been like a tomboy. I’ve always loved playing sports, I just loved activities. So when I see them, I was like, ‘that is so, so cool. I want to learn.’ But the thing was, I was just so intimidated to ask because I just started to meet and getting to know his cousins, friends—and I was the only girl, you know? So that was the main thing—I was just really intimidated to ask. So then one day I was like, ‘you know what? Screw it. If I want to do this, if I want to learn, I got to ask someone. So I finally asked them, and they were really down. They took me under their wing and taught me the ins and outs of breaking. I’m 24 now, so it’s been seven years.
What crew are you a part of?
I’m part of Sour Apples Crew. We’ve been established since 2004 I believe, but I’ve been with them since 2008. I started out as the first B-girl, but then two years later, we had another B-girl join the crew.
How did you start out with them?
Because of my boyfriend at the time—we’re all like family, so I just was hanging out with them like all the time, just putting in my work with practicing and going to battles, or just showing up and watching—basically just putting in work. That’s how I got down with the crew. Then they nominated me, like, ‘Oh you’re getting dope. We think you’d be a good aspect of our family, of our crew.’
What kind of battles or competitions have you been a part of?
I’d say for me, personally, mainly one-on-ones and two-on-twos. I’ve only done like two crew battles, but I’ve done one out of state two-on-two b-girl battle with my friend Felicia, who is a Chicago B-girl, and I’ve done a couple one-on-one solo B-girl battles and then just one-on-one solos.
How do you prepare for those?
Honestly the way I practice is like—I got to know the jam in advance, and I got to run my sets probably 3 or 4 weeks prior, but usually it’s like three weeks, so I usually just practice my sets I’m going to do for the battles—that’s how I prepare myself. I mean, mentally, I feel like I don’t have an issue because I’ve never had that issue of being scared to go out there for jams, because I feel like, for battles especially—what are you battling for? You’re going to go out there and show what you’ve got.
What does your family and friends say, or think about your breakdancing?
They really support it. At first my parents were like, “are you sure you want to keep doing this? You’re going to get older; your body is not going to be the same. You got to start focusing on what’s—careerwise—on what’s going to be good for you.” But over the years, as they’ve seen how passionate I’ve been about it and how I’ve traveled for it here and there for out-of-state jams, they really support it. They’re very supportive I’d say. They love it.
What is it like being a woman break dancer?
For me personally, it is a challenge because 1. You’re female, and it’s a real male-dominated dance, you know? So for me it’s like—one of my pet peeves is B-boys trying to come at you just to holler at you, not really trying to help you out, you know? And I see that a lot with other B-girls in the scene, or just like out-of-state jams. Yeah, some of them are there to help you out but others are there to try to get something more out of it, you know? So that’s how I feel the B-girl scene is. As far as Chicago, I think our B-girl scene is really, really dope because I feel like a lot of us are very underground, but a lot of us have a lot of talent. Going to other state jams, a lot of B-girls get blown up and they’re not even all that. Here, in Chicago, there are three B-girls that are really on it and they’re not getting any fame because they’re just very underground. So, that’s how I feel about the B-girl scene.
What in particular do you think is so special about Chicago’s scene?
I’d say blow-ups. That’s what we’re really known as, definitely. Going to different states, I notice that—like New York really focuses on foundation a lot, and then when I go to Minnesota, they’re just all about style. But going to Chicago, everyone’s trying to do the hard moves, the hard power—all that stuff. And attitude. I feel like we’re known for having a strong attitude, like a hard attitude you know?
How did you get your nickname Vital?
Originally, when I first started getting into the Hip Hop scene, I was Classic. Then I went to this Producer battle and this Producer was name Classic—and he was dope. So I was like, ‘oh I got to change my name now. I can’t just be somebody else.’ I chose Vital because the second definition of Vital is energy of life, and that’s what I’m all about. I’m all about energy you know? But what my crew calls me—they call me Little Vittles because I’m petite and it rhymes.
As a woman, what is the most challenging move?
Definitely power, just because our lower bodies are a lot heavier compared to guys. And guys have that automatic strength, and are lighter from the waist down. Definitely power is the most challenging.
Are there any Latina B-girls that you look up to?
Yes. When I first started—she’s from Spain, her name is B-girl Jess. She’s pretty underground, but she’s got such clean power, and her freezes are strong. She’s a very well-rounded B-girl, and that’s what I look up to because that’s what I want to be—I want to be a well-rounded B-girl. There’s different types. There’s a style where they use a lot of footwork, a lot of dancing; there’s powerheads that do nothing but like windmills, high-spins, things like that. But being well rounded, I feel like you can take on anyone, because you’ve got the style, you got the foundation, you got the power. I think that’s one of the most important things when I’m practicing—trying to be well rounded. My friend, B-girl Felicia—she’s not B-girling anymore, but she was the only Chicago B-girl I truly looked up to, because she put in work—a lot of work. She’s not living here anymore, but when she was, she was the top B-girl in Chicago, and I really look up to that because I wanted to be up there with her, too. She really motivated me to push myself to get better.
Do you find, in the B-girl Chicago community, are people generally cool with one another, or is there competition?
I’ll be honest—as far as the girls, I do feel like there’s no bonding. I feel like because we’re girls, we’re like, ‘oh, alright, you’re the other girl that does it.’ There are some B-girls in Chicago who are friends and stuff, but I don’t feel like we’re close like that. It’s like, ‘oh you’re the other one. I got to one-up her’ you know? Personally that’s how I feel and that’s how I see other B-girls in the community of Chicago.
What do you think of that?
Honestly I kind of like that because it really pushes you to be the best B-girl in Chicago, or just be the best B-girl in general. Don’t get me wrong—I believe in friendship and all that stuff, but at the same time, when you’re at a battle, you got to let them know what you got and what you’re repping of course.
Where do you see yourself in the future with break dancing?
In the future I definitely see myself having a successful career, but as far as the B-girling world, I really want to go out to Europe and do at least one B-girl competition out there. So I see myself in five years traveling a lot for B-boy and B-girl competitions.
So it’s huge in Europe?
If anything the girls out there are way better.
Why do you think that?
Personally I think their diets are a lot better, I think they have more time to do it and their crews out there are ten times—I mean, no offense to USA crews, we got dope crews—but they got sick crews. They have a lot of dope people to help them out, so that’s the main reason why I think they’re better than us.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I just want to give a shout-out to Sour Apples Crew and my boy Jam-1 for giving me this opportunity to meet with you and to Watcha Magazine.
For sure. Thank you so much for the opportunity!
Check out Vital:
(At about 1:30)
1vs1 bgirl battle in Madison:
Breakin’ The Law: Elev8tion 4-22-11 1v1 Battle:
Photos by: www.JAM1PHOTO.com