INDIANAPOLIS — Coming off of significant victories at the Red Bull BC One and the Breaking For Gold USA breakdance competitions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carmarry Hall, known by her b-girl name as Pep-C, is hard at work to certify her spot on Team USA at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France — the sport's Olympic debut.
"You're competing against the best to see where you rank amongst the elite breakers," Hall told WRTV. "It's really exciting."
After the International Olympic Committee announced in December 2020 to include breakdancing as a new sport in the 2024 Summer Olympics, Hall decided to ramp up her training.
The decision to become an Olympic hopeful wasn't one made lighting, as Hall describes. She says that the breaking community was initially nervous and skeptical of becoming an Olympic sport.
"Because it's so dear to us culturally, and we didn't want that to be whitewashed. Like, we didn't want that to be watered down — the cultural aspect of it," Hall said, explaining breakers', also known as b-girls or b-boys, fears of going more mainstream.
"But if we stay engaged, then, you know, that won't happen," she continued. "It depends on us."
What is breaking?
Hall has always been a dancer, for as long as she and her family can remember. However, the Muncie native didn't start breaking until she entered Columbia College in Chicago. One of Hall's dance instructors told her about a breaking jam he thought she should enter. She says she really only entered after finding out there was a cash prize.
"Because I was a college kid, I didn't have much of that," Hall said, laughing.
It wasn't until Hall learned the history and heritage of breakdancing, she said, that she became more passionate about the style.
"Once I started to learn how to break, and I learned the history of breaking and where it was from and the heritage of who it came from, I started to feel like maybe I should value this thing a little bit more than what I initially thought," Hall said.
Breaking, or breakdancing, originated in the Black and Latino communities of the Bronx in New York City in the 1970s, when hip-hop culture began to form. Breakdancing has grown in significant popularity throughout the last couple of decades, with the dance being performed and competed in hip hop circles worldwide.
The freestyle dance traditionally has no rules and encompasses a battle format. The dance consists of four essential elements: top rocks, the standard, standing part of the dance; footwork, which is the floor work of the dance; freeze, which are poses; and power moves, which are the acrobatic moves in the dance.
"I like power moves—it gives me the chance to show that I'm strong," Hall said. "That's the part that hooked me to breaking, is learning those moves that you have to be stronger at. And it just gives me, as a woman, it gives me a sense of strength."
After learning about the history of breakdancing in school, Hall discovered her dad used to breakdance in the 80s. Hall says her grandmother told her that when she was a toddler, she always wanted to learn how to spin on her head.
"So, I guess this is full circle," Hall said. "It's an all-American dance."
Pep-C's journey to becoming a breakin' Olympian
Hall came up with her b-girl name, Pep-C, based on two things: Galvanizing energy "Pep," and the first letter of her first name "C."
"I like to get people's energy to like kind of bubble up through dance," Hall said.
She became obsessed with growing her breaking skill set through college. She said it was the process of progression that hooked her to the dance.
"The thing about breaking is it's so expansive," Hall said. "Once you start, it can be kind of addicting to like get the understanding of the dance."
Because Hall's foray into the world of breakdancing started with some of the bigger competitions out there, Hall quickly advanced in the breaking world over the years.
The 26-year-old has competed in Red Bull BC One three times and has advanced to the first round of nationals each time. She's won several breaking jams and cyphers around the world, including the 2019 Red Bull BC One Philadelphia Cypher, the 2019 B-Girl Bonnie & Clyde, and the 2020 Break Free Day.
Over the course of the last couple of years since learning of breakdancing's 2024 Olympic debut, Hall says she's been really hitting her training hard.
"When I decided to commit to the journey of being a 2024 Olympic hopeful, I didn't know if I was ready. And so there was a lot of preparation," Hall said. "My mind was just like, 'OK, we just need to train. You need to get ready. Like, I need to represent. I gotta represent us,' you know?"
Preparing for her chance to be on Team USA for breaking has required a lot of mental strength training, Hall said. She says she still has to go to work, as the sponsorships don't just roll in, so keeping a strong mindset is key to training.
"A typical day will look like, I get up around 6 in the morning. And then I'll do my first-morning practice and then my mobility training. And my morning practice usually lasts for about two hours. And then I do some work. And then I'll do my evening practice, which usually starts around 3 or 4, at the latest, it will start at like 7," Hall said, explaining her daily routine. "Then I'll come home, and you know, I'll eat dinner, and I'll do it all again."
Hall says the biggest part of being mentally healthy to take on a challenge like this is understanding the challenge of getting recognized as an Olympic hopeful and equally realizing "nothing is certain."
"Nothing is guaranteed," Hall said. "I'm lucky, though, that I have a really good support system. And everybody understands the possibilities that can come from everything I'm doing."
There are several ways to secure one of four spots on Team USA in the 2024 Olympics. One way is the International Olympic Committee can nominate breakers who have done well in several international competitions that are Olympic-sanctioned events, such as Red Bull BC One, the USA National Finals, or Breaking For Gold. Another is winning the Breaking for Gold Nationals, at which point a breaker can guarantee themselves a spot on the team.
Push for the Sport Capital's support
Hall's hope is the city of Indianapolis, the sports capital of the country, not only gets behind her mission to be a breaking Olympian, but also gets behind programming for the sport of breakdancing in general.
"I feel like it (breakdancing) would be a good investment for Indianapolis as far as our legacy in sports," Hall said. "It blends art, culture, and sports together."
A graduate of Broad Ripple High School, Hall says its through dancing, and particularly breakdancing, she's been allowed to see how wide and diverse the world really is. Plus, she's been able to see how the culture of breaking tightens the community.
"As far as creating solidarity in the Indianapolis community...it can bring a lot of people together because it's done that and it's been doing that," Hall said.
She says Red Bull BC One is a good example of how many people from around the world come together in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles to compete in the competition every year.
"It's opened my mind to so many things," Hall said of what breaking can do for a community. "My idea about race and culture was very narrow (before breakdancing). And it was very black and white. And once I started breaking it kind of like—that idea was gone."
Outside of becoming a breakdancing Olympian, Hall's goal is to grow the breaking scene in Indianapolis and garner support from local sports leaders.
"I don't want to be the last Hoosier to go to the Olympics or to participate in Red Bull BC One. I want to see more participation from Indianapolis," Hall said.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.