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By the time Delhi-based Shilpa Thapa turned 15, she had embraced the gait and grace of a Bharatanatyam dancer and the oomph of a salsa dancer. However, once she watched a group of b-boys flaunt their hip hop and breaking moves, she decided to take on the challenge. Thapa decided to train under He ra, one of Delhi's most respected b-boys. Now, the 17-year-old is known as b-girl Shellza.
Although street culture — comprising graffiti art, b-boys and hip hop tunes — has become prominent in India recently, the number of b-girls is considerably lower as compared to that of b-boys. Shellza recalls the number of times she sprained her knees, hurt her neck and had sore fingers while practising. "That's one of the reasons many girls stay away from b-boying. They are afraid to get hurt," she says. He ra adds, "Breaking requires immense power and includes difficult moves. It is easier for boys to adapt to this."
Since 2010, when He ra started teaching the dance form in Delhi, close to 300 boys have trained under him. But question him about the number of b-girls he has taught, and he says, "Maybe 16-17. Most of them drift away."
The scenario in Mumbai is different, where there are more girls that comprise various b-boying crews. "In Mumbai, breaking is part of the college culture and children practise in studios. Most crews in Mumbai come from college campuses, hence there's more participation of girls. In Delhi, on the other hand, it's just a street form," explains He ra.
For Shellza, the greatest challenges were battling against b-boys and also looking for inspiration in a girl, to give her the confidence that she could break the male stereotype attached to the genre. "There are very few b-girls in Delhi and back then, I had to look for a role model in Mumbai," she says.
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