Max del Solar

His art is still misunderstood by many, but he is stubborn. Thanks to him, dozens of boys feel part  of a world away from drugs and gangs, and have improved their quality of life.

“To me this is not ridiculous, because it is what I believe in. This is what I am”

Why did you continue?

There was another film: “Beat Street” (1984); it showed the hip-hop culture in a deeper way. The characters were like survivors ⸺boys who, through graffiti, dance and music, expressed a misunderstood art⸺ a reflection of real life! I said to myself, “I want to be like them, to fight for what I dream and feel, and to grow stronger in my art”.

Those were bad times for Peru, terrorism was already beating Lima. Was breakdancing your way to fight fear and uncertainty?

Yes, but I did not know. One night, after midnight, two police officers stopped me. There was a curfew, so they asked me where I was going. I told them I was going home from dancing, but they did not believe me. I danced for them right there on the street and without music. One laughed, but the other said, “Well done, lad, keep it up”. I had to! To me this is not ridiculous, because it is what I believe in. This is what I am.

Today you are a role model for many young people.

Well, yes. I blame fate (laughs)...

You have received some of the nicest tokens of appreciation from parents whose children you teach this art.

I appreciate that they entrust me with their children, and that the boys speak so well of me.

A wrong look could link your art with gangs, law-breaking, drugs.

As kids grow up, they learn about the vices around them and they do not want to be out of tune. I have had a hard time explaining to them that there are other alternatives, but I think I have made myself clear because many of them ⸺now with their own children⸺ have thanked me.

Through dance, you have touched their lives.

You can do it through any art or sport. They need support... Parents at first find it difficult to understand, but then learn to appreciate it.

Is there anything you remember fondly?

When the Peruvian Hip-Hop Movement was founded at the Chabuca Granda amphitheatre, in the district of Miraflores, there was this little boy who would sit and watch us dance until his father went for him after work. We used to sell cassettes with the music we danced, and one day the child asked his dad to buy one. He did not, but once at home the father showed the boy his own breakdance cassettes. He used to be a breaker! How do I know that? Because he approached me and congratulated me for what we did with the boys. “I thought this wasn’t happening anymore. When I got married, I hid my cassettes because my wife wanted me to dump them. But I knew ⸺don’t ask me why!⸺ that someday I’d need them again and now they’re my son’s”.

Some parents have thanked me after having seen their children dance: “I thought he was shy. I didn’t know he could move like this! Is there anything I can do to support you?” When that happens, I blush, because I think it is not such a big deal...

But it is, isn’t it?

Well, yes... I am aware now of the effect it has.

If not for profit, why do you do it?

Because it saves lives. It saves me, it saves others... and I like saving others.