Afghans battle challenges to prep for Olympic breakdance

By Baber Khan Sahel

Kabul, Feb 12 (efe-epa).- A group of young Afghan dancers is brushing up on their mills and headspins to practice breakdance listed as a new Olympic sport for the 2024 Games in Paris.

But they prefer to call the western originated athletic style of street dance with a less common term “breaking” to remove the expression “dance” as they brave social and security challenges and avoid enraging extremists in the predominantly conservative society of Afghanistan.

The enthusiastic dancers founded the first professional breakdance club in Afghanistan just four months ago.

The group has 40 members, including six girls, now.

All of them long to participate in the biggest sporting event in the world.

The International Olympic Committee approved the dance form, also known as “B-girling or B-boying,” for the Paris Games program in December last year.

Loud music blaring draws attention to a two-floor building in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in western Kabul where Islamic State militants have attacked gyms, mosques, and educational centers frequented by the Hazara minority.

On the second floor, a young man is performing headspins and the turns to do one handstand to the rhythm of breakbeats on vinyl flooring.

“It is called Breaking and is a heavy sport not a mere dance,” Tamim Sabiri, 25, told EFE after his performance.

Sabiri is of the founding members of the B-Boys in Afghanistan. They have not participated in any national or international championship because no foreign referee dares to visit Afghanistan due to security concerns.

The Afghanistan Olympic Committee has also not yet registered the sport.

He said they aimed to promote the dance genre to represent Afghanistan in the sport that originated in the 1970s in New York Bronx.

He said some youngsters have welcomed the sport and joined them.

But people were criticizing them and even threatening them for promoting it because Afghans mistake the sport with the dance form.

“When we put our videos on social media, nearly all visitors curse us and use abusive language against us, blaming us for promoting dance, they hate the name Breakdance,” Sabiri said.

“It is really painful when you see your own countryman threatening you. One even told us that he will carry out a suicide attack to finish us all,” he said

Sabiri sad some citizens “call us bazingar and raqasa (dancers),” referring to those who dance for money at wedding parties.

“We have to tell everyone that what we are performing is a heavy sport not a mere dance and we are athletes not dancers but who cares.”

For women, it is tougher to train that too with men.

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