Dropping Science

Photo by Darrell Edwards

Tony Ingram is one of Newfoundland’s best b-boys, and has been one for eight years. As both a physical therapist and a dancer, it’s obvious he really digs human movement; finding ways to make the body do what the mind tells it to.

And if that means training, patience, and hard work, so be it.

His website, B-boy Science, is a place where his interests in dance and science collide, and where he gives advice to breakers and other dancers around the world.

Hustle To Get Here, happening from September 14-16, is Newfoundland’s one-on-one breaking and hip hop dance crew showcase. This September will mark its third year.

You grew up in Port Aux Basques—where did the interest in breaking come from?

I wasn’t big into team sports like hockey. Everybody played hockey back home, right? And I didn’t. I didn’t really care for it. I did play other sports in high school, like a lot of people do when they go through school, but I wasn’t passionate about any of them. I was on the volleyball team and the basketball team, but everybody is when you’re in a small town.

But when I saw breaking on TV, I was just like, “oh man, I want to do that!” I thought it was so cool. This was from music videos, before the internet got big.

One music video that stands out, definitely, is Run-D.M.C. with Jason Nevins’ “It’s Like That”

What was it about that video in particular?

It’s hard to explain exactly, but, you know, it was different. The dancing was creative and it didn’t seem as structured as a sport is.

For me it was the crazy spinning. They were doing things I didn’t think were possible. And I’m there, like, “oh my god that’s nuts!”

It was dynamic, impossible-looking. Almost superhuman. Everything about it was cool.

I remember being in Port Aux Basques wishing I lived in New York City, just dying to do that kind of thing. It was this burning thing. I remember talking to people about it too: “I’m going to learn how to do this when I move to a bigger city.”

And St. John’s was that bigger city for me.

I came here and found that there were only two guys breaking, and it even took two years for me to track them down.

Where were you looking?

I joined a bunch of martial arts just to see if I could meet people at first. I looked through the Yellow Pages, I called dance studios. Nothing. Gymnastics, they were like, “what?”

The way I found the first guy was there used to be a dance studio in the basement under the MUN Feild House. I was just walking by when I saw someone spinning upside down and at first I kept walking, but then I was like, “no way!” So I turned around and came in as he was practicing and said, “…hey. I want to learn this stuff.” [laugh]

Yeah, it was really awkward. But we danced together for a while and brought together a bunch of guys and made a crew—the East Rock Crew.

Later, when I was going to physio school in Halifax, one of my proudest accomplishments was to help start a dance company [called Concrete Roots] for young people there. We got government grants to teach and make new crews in schools, to build the scene, and that really went well. We did it because the group of people I met in Halifax, they had a similar story. There was no one doing it when they started, and they had to teach themselves. So eventually we said, “let’s be the entity that brings this to kids.”

That was a big thing for me. That felt great.

How did you get into physiotherapy?

You know, I probably got into physiotherapy because of my interest in dancing, because I had to figure a lot of the moves out on my own, mostly. You take tips from people, but for the most part you just have to experiment and find out how your body moves, what you can do. What’s realistic and not realistic. What your limits are. How to progress.

I did a Neuroscience degree at MUN, which is still kind of related, and I was thinking about Med school, but after I learned about the program, it didn’t really appeal to me. So I was like, “What am I going to do with a Neuroscience degree?” Then I learned more about Physiotherapy. It ended up being a great combination of my interests, because I’m interested in excercise and training and movement.

But my interest in dance came before all that.

One of the things I learned about physiotherapy—and this is true at the Miller Centre, where I work—is that it includes rehab for people who’ve had strokes, or brain or spinal cord injuries. So those are neurological conditions that I’m rehabbing. At first I thought physio was just sports injuries, but then I found out about this area of practice. And say, with teaching people how to walk again, well, I teach dance…

Learning to do really awkward things with my body really helped me find ways to help people with a disabilty. Actually, there is a really cool group called Ill Abilities. They’re an international group of disabled b-boys. Their main guy is from Montreal. Lazy Legs is his name, two of his legs basically have no muscle, they’re very small and thin and he walks around with crutches. But the things he can do as a B-boy, nobody else in the world can do, because of his bodyweight distribution and the way he’s figured out how to dance. And it’s incredible.

Why did you start the site B-boy Science?

Now that I am a physiotherapist, I’m trying to bring what I’m learning from that to the dancing world because I definitely don’t want to stop dancing. I want to be involved in dancing, and in the wider dance community.

My goal is to help dancers of all kinds. Maybe make injury rehab guides. Do talks. At Hustle this year I’m doing a workshop and a talk about preventing injuries.

Breaking is a worldwide community and the internet makes it easier to bring it all together. It’s very community oriented. If you go to another city it’s easy to make connections. But as I started to learn more about it, I was like “wow, a lot of these guys don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to the body.” I try to stay up on the research and, of course, with that you find out about things that are not true. There’s a lot of garbage information going around in the fitness world. A lot of magazine science. Stuff that’s not quite right. Like, for instance, that doing a lot of sit-ups will give you abs. But it really won’t; you have to lose the fat first, and you can’t spot-reduce fat. There are a lot of common myths like that.

Breakers, they become amazing athletes because they train really hard, and probably any way they train would help, but there’s certainly a lot of things about injuries, about pain, how their body works… a lot information that would be really useful to them as dancers.

Like what?

Like how stretching works. Stretching makes you flexible, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent injuries. That doesn’t mean don’t stretch, because you need to be flexible to do things, but if you have an injury, a lot of people think they need to stretch the hell out of it to make the injury go away. Actually you shouldn’t stretch a pulled muscle very much. Very lightly.

So to me this is a more constructive way to participate in the scene. I like to think I’ll continue to get better and be able to compete on an international level—that’d be awesome, of course—but I’m realistic about that. I’ve won competitions this year, and I’m going to try to win Hustle as best as I can, but I’m pretty realistic about me ever being able to, say, go to France and compete. But I feel like I can still contribute to the b-boy world through my expertise as a physiotherapist.

Photo by Darrell Edwards

You can find Ingram’s website at www.bboyscience.com. Hustle To Get Here happens September 14th, 15th, 16th. For more information visit www.hustletogethere.com or the Facebook page “Hustle to Get Here”.


  1. Elling Lien · April 18, 2011

    Website corrected from print version: http://www.bboyscience.com

    (Derp. Sorry.)

  2. Deborah Jackman · April 18, 2011

    Today i was takin a mental health break you know…. and i went to Fixed Coffee Shop for a coffee and picked up the Scope (best read in st.john’s ), sittin outside enjoying more surprisingly good weather ..and i read this article… and it is one of the most moving and inspiring stories i have read for a long time.. and i really needed it…. Best of luck Tony Ingram. I want to see you dance now! but not just the dance it is what you have done with your studies, dance and incorporated it into dance and visa-vera. I just got my dose of mental health medicine….

    AND of course KUDOS to the SCOPE… you RRRRROCK!!!!