It’s mid-morning in the San Diego home of Omar Delgado, better known by his breakdancing name, Roxrite. In the last 15 years, the international b-boy superstar has won 79 titles. He’s traveled the world, racking up victories in Poland, Brazil, South Africa, Japan and beyond, including a decisive win last year at the Red Bull BC One world finals in Moscow. This August, he’ll be starring in the first-ever b-boy reality show “Break'n Reality.”
But today, he’s relaxing with his longtime girlfriend — an elusive concept in his line of work. Of course, any downtime he finds includes sorting through paperwork for his next trip. Last weekend, it was South Korea where he finished as a runner-up in a breaking competition. This week, he’s preparing for a Thursday morning flight to a small town in the Yukon, where he’ll run workshops teaching kids about dance and hip-hop. On his last trip there, he was reminded of the small town he grew up in Mexico.
“Back in the day, I could have never imagined,” says Roxrite. “Back then, I never thought I was going to travel the world or be doing this for a living. It was just something I loved.”
Roxrite spent the first six years of his life just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, with his parents and older brother. The memories of his hometown are few but positive — even if many of them include coming home dusty and bruised every other day.
“I don’t know what it was,” says Roxrite, “but I used to fight all the time.”
His parents became increasingly concerned with a volatile government, the poor education system and a rapidly dropping peso that faced Mexico in the late ‘80s. In 1988, the family headed north of the border for Los Angeles. When a job his father had lined up didn’t pan out, the family bounced between living in garages of friends and relatives, They were eventually homeless and living out of their car for months at a time.
“Seeing that side of your parents and being in that situation, you learn about struggle quickly,” recalls Roxrite. “Seeing my parents eventually move up was inspiring. It showed me that we could become something from nothing.”
While his brother excelled at track, Roxrite discovered the "artistic sport" of breaking through a friend and mentor, Ground Level, in 1995. It was an alternative, says Roxrite, to the choices that he and other immigrant youths were faced with: drugs, truancy, gangs. Once Roxrite discovered dance, he didn’t consider much else.
“Before, we used to go and fight kids in the park. Now, we were going home to break and battle for hours,” laughs Roxrite. “There was nothing else. It became my passion. It changed my life.”
By the early 2000s, his passion became a full-time gig. The victories increased. The flights became paid for. Roxrite was building a name for himself year after year, earning the respect of his peers along the way. With every fad that floated through the door, Roxrite never sacrificed his own style. For every Hollywood flick that promised to showcase the struggle of b-boying but only delivered a watered down plot, Roxrite aimed to set the record straight.
“With the mainstream movies, you’re able to reach an audience you wouldn’t normally be able to talk to,” says Roxrite. “In other ways, it’s definitely a little corny. When you see the trailer, it’s 80 percent breaking to grab your attention. But during the movie, you only get the other 20 percent — a ballet dancer and some love story.”
This August, Roxrite -- along with two-time world champion Lilou (France) and defending world champ Neguin (Brazil) -- is presenting a perspective on breaking and b-boying that hasn’t been seen before. “Break’n Reality” follows the three b-boys through 2011, showcasing their lives and their training process before culminating in Moscow for the Red Bull BC One World Finals.
The show began filming when Roxrite was teaching and judging more than he was actually competing. In many ways, it was a wake-up call for him to go back to what he loved to do.
“If I lose that passion, I’ll lose myself,” Roxrite explains. “Last year, when I was judging the Red Bull BC One U.S. Qualifiers, I thought to myself, ‘Damn, this is what I need to be doing.’ It made realize I still want to battle against the best in the world. When you take an art form and turn it into a career, there is a point where you almost lose tough with what you’re really about.”
For Roxrite, preaching being yourself no matter where you are competing isn’t some throwaway bumper sticker slogan. It’s a part of the lifestyle that reaches back to the roots of the dance and tips the hat to the forefathers of breaking and b-boying.
“For a long time, the dance wasn’t respected by the masses,” explains Roxrite. “They had a perception of, ‘Oh, they just throw themselves on the ground and do some spins.’ But the pioneers that paved the way for us to do this now were the ones making sure we’re respected on an international level. You don’t want to throw that away by not being you and representing what b-boying really is.”
The 2012 Red Bull BC One U.S. Qualifier is Saturday, July 21, in Chicago. Get tickets here. The winner will move on to the World Finals, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in December.
- Video: Red Bull BC One 2011 World Finals in Moscow
- Video: Red Bull BC One All-Stars in Rio de Janeiro
- Red Bull BC One home page