Street cultures. His name was Massimo Colonna, he was a breakdance champion and a pioneer in Italy. The book celebrates his legend

Maria Egizia Fiaschetti, Crash Kid fa ancora girare la testa,  Il Corriere Della Sera, 06/10/2019:

A social web before the internet era. “Generator of connections” born on the streets and through word of mouth. It was almost thirty years ago when Crash Kid, a youngster grown up in the Portuense neighbourhood of Rome, was bubbling with energy, buzzing at the idea of pushing his body beyond its limits. He ultimately gained a mythological aura after he danced in front of sacred creatures the likes of Ice T and Afrika Bambaataa. One competition after the other, he established himself as the champion of headspin (athletic virtuoso that consists of dizzyingly spinning on your head) and as a charismatic entertainer of the scene, and not just the Italian scene, as well as of the underground and of television. His performance on Fantastico (an Italian TV program) presented by Pippo Baudio and with Jovanotti in the ‘90s was legendary.

Transatlantic languages reinterpreted with originality and a sense of identity, amongst large gatherings and epic concerts (Public Enemy, Run Dmc…). And despite an ever growing and rapid obsolescence, his story retains the characteristics of a metropolitan fable. It goes beyond being a tribute, therefore, the choral portrait dedicated to Massimo Colonna (pictured in the photo), winner of the worldwide most important competition of breakdance, the Battle of the Year, in 1995. He disappeared in 1997 in an accident, aged 26. The authors of the book, in which his biography becomes a depiction of a generation, are his friends Marcello “Napal” Saolini and Ben Samba Matandu: a sort of restoration work that brings together memories, custom history, youths’ aesthetics and neotribalism. Witness of his debut as a dancer is Sebastiano Ruocco, art name Ice One, 53, who cut through all the disciplines of Hip-Hop: graffiti, beatboxing, rap rhymes, acrobatic moves to the rhythm of beats coming out of ghetto blasters – the iconic portable tape recorder of videoclips or cult movies like Do the Right Thing, by Spike Lee. The same type used to train on the pavements of Galleria Colonna, which was then renamed after Alberto Sordi, in Via del Corso, Rome, next to “Babilonia”, the legendary clothes shop and meeting point.

Crash Kid on stage with Afrika Bambaataa

“Massimo – says Ice One at the book’s “reading” – knew that me and my group, the Special Breaking Crew, used to train in Ostia. When his dad brought him to me he was 13; he was slender and he still did not move very smoothly, but in no time he became an outstanding dancer. Amongst the many adventures that reminisce of adolescence he chooses this one: “We were on the bus and a man was making fun of him because of his helmet and knee pads. To provoke him the man said: “You’re on the wrong bus, the skydiver’s airport is in the other direction”. As a comeback he got off the bus and he started dancing with so much style that the man was left speechless. Massimo knew how to transform mockery into creative energy”.

Napal, writer of the first hour, now a 43-year-old artist and illustrator, never resigned himself to the idea that the masses of material accumulated by Crash Kid had been lost, until one day his sister found it in a dusty loft: “After having found the archive three years ago, I curated the photographic restoration, which meant cleaning the negatives and scanning the images: they were an incredibly rich snapshot of the period ’82-‘97”.  What did your friendship mean to you? “When we started doing graffiti, I was 12 and he was 17. Sometimes I was not able to reach the higher parts of the wall and he would pick me up and put me on his shoulder and encouraged me “go on, finish up”. In the book I tried to portray this spirit; I think that especially today, art needs to take a step back and start talking about feelings again, rather than likes and visualisations.”

Crash Kid and Ice T

Alessandro Tamburini, aka Dj Baro (Colle der Fomento), has imprinted in his memory his first encounter with Crash Kid, which took place in February ’89: “I was impressed with his dress sense: Puma trainers, Kangol hat, and the jacket of an American football team. The typical attire of the Hip Hop artists I used to see on some of my vinyls.” The friendship grew stronger and was cemented by a common passion: “He was eager to share what he had learned around the world and everyone was engaged. He was a tough guy and he trained everyday until he became one of the best power movers of the time”. If he could choose to relive one of the most powerful moments with Massimo it would be “the first breakdance international jam as a group, the Ready to Fight, in Bern, Switzerland. During which I was lucky enough to be close to one of the best in the field.”

Paulo von Vacano, the publisher, became deeply involved in the project, which celebrates a movement “that represented a pioneering model of civilisation, where the negative beats of the streets were transformed into positive ones”. Why does he think it is still relevant nowadays? “Because those kids dreamt of making their families and their neighbourhood stronger, and some of them are still actively pursuing that dream. For those born in the digital era, these are successful role models, rather than utopic ones, of those who fight for the right to live.”

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