Promoting a positive hip-hop culture is what Break Free Houston is all about, according to Anthony Silva, who is the executive director at the Northwest location at 5201 Mitchelldale St. near U.S. 290. The arts education center and youth outreach program is part of Break Free Worldwide, which teaches breakdancing, disc jockeying and graffiti art and also has apparel and management divisions.
The Southeast Houston location has been open for nine years with the addition of the Northwest school in March 2019 and a Northeast location, which just opened at the beginning of January. There’s even a franchisee in Kansas City with plans to grow further.
Silva knows what it is like to want to be a dancer as he’s been at it for almost a quarter century.
“I started from scratch (because) I saw my cousins doing it,” Silva said.
Kids 3 and up – or the “Boom Baps” as they’re called – can start breakdance lessons with instructions on rhythm and the beginnings of movement. At 7 years of age, there’s a progression to the beginner level and then intermediate.
“It’s more about skill level than age,” Silva said, noting that there’s also a champions level.
Instructors are former students or other dancers who’ve come to Houston because of the opportunities in the arts. Aside from their skill set, new teachers also get training how to work with kids.
Students don’t just come from Houston, either.
“We had someone come from China and spent a month because of the vibe and energy,” Silva said.
Break Free also offers classes in disc jockeying, which cover everything from vinyl to Serato-based laptop mixing and scratching. Classes are structured the same way as with dance, along a line of progression and ability.
As professional DJs work late hours, Break Free works around their schedule for teaching times.
“They teach them the history of music as well as the (technical aspects),” Silva said.
Then there’s the graffiti art program, which uses aerosol spray paint to create murals, commissioned work and canvas pieces. As the Break Free website notes, “It is not to be confused with vandalism.”
The youngest students start with pencils and crayons to learn a foundation before moving forward.
For all students, there are four opportunities a year, coinciding with the seasons, to show off their newly learned skills. For dance, Silva said there are opportunities to compete locally and abroad.
“It’s a whole other world,” Silva said of the competition aspect.
The Northwest location is 2,000 square feet is open every day but Sunday. For more information, see http://breakfreeworldwide.com/.