As Israel’s bombing campaign resumed on Tuesday, I met one of the founders of Camp Breakerz, Gaza’s first breakdancing crew. Nicknamed Shark, Ahmed Alghraiz, 25, is one of Gaza’s original generation of breakdancers. Unable to meet in his dance space because his family members were using it as a shelter, we met in an outdoor cafe in central Gaza City. Explosions from Israeli airstrikes boomed in the distance as we sipped coffee and Alghraiz described life and breakdancing under siege.
“We perform our issues in our breakdance shows. We mix our situation and our dancing. In the whole world, there is no crew that has the same thing.
Unable to travel out of Gaza because of the Israeli siege, Alghraiz lamented the impossibility of improvement of their skills by competing against foreign breakdancers. The siege has limited their ability to learn new moves and share their original work, forcing them to rely on Youtube videos to hone their skills. “Everyday I say that I need new breakdancers to battle with,” Alghraiz said. “When I battle with my guys, I know how to win. It’s the same thing. I wish we could go outside of the Gaza Strip to have more battles.”
Alghraiz contacted Red Bull, who holds an annual major international breakdancing competition called Red Bull BC One, to inquire about a holding a competition in Gaza. He claims Red Bull told him, “Go to Israel.”
“They think it’s easy to go to Israel,” Alghraiz explained. “[Even if I can], I won’t go there. I have my place and my country. Even if I were the strongest one there, the judges wouldn’t let me win.”
Under the siege, Alghraiz is unable to order music equipment or receive mail. Camp Breakerz crew member Aboud Bsaiso told me he was forced to build his own guitar, but could not even find the parts to complete. “I just want to go out to the world so you can see our situation through our shows,” Alghraiz said.
For Gaza’s breakdancers, dancing is a form of resistance and a unique means of narrating their oppression. “We made a show about how dancing breaks the siege. We made a wall out of paper and broke it,” Alghraiz said.