Mason Rose grew up on Lighthouse beach in Port Macquarie, but now lives for his love of breaking. When he is not touring the world surfing the best waves he can find, he’s behind the lens creating films to educate and expose Australia to the fascinating dance culture of hip hop.
Mason, you grew up in Port Macquarie and you are well known for your professional body boarding career. How did break dancing become your number one project?
Breaking was an unexpected addition to my life – as are most good things that happen! One thing I have learned in my life is that if you force anything, it won’t work; but if you let things evolve naturally over time, then the rewards will be unexpected and much more significant.
Breaking to me is something I love and respect. This form of dance that is known as b-boying (with breaking formally known as breakdancing) is highly marketable and used commercially all around the world. But for me to see it exploited by people that don’t understand the true culture makes me cringe, as it isn’t what this style of dance is all about.
Growing up in Port Macquarie, it was hard to learn the basic foundation/history of the dance, and there was nowhere to train except in my Mum’s lounge room! I jumped straight into the acrobatic side of dancing, trying to learn moves like the windmill, backspin, basic handstand freezes and top rock (the dance moves that you do, before you get down).
I had no one to teach me, so what I used to do was tape Rage on ABC TV every midnight and then compile segments on all the breaking in the music videos. So learning to break was like trying to figure out a jumbled up Rubik’s Cube … which was very frustrating!
> What are your fondest memories of Port Macquarie, and what brings you back here?
I love the beaches. I love the drive into the town centre and seeing people like the lovely ladies at the Staff Room Café.
I want to know why the local Council doesn’t support the body boarding clubs more – there are 2 World Champions from Port and there can be hundreds of potentially professional athletes from that club to come, so I want them to get behind the next generation of body boarders. I love the nature of the town, and the simplicity of it all … it’s a best kept secret.
> Can you tell us the origins of breakdancing?
In order to properly report the history of hip-hop dance forms, one must journey both inside and outside of New York City. Although dance forms associated with hip hop did develop in New York City, half of them originated and developed on the west coast as part of a different cultural movement. Much of the media coverage in the 1980s grouped these dance forms together with New York’s native dance forms, labelling them all “breakdancing.” As a result, the west coast “funk” culture and movement were overlooked and underrated, as the public ignorantly credited “hip hop” as the father of the funk dance forms.
This is just one example of misinformation that undermines the intricacies of each dance form, as well as their origins and structure. The best way to preserve the dances is by learning from the earliest available sources or a devoted practitioner of the form. The pioneers of these dance forms hold the key to the history and intentions of the movement.
How did your interest in dance snowball into a successful career, taking you all over the world?
After a year I had learned windmills and a whole bunch of other tricks well enough to get down and feel the music, but at a very basic level.
Like any sport, you can’t amount to much without learning the basics first. So I unknowingly was learning new things without even realising I was building the foundation of what was to come in the next chapter of my life. All while I was still focused on bodyboarding, travelling the world and keeping fit and healthy – pretty much having the time of my life.
A few years later I was living in Brisbane (what the heck was I doing up there, God only knows!) and had made a lot of friends that were b-boys. So in between working, I would train 4 times a week with them, being taught by them the right way. Soon I was trying to learn bigger moves, and then my wrist gave way, so I was injured and not able to break for quite a while.
During this time, the one thing that kept me sane was going to training with my video camera and filming my friends breaking.
Then I realised that I wanted to make a movie about the local breaking scene, as well as from my travels abroad. So I filmed for 5 years, gathering footage from all over the world and in Australia. And “Seven Shadows” was born.
I also have my hands in a lot of other projects in the film industry, but Seven Shadows is where my focus remains, as hip hop and dance culture is a sport and expression I feel strongly for.
> The release of the fourth DVD is due out in August. You have premieres all over Australia … what can we expect to see at the break- dancing event of the year?
The movie has been received really well worldwide and within Australia. The Seven Shadows premiere has turned into a major event that overseas b-boys want to attend. The Australian b-boys have respect and love for the film, as it showcases the dance in its raw form and passes knowledge down to the next generation of dancers.
They are grateful for it putting Australia on the b-boying map to the international audience. Red Bull BC1 are sponsoring a tour over Australia, and it finishes up at the Sydney Seven Shadows Premiere. It starts with a warm up party off Oxford Street and then begins a night of breaking from some of the best crews around the world. There will be cash prizes, professional BMX riders, beat boxers, DJs and MCs.
> Tell us a bit more about the breakdancing tour, and how can people become involved?
For the next volume’s premiere, this year we will be doing a tour from Brisbane down to Sydney with 15 of the world’s best b-boys. We’ll be stopping in towns along this coastal strip to do workshops, exhibitions and shows to educate the next generation of kids about this creative dance form.
Then at the last stop in Sydney at the end of August, there will be the premiere for Seven Shadows 4 and the grand battle finale, with breaking crews from all over Australia and NZ competing with each other for the cash prize and trip to watch the 2008 Red Bull BC1 event overseas (known as the World Championships). It all ends in one big event, celebrating the art and style of hip hop! Everyone is welcome to the party! For more information about tour stop-offs, go to www.ozbboy.com.
> Thank you and good luck with the tour Mason.