Big Steps

Moy Rivas used break dancing to go around the world. Question is, Where does he go next?

Moy had the passion and it consumed him entirely.

"I would wake up, thinking -- breaking. I would think about B-boying every place I would go," he says.

In the early days, a scene grew up, right in Moy's room, with sometimes 20 guys squeezing in to practice every day. Maya Morin, who also became well known, recalls his emotional first meeting with Moy, where they "spilled the beans on each other" and became fast friends. Maya had been involved in neighborhood gangs, stealing cars and hustling drugs, but like so many B-boys, he found redemption, or at least distraction, in breaking. Thumbing through a dictionary, they found the word havoc, urbanized the spelling, and their new crew Havik was born. The teens formed bonds that made them family in all but name, family that was stronger than their own blood.

Thursday nights at YA draw, on average, more than 
100 youngsters.
Daniel Kramer
Thursday nights at YA draw, on average, more than 100 youngsters.
Moy lives with his mother, Albertina, in their southwest 
Houston home.
Daniel Kramer
Moy lives with his mother, Albertina, in their southwest Houston home.

"We would sit down and the dance was like our counselor. We couldn't express it to anyone else, because we didn't want to show our weak side. We could do it through dance," says Maya. Another B-boy in their crew called it therapy. "Some people were crying, some people's dads are dying, some people's moms are dying, some people's brothers are addicts…" When the beat dropped, they could escape all that.

"It made you a whole different person. You dress different, you walk different, you talk different," Maya says. "It was more than just a dance. You sleep with it, you wake up with it, and you get hurt from it." Marlon found that as B-boying changed him, he lost street cred with his older friends who were still getting in trouble. "In the hood, you're kind of looked down on because you're not a G anymore," he says.

Moy seems to have needed the least turnaround, although his adolescence was not without its challenges. His mother says, through an interpreter, that it was difficult for him not always having the support of a father. Moy says that he learned from the mistakes of those around him. "I think it's just that I had too many friends and older brothers that were a lot, like, involved and I seen it. I seen everyone, like, being involved in all that crap and I was like, it looks stupid, you know," he says. Perhaps. But blunts and 40s and tech-nines seem uncool much more quickly if you can drop to the floor and blow people away.

"Once breaking came into place, I didn't even think about all that," says Moy, who adds he's never been into drinking or drugs. "I was like…I gotta get good, I wanna be a performer, I wanna be performing in front of people, I wanna do this, I wanna start traveling the world."

One of their first trips following the dazzling debut at Freestyle Session '99 was a competition in Dallas. Moy was supposed to ride up to the event with Maya and two other friends in Havikoro, the crew that had formed in the merger between Havik and an older Houston squad called Koro. Moy says a bad feeling kept him home that day. It may have saved his life as well. On the drive up, the car crashed, spilling B-boys out onto the freeway. The driver, Mark Anthony Perez, known as Vamp, spent two and a half weeks in a coma. Doctors expected him to remain a vegetable, though he did learn to walk again. Maya was so haunted by the trauma he began drifting away from B-boying from that point forward.

"Basically, I look at it like, flying out the window of that car, seeing one of your mans lying on the ground…" His shudder is almost audible over the phone. "I'm never going to be right because of that."

Nor would Mark. His hopes for the commercial and global success that followed for Havikoro died somewhere along Interstate 45. He never got to cash in like Moy. Nowadays, he hobbles around the YA rec center doing clerical work and answering the phones. He can't get down anymore. But he's always down with his boys.

"I love all them fools. Everybody always says, 'Doesn't it hurt you to see breaking?' When it's people I don't know, yeah," he says. "But when I see Moy and them dance, I kinda get happy. When I see Moy and all the fame he's gotten from dancing -- he's one of those that loves the dance -- it makes me happy."

It's one of those odd quirks of history that Charles Rotramel's YA became ground zero for Houston's B-boy scene. He'd never known anything about it at all, really -- he just wanted to do youth advancement with at-risk kids, and B-boying wound up being the way to do that. From a few early stragglers back in 1995, their Thursday hip-hop night grew and now draws, on average, more than 100 young people, mostly Hispanic, from all over town. In a year's time, Rotramel says, they'll see 1,000 different kids, as young as 12 and as old as 25. Their brick building sits in the clattering shadow of I-45, a building coated with tripped-out graffiti tags, squiggly, twisted neon letters updating what had been an abandoned unionist hall. When Havikoro wasn't practicing in Moy's room, they were chilling out here.

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