Dancer Anya Porter never thought she’d create a fitness class that blended breakdancing’s staple moves into a vinyasa yoga sequence. In fact, she didn’t think much of yoga when she first tried it in college.
“I couldn’t figure out what the point was,” Porter said. “It was just stretching and holding and breathing. I didn’t get it.”
Porter was more into hip-hop and breakdancing. She felt so at home in its explosive, raw power, she traveled to Columbus (Porter’s originally from Clintonville) every weekend from Ohio University to learn from dancers at Bernie’s old hip-hop Sunday nights.
After college, Porter packed for Philly. It was there she studied breaking amid the city’s street-dance scene.
She’s also studied under legends like Don Campbell, inventor of locking, Crazy Legs from the Rock Steady Crew, and Boogaloo Sam of Electric Boogaloo fame.
When back pain began to dominate her life, “it was devastating,” Porter said. “All of my dreams were wrapped up into [dancing in Philly]. It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t go to rehearsal and not be in pain.”
“It radically changed by life,” Porter said of the classes she took at It’s Yoga in Grandview. “I was out of pain. I was just floored. I started to understand that I needed more quiet in my practice and in my life.”
After becoming a certified instructor, Porter headed to New York and taught yoga, but eventually the desire to break came pop-and-locking on her door.
“I missed hip-hop. I missed street dance culture. I missed the music,” Porter said. “I started bringing breaking vernacular and music to my classes. People loved it.”
Yoga and breaking both involve a lot of being on one’s hands and draw power from being grounded — both metaphorically and physically.
“It’s all about stepping into fear with an open heart,” Porter said.
In Breakti, which Porter eventually named the style as it evolved, breakdance moves and transitions are slowed down and presented in a vinyasa yoga-style holding and stretching format as hip-hop music plays in the background. Fun, yes, but Breakti also focuses on proper technique, posture and breathing.
“[Porter] is kind of killing it. She’s all over New York and teaching this on the east coast,” said Nicole Garlando, a teacher at Columbus contemporary dance hub Feverhead.
Feverhead is bringing Porter to Columbus this weekend to teach a workshop on Breakti. The class costs $20 ($25 if you can spend that extra five), and part of the money raised will benefit Porter’s friend who has stage four breast cancer.
You can expect that generous spirit of Porter’s to translate to her teaching.
“Anya just feels good,” said Garlando, who has known Porter since college. “Anya sees you really clearly and accepts you immediately. And you can feel it. It’s comforting.”
Plus, girl can dance.
1-2 Photo courtesy Anya Porter
Caption: Breakti founder and Bernie’s hip-hop dance alumnae, Anya Porter.
Joe Longo Photography
Meghan Ralston photo
Nicole Garlando, who worked to bring Breakti’s founder back to teach a class in Columbus, gets down at Feverhead.