Powerhouse Breakdancer Neguin Is Using All His Creativity To Amplify Black Histories And Resilience

Marcelo Maragni

Fabiano Carvalho Lopes — better known as Neguin — is a breakdancing powerhouse. Born in Brazil, where music and dancing are the nation’s lifeblood, he first learned his signature moves on the streets of Paraná as a teen, and perfected them over the years through freestyle and social dance. Neguin started breaking (breakdancing) in 2003 and quickly hit his stride, wowing the dance scene with astounding moves that combined incredible speed, agility, and control.

To watch Neguin breaking is to watch rhythm come alive. It courses through his body as he executes backflips, spins, kicks, and breathtaking jumps with scary precision. He’s danced with a few crews including the Tsunami All Stars and Boogie Brats, and he competed in Red Bull’s BC One – the biggest one-on-one breaking competition in the world – emerging as the world champion in 2010. Since then, he has racked up a fair number of first place wins and titles — and was even named the US Champion at Red Bull Dance Your Style 2019.

Neguin exhibits a complete mastery of breaking, which, besides earning him international acclaim, has also garnered collaborations with musicians like Erykah Badu and Madonna, and performances in Cirque du Soleil’s 2016 SCALADA: Vision. And because his creativity extends beyond breaking, he’s also a DJ and a graffiti artist. 

His current focus is on amplifying Black histories and resiliency, beginning with his video “To Be.” It opens with Neguin treading through a wooded area and the camera then switches perspective as he begins breaking. Spoken word, narrated by Himyo Green, plays over the video. It is a beautiful composition of sound, message, and music. For most of the video, the camera focuses on Neguin; however, this is an inclusive project, and in one scene, dancer Juliana Kis enters and they embrace forearms to begin a choreographed routine. In a video that highlights Black lives, the presence of a white dancer is bound to raise eyebrows. Neguin does not shy away from the necessity of inclusivity, acknowledging, “What this is, we’re united. Me as a Black person being the force and the creator of the content, and she is there to help uplift this as a whole.”

Neguin and I spoke over Zoom about his hip-hop influences, his new video, and dance as activism. Read our conversation below and watch “To Be” (created by Neguin and directed by Victor Ribeiro) below.

Your dancing combines capoeira, martial arts, and hip hop. What else do you incorporate in your performances?

My background is in capoeira. I started capoeira when I was three years old. It took me ten years practicing to get into breaking and hip-hop culture. So then I started playing capoeira with breaking, and I became very recognized for that kind of style. Throughout the years, I’ve been traveling and getting so many different art forms and putting them into my own style. I also break Brazilian jiu-jitsu. You’ll see me doing many things. My style is like a melting pot of cultures coming together.

And so much of what you do is also about showing joy and power. How do you strike a balance with both of those in your performances?

What I do, what we [B-boys] do is very athletic. We know it’s hard, but we’re going to make this look easy. We take the complex and make it beautiful. So I think the complexity and the beauty comes together and makes beautiful art.

Are you able to do anything during quarantine right now or are you just relaxing?

I’m very limited, but, you know, I’m still active. Besides teaching online, I go outside, to nature and do training. I keep my body strong. I just keep active for my mind, my body, my spirit, and to be positive about it.

Let’s talk about your activism and your dancing. At what point did you decide to incorporate elements of activism in breakdancing?

Since I was born. In capoeira, we’re the warriors of this art form where, like a Buddha teaches you how to be educated, it teaches us about our Afro-Brazilian heritage. So that itself is like a revolution. It’s something like, ‘Hey, you got to fight the issues that are happening in society.’ And how do you do that? Through art. 

I grew up in the environment of understanding how my art can be something powerful to fight against racism, to bring awareness to people, and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As far as I can remember, I always had the same perspective. And especially being a Black person, it’s in my roots to always understand that my peers and heroes did this for a long time too. So I’m just continuing with that legacy. 

You posted a video a while back — a clip from Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” video. You were doing a side-by-side with the dancers in the video. Were you working on a routine or were you just paying homage to them?

You now, Public Enemy didn’t have backup dancers, but they had their soldiers. Based off their choreography, it’s pretty much saying this is like a discipline, something we come together and make. Something that’s synchronized, which means we’re all on the same page. We’re all in this too, defending our culture. So that was always a reference for myself. So, I watched the video clips and I took the choreography and I just incorporated my dance styles. 

I performed [the choreography] in London, and then I looked at the [Public Enemy’s music] video clip, and it was exactly the timing in the choreography. So I put them together and I shared it. People were like, ‘What is that? I’m confused right now because the video clip is from 1989 and Neguin’s doing this in 2016.’ So that’s a way to bring it back and say, ‘Look, I have history. Those are my people. Those are the people that inspired me.’ I’m inspired by a lot of different artists in a lot of different generations, but especially Public Enemy and conscious hip-hop culture. 

Chuck D reposted your video, which is a huge statement in itself, to be acknowledged by someone who’s been so integral to the community.

Yeah, absolutely. [Public Enemy] has been doing this for a long time. And I’m the so-called new generation or middle school. I’m in contact with Chuck D and Professor Griff, all of them. They’re my teachers. I’m lucky enough to gather knowledge from them and try to pass it on to the next generation as well.

Let’s talk about your video “To Be.” It focuses on Black lives and the importance of our stories. It’s an anthem about freedom and pushing through oppression. What inspired you to make that video?

I think it was the moment when I was like, ‘Wow, besides coronavirus, we’re still dealing with this BS.’ And I was like, ‘I need to create something visual where people can relate to it.’ So that’s why it’s in nature and that relates also to climate change. So I pretty much wrote half of the spoken word and I wanted to focus on the piece. I decided to find someone else to do the voice and then create the rest of the spoken word. So that’s when Himyo came in and created the beautiful speech. It was a collective approach. 

There’s this line that Himyo says. It’s ‘To be born with a skin that they make me feel is a sin stifles my mind, so I just be.’ It reminded me of the opening soliloquy in Hamlet. Was that intentional?

That was a point of reference as well for us because before creating the video I had an idea to create something like Hamlet. I thought it was going to be a good reference for us to make more of an impact.

It hints at police brutality and in the context of what’s going on now, here in America, it evoked images of George Floyd for me. But it was referencing oppression and violence overall, correct?

Oppression and violence overall because that’s happening right here, right now as we speak somewhere in the country. There in America, here in Brazil, anywhere in Guatemala. It’s just like a wake up call for all of us. This shit is still happening. So, what can we do? Everybody’s doing individually the best they can, you know, like trying to bring awareness to everybody. It’s very positive that everybody’s trying to make a difference. [The video] was more of a message like, ‘Hey, we’re all part of this. So let’s do something about it.’ 

Do you plan on making more videos?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m just like writing things down now and collecting the ideas. Let’s see what happens in the future. I’m just gathering information. So I’m sure when the time comes, I will try to deliver new content for sure.

You’ve talked about being inspired and motivated by the things around you. Are you motivated by any of the specific protests going on here or there?

I take pieces, but I don’t gravitate too much towards that because then it’s just ‘too set.’ And you can’t digest so much sadness and negativity. For me, I stay positive no matter what. If there’s something here that we have to face and deal with, I take it as, ‘Okay, what can I do to make a change? What can I, just an individual, do to make a difference?’ If I can inspire one person, that’s enough for me. So, it starts with me. I try to gather information on what’s happening in so many different subjects, and I try to do my part, basically. I’m going to use my art as my voice. I try to use that as my tool wherever I go.

Keep up with Neguin on Instagram.

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