Few people saw it coming.
The year was 2007. The audience at the World UK B-Boy Championships was getting geared up for favorites like Lilou of Pockemon and Lil Bob of Killafornia. Crazy Legs was yelling, “Falling is not an option!”
Then, out of the woodwork came Menno, a young, Abercrombie & Fitch-model-looking b-boy from Holland.
Using his sprawling blonde hair to mop up the floor–and the competition–Menno dominated the one-on-one battles, beating out fan favorites to win the title and worldwide b-boy stardom.
Two years and countless video clips, message board bulletins, battles and titles later, Menno’s still not used to the being a b-boy celebrity.
“It’s funny when you go to Japan or any far country and people wanna have a picture with you or wanna have an autograph on their cap,” the 20-year-old says via e-mail.
But you can’t blame him for being unaccustomed to the idea of being a b-boy celebrity.
After all, Menno–whose parents named him Menno Van Gorp–was born, raised, and continues to live in Tilburg, a small town that’s historically considered to be a wool capital of the Netherlands.
Rather than weaving wool, however, Menno’s claim to fame was his ability to weave together his explosive moves.
Using an arsenal of signature slides, spins, and freeze transitions, Menno pulls and harnesses momentum from the most unlikely positions. His runs tell seamless stories with a flow that at once seems haphazard and carefully planned.
“I try to do everything and mix it in a original way,” Menno says. “I don’t have a typical style. I have my own style: punchlines.”
It’s an approach that that Menno seems to have mastered since he first saw b-boying in the video for Run-DMC’s “It’s Like That.” With the guidance of two older cousins and the full support of his parents, Menno began to carve out his own unique flavor.
“Once I tried it, I never stopped,” he says. “After my first battle, I knew I wanted to make it my own and become a real b-boy.”
Influenced by b-boys like Storm, Remind, Lil John, Maurizio, Rabbani and others from Aktuel Force and Skill Methodz, Menno’s skill helped him to get put down with Def Dogz when he visited Paris with Xisco in late 2005. Only two years later, Alien Ness put him down with the Mighty Zulu Kings.
But Menno seems to draw the most inspiration from his Tilburg-based crew Hustle Kidz, which now includes members from all around Holland after its inception in 2006.
“The scene in my city is all fam, you know–everybody knows each other and there’s no beefs or whatever,” Menno says. “There are like 15 to 20 b-boys in my city–not much, but enough. Holland-wise, it’s getting better as well, with many up-and-coming b-boys.”
The growing community has fostered a greater frequency of events as well.
“Almost every weekend, there’s a jam somewhere; a few years ago there were only like six jams in a year,” Menno says. “We did our own event, Autumn Madness. We will be back with that event at the end of the year or spring of 2010–we’re gonna do something dope. You’re definitely gonna hear more about Holland.”
And while Holland’s scene cuts it teeth with its next generation of b-boys and b-girls, Menno is busy seeing the world as he travels the battle circuit.
“If you think too much about being original, you’re gonna be stuck some day. The most stupid or easy movements can be dope; don’t dig too deep!”
A fulltime b-boy, he pays the bills by teaching workshops, performing at shows, battling and judging events. His free time is spent with his crew as well, which he calls a “real family.”
So far, his adventures have taken him across “beautiful” countries like Japan, Korea, Russia and the U.S.
Such experiences seem to have given Menno a unique outlook when it comes to creating and training.
For example, he doesn’t train specially for battles anymore.
“I used to for days, but I know myself as a b-boy now–I know what I can do and my moves and transitions,” he says.
He also advises new b-boys and b-girls not to over-think the dance.
“Just be yourself. Don’t try to be another guy who you look up to,” he says. “You can have your inspirations, but keep it yours and don’t believe the hype! Just do what you feel and what you like. Sometimes you don’t have to think; you have to do it and follow your body. If you think too much about being original, you’re gonna be stuck some day. The most stupid or easy movements can be dope; don’t dig too deep!
“Get your basics first–that’s so important,” he continues. “I think the big ‘foundation’ hype was good after all. I don’t like to see everyone in the same outfits and the same tops and basic moves, but now it’s getting better because people are starting to find their own way in that.”
Menno says he finds his own inspiration to keep up with the best from good music, including soul, funk and hip-hop, and the b-boys with whom he trains.
It seems he’ll need all the inspiration he can get, as he hopes to continue travelling and “drop bombs” at Freestyle Session in the near future–and be remembered as a b-boy legend in the more distant future.
“I hope that b-boys still watch my clips like I watch clips now from Maurizio, Gabin, Karim, Barouche and Storm and have someone be like, ‘Daaaamn, he would still smoke a lot of b-boys right now.’ That’s the ultimate goal for me,” he says.
Menno admits that he’s also tossed around the idea of going to college later on to learn photography as a backup. But for now, it seems, his b-boy life is already picture-perfect.
“I want to see more of the world, and that’s possible with my dance,” he says. “On weekends being invited somewhere around the world-I love this life. Everything’s going well with breaking now, and I don’t wanna waste that. I wanna enjoy that as long as possible.”
*Alternate titles for this feature included “93 Tilburg Infinity” and “Holla Holland.”