This is: Salo
Salo (Flying Legs, Funk Warriors, Vinotinto, Aborigenes) at World Breaking Classic. Shot by Little Shao
enezuelan breakers have undoubtedly established themselves as a powerful presence across the international breaking scene. In face of a difficult economic and political environment, their high-level techniques combined with their no fucks given battle attitude has provided them with opportunities to represent at the highest levels of breaking.
There are several names that stand out when looking through the history of Venezuela’s breaking culture, and Bboy Salo is definitely one of them. Known for his incredible shoulder tricks and explosive style, Salo was the first Venezuelan bboy to be invited to the Red Bull BC One (2006) and to this day continues to compete with the same energy and fire he had back then.
Salo’s pride in representing his home country is evident in the way he talks about Venezuela and the way he praises the new generation bboys and bgirls coming out of Venezuela. He proudly says, “If I was there, Venezuela was there too.” and he hopes that the upcoming generation will continue to “keep that Venezuelan hunger, rawness, and fire that is so signature from us” alive.
Myth had the opportunity to speak with Salo to learn more about his origins and how Venezuela’s breaking culture evolved into the force it is today. Check out the rest of the interview with Salo below!
Bboy Salo vs Bboy Morris at the Red Bull BC One 2011 World Final
How did you start breaking?
I was raised in a little town in Venezuela called Libertad, “freedom” in Spanish, I was always an active kid, running, climbing, stuff like that, I was attracted to the gymnastics stuff but in town there wasn’t a way to learn or practice it, no school, gym or anything like that so I forgot about it (I was like 6/7 years old).
I moved to Maracay, the city where I was born, when I was like 14 or 15 years old. I saw this movie on TV called Delivery Boys from 1985 and the intro of the movie was with these guys entering, walking on their hands, and that got my attention right away. I was like, "Yo, look at this gymnast guys!" and then they started doing things like windmills and footwork, backspins and stuff like that. Of course I didn’t know those names, so for me it was all “gymnastics”. I was mind blown, like "What the hell is that? What are they doing?"
So that was the first time I saw breaking, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I started actually practicing with some friends at high school. I had friends that used to skate and they used to listen a lot of rap music, metal, rock, punk and stuff like that. And there were two guys that used to dance, doing a little bit of footwork and stuff. And I was like,“ Yo! You are doing that thing that I saw on television years ago! It would be cool if I could train with you." So that was how I started around 2000/2001
What was your original crew? How did you end up joining Flying Legs and Vinotinto?
In 2001, through my skater friends, I got closer to people that used to do like writing , freestyle rap, and stuff like that. And through them I got to know some legendary MCs from my city. There was one guy called Lil Supa that used to break and people used to talk to me a lot about him like “You need to meet this guy Marlon and also Rolando. They are super dope!” And I said like “Quiero picar con ellos” And "picar", it means something like duel.
So I got to meet them and battle them, they were ahead of me. They had the knowledge because they got into hip hop as a culture in like the late 90s, and they explained to me about the graffiti writing, the D.J. and the MC. So that was my first approach to hip hop as a culture. These guys also explained to me about the crews, which I had no idea what that was. So I met this other guy from my city and he said to me “Yo! You’re dope, let’s put a crew together.” And I thought "Oh, that’s cool. Like somebody is actually asking me to enter a crew." So I was really happy. But I didn’t know that we were founding the crew, you know? The name of this crew was N2Break. I asked him, “What does it mean?” He was like, you know it sounds like, “in – to – break.” Into the breaking. That’s what we’re into. So that was my first crew.
Are they still around these days?
Bro, this is another story because in 2003, I entered the Flying Legs. And the N2Break crew, we were like five guys, and the guy who founded the crew with me moved to Florida, and stopped breaking. Most of the N2Break members entered Flying Legs. But due to some issues they left the crew and they asked me “Bro, we would like to keep the name of the N2Break crew if you agree.” I was like, “For me it’s a pleasure that you keep the name of my original crew alive." And there are many of them [N2Break members] living in Barcelona right now, and they keep competing and representing, so I’m very happy about that.
