Big Steps

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

After Freestyle Session '99, around the same time YA blew up locally, Moy Rivas became the flavor of the week. When he returned home to Houston, he had 126 messages in his e-mail inbox -- "and none of them were junk mail," he says proudly. He stayed up till dawn responding to requests from people who wanted to fly him out to perform. A few months later, Tribal Gear, a San Diego-based clothing company, called up to offer an informal sponsorship. They sent him out a box of clothes and told him to get his passport ready.

"I was like, man, I just can't believe this, you know what I'm saying? This is like one of my other dreams that just came true -- I wanted to get sponsored by this company and it's happening right here. I did it." Fo' shizzle. Tribal flew him out to Japan for a Limp Bizkit tour. He met Fred Durst and danced in front of 13,000 fans on a Tokyo stage. Five more trips to Japan would follow, as would flights to Paris (twice), New Zealand (twice), Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, England and Korea. In three years' time, his passport saw more action than Snoop Dogg in a porno. He says he's also performed with Coolio, Blackalicious and De La Soul.

All this before Moy could legally buy a drink. Not that he would, of course.

B-boy Ale throws down at Reagan High School in the 
mid-'80s.
Courtesy of Craig Long
B-boy Ale throws down at Reagan High School in the mid-'80s.
B-boy Grimlocke popping outside Reagan High in 1985
Courtesy of Craig Long
B-boy Grimlocke popping outside Reagan High in 1985

His mother, Albertina Rivas, gets teary when talking to an interpreter about how far the dance has taken her son. "He goes these places to make my life better," she says. "Today, I am very proud of him." Still, success has its failures.

"He leaves for Japan, he leaves for other places, and I don't like it because he leaves the house," she says. "Oooh! A lot of places. This I don't like, because I have to be independent from him and I'm his mom and I'm afraid when he leaves."

She adds: "He leaves for other places and my heart hurts, but he likes it, my son."

Moy's name pops up frequently on Internet B-boy message boards, especially by those proposing theoretical battles or asking for shout-outs on the topic of "Most Liked B-boy." "Moy…the name that strikes fear in people across the U.S.," one B-boy genuflects. Another claims, "Not very many people are on Moy's level."

Success draws the haters, too, although Havikoro's decency as guys seems to block some of that. "They pretty much have everyone going against them," says Juan Sanchez, manager for Vicious Germs, a rival crew. "Everybody loves them because they're great guys, but they're out to get them." Moy doesn't run his mouth off much at battles. That helps. "To me, he's a dog that doesn't bark, he just bites," says Style Elements' Poe Loayza. "He's quiet, he'll give props when he has to, but he doesn't get up in people's face."

As for style, it seems to defy narrow definition. "[Moy is] powerful and technical at the same time. Real clean. Real articulate with his steps," says Bruce. "You hardly ever see him mess up." Indeed, if break dancing is considered a language, as Bruce argues, Moy Rivas seems to know exactly what he wants to say when he hits the floor. On tape, he exudes an astonishing precision in his movements; in this underground world of gunslingers, he seems to be one of few throwing darts. Moy gives away his secret one night at YA: It's not that he never has a misstep, it's that he never lets the crowd know it. "Moy's more like, you can call him, I call him fully loaded. He's everything. He's the leather in the car, he's the custom panes, he's the cold a/c," says Maya. "He has everything a B-boy would want."

Yeah, but does that put food on the table?


Born in the boogie-down Bronx some 30 years ago, B-boying blew up and caved in long before The Newborn ever got hold of it. The term originated from "break boy," as participants would dance to the break in beat when the record would skip. (Fortunately for the movement, "skip boy" never caught on.) Some think capoeira, a fight-dance developed by African slaves in Brazil hundreds of years ago, has some deep, distant relation. Others point to influences as diverse -- and fresh -- as James Brown, Bruce Lee and the Harlem Globetrotters. It's still underground enough that you can't really study it in a class, and it has few codes like the belt-rankings found in the martial arts. Instead, it relies on a kind of transmission of the street: watching, learning and practicing on your own. And then battling.

B-boying is often described as a substitute for criminal activity, a chance to put idle hands, legs and heads to creative work. Nowhere is that catharsis more apparent than in a battle -- a stylized square-off where two crews line up opposite each other and send individual dancers into the fray, trying to outdazzle the other side. (Think Sharks versus Jets, with baggier pants and more roof-raising.) At major competitions like Freestyle Session, B-boy Summit and Battle of the Year, B-boys are judged on things like execution, creativity and performance skill.

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