Most breakdancers cringe if you call them a “breakdancer.” The name is “b-boy” or “b-girl.” Benson “Benzo” Lee is creator of the 2007 documentary Planet B-Boy. This complelling film breaks down the dance, its history and lifestyle, to prove that it’s much more than an ’80s fad. Its an art form.
Kayn Ramirez: A few years ago “Planet B-Boy” released and, to put it best, has ‘blown up.’ Tell us how you fell in love with the b-boy world?
Benson Lee: I first saw Flashdance in the eighties and fell in love with b-boying then. I wasn’t a b-boy but I loved the dance from the moment I saw Ken Swift, Mr. Freeze, Crazy Legs and Normski dancing on the streets of Pittsuburgh. They were obviously the stars of that moment while Jennifer Beals watched them in amazement.
That’s when I harnessed the internet and discovered the Battle of the Year in Germany and was amazed by how much it had evolved and how many countries were involved. That was when I came up with the mission to make Planet B-Boy, but it took me five years to make it happen….
KR: B-Boy or “b-boy”
BL: DEFINITELY CAPS!
KR: Being that you are a Korean American, what’s your take on in the b-boy and Hip Hop scene in Korea?
BL: Yeah it’s pretty weird because hip hop was strong in Korea in the early nineties, but it’s more of a subculture now. Believe it or not, it’s hard to find hip-hop clubs in Seoul, which is pretty sad . Yet, there are still a lot of talented hip-hop artists in Korea but they don’t get the much needed limelight that they deserve in the music business. In regards to b-boying, things are pretty wack right now because the government has clamped down on b-boys who avoided the mandatory military draft. It’s a really serious issue and it affects all b-boys. My heart goes out to all Korean b-boys because I know how serving two years in the army where they’re not allowed to dance, affects their skills and emotions as dancers. There needs to be something done and I’m trying to see if I can contribute in some way….
KR: “Planet B-Boy” release was huge and undoubtably left a lasting impact on you. How would you say things have changed for you since then?
BL: I obviously have a much deeper insight into b-boying that I never really understood until I made the documentary. In addition, I’m in love with documentaries right now and continue to make them here in Seoul, Korea. I learned a lot from Planet B-Boy and I’m trying to take it to the next level through Korean culture.
KR: New projects on the horizon? What can we expect next from Benzo?
BL: I’m currently working on a project titled “Obangsaek” which is a multimedia project devoted to sharing Korea culture to a global audience. And yes, it involves b-boys. The Planet Feature film script is currently in development. The adaptation is actually very different from the documentary as it centers on an American crew that has to prove they can work as a crew in order to beat their adversaries at an international B-Boy competition. More to come later…
Special thanks to Benzo!
Keep an eye out for Project Obangsaek.