What about Team Vinotinto? How did team come about?
Vinotinto was a project created by Lil G around 2012. His goal was to bring to the light the young, talented bboys and bgirls from Venezuela. He asked me to join to support him and to put more confidence in to the other members. He put this team together for international competitions like Eurobattle in Portugal (now known as The World Battle) and others jams in Europe.
In 2013, he got the opportunity to take Vinotinto to Battle Of The Year World Final. For the first time Venezuela had the opportunity to represent in the crew battles. The team was Lil G, Geeroud, Mr Snow, Mini Joe, Stuart, Nitro and Wizard, so Lil G came and asked me to join the team for BOTY cause he needed another, let’s say “big name”, to join the team and by 2013 I was already well known. We did a great job with the showcase and qualified for the crew battles, that was an amazing experience.
What struggles does breaking culture face in South America?
Latin America and Central America is a very special place. Basically, I think the tools, they’ve always been there, you know. But we have to live with corruption and we are not that well organized. So many people, they have the talent, but they don’t know how to make a request to a company, or to a sponsor or to the government and stuff like that, you know.
So I think that’s another important thing that we should consider when we talk about support. Since 2005, I got many invitation letters and stuff like that, and I would go to the mayor of my city and even ask the government directly. I think I didn’t get an answer 50% of the time. There were answers like, “We can give you half of the money.” And I was asking only for the flight ticket. I had to get the money to eat, and the rest all by myself.
Also because at the beginning, it was like,
“Who are you?”
“What is this break dance that you’re talking about?”
“What is that? Why are you dressed like that?”
“Where are you going?”
“What is this event that you’re talking about?”
Right now, it’s not that the situation is getting better, but I think we have more cards to play the game. We grew up, we have more information, we know how to communicate our ideas and how to ask for support. And also the best card we have right now is the Olympics are coming. So many people are playing that card to get work and opportunities, you know?
And they’re getting it, not only from the government, but from private companies and stuff to get flight tickets or money and stuff like that. But many dancers are still doing it on their own, working regular jobs, teaching, working with dancing if they’re lucky enough or even doing street shows and dancing on the street under the traffic lights. They spend months to put the money together to afford a flight ticket. So many of the people that I met [from South America] at Outbreak Europe were like, “Yo, bro, I spent like six months putting money together from the traffic lights to come here!”
Did you ever have a job outside of breaking?
I used to work in a tattoo shop, cleaning the glass at the entrance, setting up appointments and preparing everything for the tattoo artist. It was cool because one of the tattooists used to break too, so we used to practice together as well. That was in 2003, but besides that I never had a regular job. To put money together, I used to do competitions, work with event companies, sell clothes, customize hats, stuff like this.
Vinotinto's Showcase at Battle of the Year 2013
There are a lot of talented bboys coming up, especially from Venezuela and Brazil. What do you think separates those two countries from the rest of the South American scene?
Breaking has a lot of influence from capoeira so Brazilians already have that base. Also because Brazil has more hip hop history than Venezuela does. Because if you look for a breaking history of Brazil, they have a continuous history since the 80s I think, so their breaking is pretty stable and still super raw.
In 1984 the New York City Breakers went to Venezuela to do a television show and an exhibition. That was one of the first times we saw many moves, back spins and stuff like that. You know, New York City Breakers were well known for throwing the spinning moves. But at a certain point in Venezuela, the people stopped breaking, so the first generation, like they let the breaking scene die. I think it it was in mid 90s, people got into breaking again and that’s how the second generation started. They recovered from what was left from the first generation. I wouldn’t say I’m second generation, because I think the second generation started in mid '90s and I started in 2000 but I am right there.
