Featured Stories

Forest Groves breakdance troupe is hitting the books

The Mid-City Breakers spin into local libraries

Tonight, the Forest Grove City Library's typically quiet environment is going to get a jolt of hip hop kinetics with a performance by the Mid-City Breakers.

The Neil Armstrong Middle School-based troupe - a rotating group of students ranging in age from elementary level to high school - performs at the library as part of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services' 2011 Summer Reading program, which is designed to draw patrons to the library through a series of performances.

The Breakers were formed in 1996 by Community Learning Center director Thomas Sepulveda, who, while working for the sheriff's office, came across a group of students break dancing in the Forest Grove school's hallways and was immediately struck with the idea of putting the group together.

'I found some of the kids break dancing in the hallway. I said to them, 'if I get a proposal to the administration with rules and requirements, would you follow me?'' said Sepulveda. 'They didn't think it was going to last. They thought it was going to be one of those passing programs.'

But nearly 20 years later the program has persevered and grown. The troupe ranges in size from 10-30 students on any given day and has performed throughout the region and in competitions, and was even featured as the halftime entertainment at the Rose Garden during a Portland Trail Blazers game.

The organization now has branches in Forest Grove and Woodburn, where a former student saw the need in the community and formed another Mid-City Breakers.

To the untrained eye, break dancing might seem like a simple practice of acrobatic choreography. But the art - with roots in hip-hop and soul music dating back to 1970s street culture - is anything but easy, with its series of head spins, windmills, popping and locking.

The intricate movements that Sepulveda and his team teach to students require considerable physical prowess, coordination and balance.

'They get a good workout. Break dancing is harder than basketball and football,' said Sepulveda, himself a dancer who jokes that age has hindered his moves. 'Just the amount of muscles you use in your body, you get a great workout.'

Along with promoting team spirit through choreographed dances and physical fitness, the Mid-City Breakers is also an academically driven program that meets four times a week and provides mentoring, homework assistance and support to students of various backgrounds.

Participants are required to stay out of trouble and pass all their classes, and Sepulveda and his assistants are on hand to ensure those goals are met while providing a fun outlet for participants to let loose and get down.

'When students have this kind of program, they also get academic support,' said Sepulveda. 'We help them with homework and if they have problems at school we try to help them. We also provide dinner and a ride home. And you do it in a positive place. We really try to help these kids. I'd rather see them in our program than on the streets.'

The Mid-City Breakers perform Wednesday, July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Forest Grove Library at 2114 Pacific Ave. The group also performs Thursday, July 14 at 4 p.m. at the Tigard Public Library; Tuesday, July 19, 6:30 p.m. at the Hillsboro Main Library; Wednesday, July 20, 7 p.m. at the Banks Public Library; and other dates throughout the summer at Washington County Libraries. To learn more, visit wccls.org.