Meet the B-girl With Fairy-tale Moves
See how one of the best b-girls in China merges her studies with her art form.
Wang Qing in the Green Panda studios in Beijing.
Wang Qing wakes up every morning ready to dance. All she has to do is fold up her mattress, push it to the side, leaving an empty fuchsia pink dance floor and full-length mirror wall. Cue the music. Her bedroom is now her dance studio.
In the world of breaking, Wang Qing is both a powerhouse and an anomaly. She's a straight-As b-girl: Not only is she one of the highest-ranked breakers in China, she's also a full-time student working towards a Ph.D. in Chinese folklore. She taps into that expertise by incorporating both whimsy and storytelling into her dance moves.
"I was drawn to the study of folklore because I loved reading fairy tales when I was young", she says. "By listening to other people's stories, we can better understand how they feel and perceive the world and their surroundings".
On the stage, Wang Qing's choreographed storytelling is mesmerising, with a clear beginning, middle and end. She's performed routines as Zixia, a fairy from a 16th-century Chinese legend. She also frequently throws in ancient styles of martial arts into her moves. "There's something special about women performing spins or power moves or going into a dragon or snake-shaped pose", she says. "It's really meaningful when there's a heroine in kung-fu films".
"There's something special about women performing spins or power moves or going into a dragon or snake-shaped pose".
Very few breakers in China are female, and as a minority in a heavily male-dominated sport, she exudes elegance. Breaking is set to make its Olympic debut in 2024, and she hopes her unique style will put her in the qualifiers. The artform is usually very grounded, with bent knees, a strong core and a powerful bounce. But when Wang Qing moves, it's as if she's floating: there is a lightness to her movement. "[B-boys] tend to dance in ferocious forms like that of a lion or tiger", she says. "Yeah, you can imitate them, but you can also create your own feminine forms like that of a rabbit or cat".
"I train like an athlete to express like an artist".
Wang Qing's success didn't come overnight. Initially drawn into dancing as a way to work out, it took her a full decade to find her own rhythm and fully fall in love with the sport. "I had grown a little tired of dancing and realised that all of the moves I was performing in my videos were imitations of b-boy moves", she says. "My top-rock and down-rock transitions were all borrowed from other performers. I wasn't creating anything original, and by watching me, you could guess the next move I would perform".
She has also developed her own signature look, letting her long hair loose, both literally and metaphorically. "The key lies in developing your own style, not in mastering one particular move that someone else has done", she says. To Wang Qing, that kind of creativity can't develop without putting in the physical work. "I train like an athlete to express myself like an artist".
"Breaking gave me a way to express my true self".
Wang Qing is now a role model for other young Chinese b-girls, many of whom will reach out to her for advice. Her main tip? Dance to express yourself. "I like thinking of breaking as a way of making art out of everyday expression", she says. As a self-described "quiet and hard-working academic", she says that breaking helps her showcase her vibrant, inner world. "Now that I think about it, maybe I wasn't as introverted as a child, I just looked like it, and breaking gave me a way to express my true self", she says.
In 2019, Wang Qing was invited to join leading breaking group, Green Panda, and has won 10 battles so far in her time with them. And as she establishes herself as one of China's greatest breakers—with hopes of representing her country at the Olympics—her dancing is finally on her own terms. "There's a great line in the Book of Tao that goes: 'Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield'", she says. "Basically, just because something is gentle, doesn't mean it is weak or inferior. It's a special state that can resist and overcome many obstacles, and this strategy has helped a lot of b-girls win".
Photography: Yuyang Liu
Words: Clarissa Wei
Reported Date: July 2021