So basically, from Venezuela, the history is more like that. We were a little bit ignorant about the moves and the history and all the stuff. But in Brazil, I know they have more history and a more general approach to the culture. Because, if I can talk about other countries, I know in Colombia, they always had so much information. When I went to Colombia for the first time in 2004, I spoke with the young bboys and bgirls like me or even younger and their knowledge was so far ahead about rap, about the DJs, writing, everything. I used to talk with the DJs and they used to break and they had so much information. So you could see that in their dancing, with the burns, the form, the execution, you could see they were more educated. We were more hardcore, you know? We were moving through feelings, because we didn’t know how to execute proper footwork or stuff like that. We were moved more by the feelings and by the moment.
Why is there such a focus on technique and powermoves from South America?
I think that’s actually our foundation, bro. If you ask bboys from Venezuela to do something, they will throw an air flare in your face haha. If you ask them to do something easy for a video, they will throw an airflare or 90’s and stuff like that. If you ask a Brazilian guy to do something “easy”, they will either go to power moves, tricks, flipping or do moves on both sides because that’s their thing, you know. But I don’t know, man, I think we just love to do that.
Right now we have more information and we are more like, "Okay, so breaking is like this, and it has all these elements." And if you want to have a conversation with someone in a cypher, you cannot speak only one language, you need to have a proper vocabulary for the conversation. But right now I have my philosophy of breaking that was built through the years and through the experiences. For me, it was like, I love to do tricks, power moves and stuff like that, because I felt my body needed to move that way. Even nowadays, it’s hard for me to not throw a flare or an airchair inside my rounds. If I don’t do it, I feel incomplete. But I love to do footwork right now. I’m cleaning my form and I'm dancing and enjoying the music, trying to flow more, but it’s almost impossible for me to not do something hard or flashy.
I think people don’t realize that if you talk to more classical bboys, like someone who does footwork or somebody who’s more into top rocking and the foundations, they will say, “Bro, I cannot listen to James Brown and not move”. Not just dancing but flowing with the music. And I don’t think some of these people realize that we have that same feeling, but with powermoves and tricks, you know.
As an older bboy, who is still active in competitions, how have you maintained your competitiveness and is there anything you realized that was beneficial as you got older?
I think my generation or many people from my generation are still doing our moves because we’ve been always doing it. I’ve been doing the handstand to head since 2004, doing shoulder tricks since 2003 or tricks on my wrist as well since 2002 or 2003. And I’ve been constantly doing this. That’s why I think I can still do it right now. And if I have any motivation to keep going, it’s actually because I know, and this is a fact, I know that someday I won’t be able to do it.
So every day, every time I dance, I always try to throw my moves because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so I’m going to do it today. And also because I feel healthy. I’ve been working out, which is something I’ve been doing more since 2014. I’ve been caring more about the workout. Even if I don’t break for one day, that day, I need to move,
like working on my mobility or stretching. I need to do this. And this is something I talk about in my workshops because people try to teach techniques, but they teach to people who are not yet prepared for it.
So I try even from my warm-up session, to make people work out. Move yourself and move each part of your body. I warm-up with dancing also because you need to be prepared for what’s coming. So I make people work out a little bit before teaching them how to do things like an airchair, baby freeze or something like that. This is something I’ve been caring about lately and I think if people want to keep doing their moves and their stuff through the years, they should never stop doing it. Of course, we have to consider injuries, like serious injuries and stuff like that. But man, if you can still do it then why stop, you know?
Did you ever have any serious injuries?
I had three, the first one was in 2008. I went hardcore with the tricks against Stuart and I did the one handstand to head suicide. And the floor was slippery and I landed in the wrong position. Two pieces of my spine pushed the nerves causing a lot of pain and lack of mobility so I stopped doing anything, even headstands, for almost two years.
