Breakdancing Through the Barrier
Four-year senior Rudy Oku is widely known as a talented breakdancer who can tear up the dance floor, whether spinning on his back or balanced upside down on one hand. Rudy Oku is considered as one of the best B-boys at Exeter and is also an accomplished guitarist, singer and leader.
"Rudy’s willingness to experiment when he dances makes him a true artist. You can always see him practicing in the dorms to polish his style and experiment new ones," senior Leo Luo said. "He just loves to dance. It lets him feel free. It is truly a part of his passions. He finds pure pleasure in it."
Oku first learned to dance after his prep year, when he went to downtown Chicago to volunteer at an event for women and children at a care center. "One kid I took care of, his name was Mark. I was supposed to just play board games with him, but he just wanted to dance. I couldn’t do any of that."
Though not initially fond of breakdancing, Mark helped Oku discover his love of the art. "The first time I saw breakdancing, I thought it was ‘dirty.’ You put dirty heads on the floor and your faces in the dirt, and I was like, ‘What if I lose brain cells?’" Oku said. B-boying tricks involve more contact with the ground. Mark first taught Oku how to dance, including the transitions between the crowd-pleasing tricks on the ground, "which is the boring part to watch for most people, but it is the essential part," according to Oku. One year after Oku met Mark, Oku went to Chicago, found a few B-boys from his town, and formed a B-boy crew, what Oku calls a "dance family." They competed and practiced together.
Oku is one of the co-heads for the Exeter dance crew Intoxicated Movement or ITXC. The word "intoxicated" was originally associated with the negative image of gangs and B-boying. "B-boying isn’t like that," Oku said. "It is really more community-based—hip hop is very community-based and people are always helping each other to create events."
"But there is another definition of intoxicated—like intoxicatingly beautiful," Oku added. "That double meaning of the word intoxicated reflects the double meaning of B-boy."
After returning lower year, Oku found that ITXC only had two members. "They were just ‘poppers,’ who look like they are getting shocked." With the help of fellow senior Sultan White, Oku worked hard to recruit new members who were willing to partake in the art. "Not many people wanted to do nor want to try B-boying because it looks kind of scary and kind of hard. It’s really easy if you put your mind and effort into it, however." Through sheer determination and diligence, the club found eight incredibly dedicated members who are now constantly greeted by the deafening applause of their audience.
Members of ITXC have nothing but positive things to say about Oku. Upper Alan Guo said, "He is always looking out for the younger members of ITXC, and he is always a responsible choreographer and co-head." He continued, "He introduced me to ITXC, and I have to deeply thank him for that, and I am sure he has had a profound impact on the other members as well. He is always a good friend—always there when you need to talk to him, and he is very considerate."
Upper Reed Wolfson Jarvis agreed and complimented Oku’s artistic ability and role as proctor. "Rudy is always helpful and nice around the dorm. I can definitely say that he is an ‘artsy’ person. Often times, he is dancing in his room."
At Exeter, Oku is the bass singer for PEADs. "I never really did singing until I came here," Oku said. "I did PEADs lower year. I did it just for fun, and learned there is a real singing community.
He is also an avid guitarist. "I actually started guitar a lot earlier than B-boying. I started at the end of eighth grade. I had a friend who taught me some stuff, but I was mainly influenced by old artists like The Who, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix." During his upper year, Oku heard the song "Only a Pawn and Their Game" by Bob Dylan. He was so inspired by the message in the song that he wrote his entire 333 History paper about it. "It was amazing. To me music was always about how it aesthetically sounded, but the moment I heard that song it was a lot more about the message."
Through his activities, Oku found a way to further express himself. "Guitar for me is emotionally a way to vent, as well as singing, while B-boying is a physical way to vent. I have always done athletics, but one thing I always looked for was one single channel or way to give off an impression of how I feel."
B-boying was just that. "It is a mode of expression for me because it accomplishes what I want through physical and musical means. It is a way that you can express yourself, exert yourself, pass down your knowledge and learn from others. It is basically everything, even education."
"I think putting it all together is like a code to live by. The culture is so raw. It is a really fun group to hang around with. You make great friends through the process, and wherever you go you find people like you."