Johanna Rodrigues was a schoolgirl in Bangalore when she encountered the world of breaking.

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It’s girl power all the way and so believes Johanna Rodrigues a 22-year-old B-girl from Bengaluru. In the past few years hip-hop has managed to make headlines for its quirky style and for being a revolution. However, breaking is one hip-hop dance style that has fewer female artists. With a smirk on her face and swagger in her moves, breaking the social stigma B-girl Jo emerged as the winner of the 5th edition of Redbull BC One this year.

When asked about what drove her to breaking? “I was attracted to the fact that this dance form is a fusion of athletics and artistry,” she adds saying, “A lot more people should be open to welcoming B-girls and girls must stay strong, because we need more energy to make space in the hip-hop radius.” Living in a society where how you look, what you wear, where you go and how you speak is being judged every step of the way, B-girls fight to express their talents in the most stylish dance form. A rare female face on India’s breakdancing scene, Johanna Rodrigues is representing the South Asian nation at this week’s Red Bull BC One world championship in Mumbai, where she will battle 15 women and 16 men for the top prize.

Johanna Rodrigues was a schoolgirl in the southern city of Bangalore when she encountered the world of breaking, taking a breather from studying for exams to watch a hip-hop dance performance. It was love at first sight.

“It was amazing to watch them move with such a sense of freedom,” she recalls.

Learning the moves felt like a natural next step.

“It felt so exhilarating to work with my body, to see what was possible,” she says, breaking into a smile. A year later, after training with her boyfriend who is also a b-boy (a term for a male breakdancer), she performed in public for the first time. Half a decade on, she says breaking has transformed her sense of self and raised her confidence as a woman living in conservative India.

“I used to feel so worried for my safety, so nervous travelling on my own or being stared at, but now I feel totally comfortable dancing in a park or on the street,” she says.

Although Johanna Rodrigues has studied contemporary dance and ballet, today she mainly draws on the skills she has picked up learning yoga, the ancient indigenous martial art of Kalaripayattu, and Bharatnatyam — a dance form that originated in southern India’s temples over 2,000 years ago. And, because the sport is intrinsically a freestyle form where dancers improvise to the music, Rodrigues says aspiring breakers who can’t afford classes can get tips from social media such as YouTube videos.

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