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36-year-old mom of 3 is fighting for gender equality in breakdancing: 'We never had as much exposure'

Red Bull BC One is helping B-girls break the glass ceiling of dance. (Photo: Carlo Cruz/Red Bull BC One)

Breakdancing has been around for nearly five decades, after originating in the streets of New York in the 1970s. Despite the timing of its origins aligning with the women’s liberation movement, women and girls were still marginalized, much like other sports.

In 2017, Japanese B-girl Ayumi made it to Red Bull BC One’s World Final. She was the first female to achieve this in the competition’s history, which started in 2004.

The following year, a dedicated B-girl competition was added to the event’s roster, featuring a lineup of 16 B-girls.

Now, in 2019, the representation of women in the male-dominated space continues to grow, as Red Bull BC One includes female dancers for the second year in a row, and has also added a female judge for the B-Girls bracket and a female host and female DJ for the overall competition.

“It’s very refreshing,” 2019 judge Zahra Hamani, better known by her B-girl title Jeskilz, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I always felt like we never had as much exposure, as much opportunities to shine through our best abilities. I feel like we’ve always been compared to men and we’ve been expected to be just like men or to be compared to each other. When in our reality, this dance is about individuality, and I think that a woman can really shine in different aspects and ways, and it hasn’t been utilized.”

Throughout her 18 years on the scene, Jeskilz explains that she’s danced alongside both women and men, and never felt that she didn’t fit in with her community. But when it comes to the way that the art form has been represented to the outside world through well-known competitions, she’s seen a need for change.

Jeskilz has been a part of the breakdancing community for 18 years, where she's consistently made efforts to shed light on female dancers. (Photo: Carlo Cruz/Red Bull BC One)

“I’ve been putting a lot of work into trying to create more opportunities for B-girls. For me, it started by reaching out to certain promoters and sharing my ideas with them,” she explains. “It felt like maybe all we needed was some sort of communication and a start point.”

For Jeskilz, that start point was a conversation with the organizers of one of the biggest breakdancing competitions to date, Red Bull BC One, where the France-native suggested that the competition be opened up to female qualifiers six years ago. And although it took five years for that suggestion to be put into action, Jeskilz is excited to see her efforts paying off as she took part in judging the Los Angeles-based B-girl cypher in April.

Still, the 36-year-old mother-of-three wouldn’t say that she’s a pioneer for B-girls. Instead, she believes that she’s a small part of a larger chain of women consistently trying to make their community better, and finally succeeding.

“I’m just happy to be here and to have some sort of part in it, in one way or another,” she says. “There’s girls who have been there before me that have paved the way. So it’s just me honoring their work and preserving it my way and trying to give it back to the next that are coming.”

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