The Halifax Busker Festival returns to the city’s waterfront from July 31 through August 5 with six days of dance, comedy, music, hula hoops, chainsaws, and more.
Among the fifteen acts from around the world for the 33rd edition of this Halifax summer tradition is the return of the Montreal-based Break City All Stars.
Named the people’s choice at last year’s festival, the five member breaking crew is excited to be back performing on the East Coast.
“We’ve competed in a lot of different competitions throughout the year, but that award meant the most to us because it was the voice of the people that chose us, which is really who we’re doing it for,” says crew member Erin Leblanc by phone from the Break City’s studio in Montreal.
A Nova Scotia native hailing from Yarmouth, Leblanc has been a part of the company for seven years. Originally leaving her hometown for Montreal eight years ago to pursue a career in dance, it would be a year later before she landed the gig at the Break City Dance Program. Starting out as student, she eventually moved into teaching. It would be in finding a second home with the hip hop school that has kept her there.
“I found that a lot of studios I’ve been with have a very competitive environment, whereas Break City is much more of a family,” she says. “For me that was very important, because I left my family when I moved here, and I was able to create this whole new family here in Montreal. It is not only an additional family for myself but for a lot of youth here too, which I think is a really beautiful thing.”
But while performances at such events as the Halifax Busker Festival may be a big part of what Break City does, it is as a dance school where it is having its biggest impact.
Founded ten years ago by award-winning breaker Chris Eagleton, Break City began life as a very small program for a handful of students, to an organization now that sees upwards of 350 students walk through the doors of what has become two locations in the Montreal area.
“Every year it kind of just grew,” says Eagleton. “We had to accommodate more teachers, and a bigger space. Eventually we knew we had to get a dance studio. It definitely was very organic.”
Operating without government grants or other external funding, Break City still manages to provide free classes to students who might not otherwise be able to participate. It all fits within its vision of providing a positive space for youth to express themselves and find confidence.
“We’re hoping to eventually apply for a grant so we can do what we’re already doing, but at a bigger scale, and also continue to offer free events for the public and expose the kids to what we can offer,” says Eagleton.
“It gives them a place where they can come hang out with their friends and not worry about their home or family situation here,” adds Leblanc.
As Eagleton continues to look to the future with his Montreal dance school though, he and his crew have more immediate priorities in mind, as they prepare for their return to the Halifax Busker Festival.
“We’re taking last year’s show as a template, and just making every part bigger and better,” says Dave Mitch, another of Break City’s teaching staff and part of the crew returning to the festival.
“It’s the same structure, but with more laughs, more entertainment, higher-level tricks, and more crowd interaction,” adds Leblanc.
The 33rd annual Halifax Busker Festival takes place on the Halifax waterfront from July 31 through August 5. Visit buskers.ca for more information. While all performances are free, don’t forget to tip your performers.