And at the time, I remember people used to know me for doing head tricks, but also tricks on my shoulder. So I took that time to improve all my moves on my shoulder, and do all combinations possible. It was like my first serious injury. And the second one was in 2019, I got hurt on my back and that also hurt my collar bone. So I couldn’t move my arm either. I stayed like one week in bed, without using any kind of force. After two months I started doing some stuff and recovered pretty quick but at that moment I was like “Man this injury is going to take forever.” And now in 2023 I got the same injury that I had in 2008 and I'm still recovering from it.
Is there a competition that you feel helped push your breaking career to the next stage?
I think there was and it still is the competition that helped me to make more connections, to grow as a dancer, to understand more about the culture, and to meet some of my heroes in breaking. The event is Eurobattle, held in Portugal. Now it’s called The World Battle. Max from Momentum crew is the organizer. The first time I went was in 2007. We went to another event in Spain called Underground Republic and I remember Momentum crew was there. And Max, he just saw us dancing and he was like, “Guys, you need to come to my event.” We said “Bro, unfortunately, we have our flight ticket back next week.” but he was said, "Guys, don’t worry, let’s go change the flight ticket, and you come to my event."
So he drove us from Spain to Portugal with his crew. He paid for the hotel for us from his own pocket cause those days weren’t covered for the event. So that was the first time I felt like “Yo, somebody’s recognizing our job." And in that edition of Eurobattle we battled the B-Boy World Team with Roxrite, Spee-D, Beast Mode, Kurious and Keebz on it, and there were famous names like Phase-T from France. And Kujo and Asia One were judging. That was like fucking legendary for me.
And I remember they used to do power move battle, footwork battle, and there were cyphers everywhere. And for me it was like “Damn what is all this?”, because I was used to the single day events. But Eurobattle was different. It was like two or three days event with after parties and many categories. I was like "I’m gonna do this one and I want to do this and let’s do this one next." It gave me more motivation and I wanted to come back again and again the year after. I think that is the event I liked attending the most. The first time in 2007, then every year from 2009 until 2012. That was the last one before I moved to Italy and the next time was 2018. Then I went again last year (2022) and I’m going again this year.
Actually, this event was so important to me because that gave me the most motivation. It was the first time that I said, if I ever move to Europe, I’m gonna move to Portugal because I have so many friends there. Like Max and Momentum are brothers, like a second family to me. Eurobattle/ World Battle is the event that gave me the most during my breaking career.
How have your goals for breaking changed as you aged?
Through my experience, I’ve been changing my mindset and by changing your mindset also your goals changes. But I think one thing remains the same and it is still representing my country, my style, and my crews.
I always say “If I was there, then Venezuela was there too.”
This is something that hasn’t changed. But something that keeps me feeling good is watching the new generation of my country doing this amazing job that they are doing right now. I’m not intending to leave, but when it will be my time to leave or to stop dancing or stop competing or whatever, I know these people are gonna be there killing it like they’ve been doing it right now. And I told them how proud and confident I am about their work and I trust them to keep representing Venezuela to the fullest.
My mindset right now is to keep doing my thing, keep representing and also try to to help people grow or whoever comes into my path or if I go into their path, I just wanted to leave them something, whether it is a lesson or good experience or two words, you know, just something valuable to those people that help them grow
What do you want to see from the new generation?
Again these guys are doing an amazing job, they have the skills, they have the foundations, and they’re well rounded bboys and bgirls. They have the character, because this is something we’d be missing nowadays. Some people do moves, they do sets and good transitions and stuff but they don't build character. This is something I’d like from the new generation in Venezuela.
The other thing I would like them is to keep the Venezuelan essence, how it was at the beginning. I expect from them not to stop being themselves cause some people try to take the easy way to get famous, forgetting their roots, adopting a certain way of dancing, like adapting to the system to shine. So I would like the new generation keep killing it, growing up with the scene, getting well rounded but keep the Venezuelan hunger, rawness and fire that is so like signature from us and keeping the legacy alive.
Follow B-boy Salo on Instagram here!