Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Nursing wounds on a dancefloor

Working 12 hour shifts on a full-time rota in any job is demanding. Working as a mental health nurse, considerably more so — but for 24-year-old city resident Kim Calvert, spare time doesn’t mean sitting back and relaxing. Kim unwinds by providing another service to the community — getting kids to take their battles off the street and onto the dance floor.

What first drew Kim to B-boying (or breakdancing), she can’t entirely explain — the passion and style just captured her heart, soul and feet. It has given her the energy to not only participate in this extreme fitness dance, competing at an international level as B-girl Soul-Lo — but also gave her the push to set up Northern Ireland’s first breakdance school, Floor B.

With her hectic schedule leaving little time to eat and sleep, it’s astounding to think how she and her best friend (and fellow B-boy), Paul Ashford, managed to organise this year’s only international B-boy event in Northern Ireland — Cypher Sessions 2. She admits, “it’s left me with no social life, but plenty of friends”.

Kim explains: “The B-boying scene is a big family, everyone looks out for each other. When I was in my second year at Queen’s University, training to become a nurse, I wanted to take up a dance, but didn’t know which one. After a bit of research, I googled up B-boying and Belfast to see if there was anywhere I could learn it. Belfast City Breakers came up — though they weren’t giving dance lessons it was a place to practise with others. It took me a while to get the confidence to go to a session, but I did in the end.

“I was the only girl there which was a bit daunting, but everyone in the group was really friendly and encouraging — and that was it, I was hooked.

“We started a student B-boying group at Queens and the university has always been great for giving Belfast City Breakers a place to practice.”

After working in a mental health facility for young people during her degree, Kim changed her university course halfway through, to specialise in this type of nursing.

She says: “During my studies, I got a job working for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and knew almost instantly that this was the type of nursing I wanted to specialise in — I just knew this was the job for me.

“When I graduated they employed me full-time in their regional centre which has 16 beds for young people. Though I can’t speak about my work publicly, I have seen pretty much everything.

“Not many people will ever know — and probably wouldn’t want to know — some of the things these young people have been through. It can be hard at times, but it’s great when you see a young person, despite all the difficulties they face, take what may be their first positive step in gaining control of their lives.”

Unsurprisingly, B-boying has made it into her place of work — with great effect. Kim says: “One of our patients didn’t engage with anyone — it was very difficult for her to. I gave a breaking lesson one day for some of the patients and that was it, you couldn’t stop her! It really broke down the boundaries for her and she communicated through the lesson. It was a way for her to release and relax, but most of all I would say, it gave her confidence.

“In fact she came along to the Cypher session event last Saturday and absolutely loved it, it’s a big passion of her’s now.”

A striking aspect of the B-boying scene is the lack of alcohol. Kim says: “When we held our first Cypher session event in a Belfast bar last year, the bar owners I think were a bit miffed that most of the audience never drank. In fact I remember the MC who compered the event shouted into the crowd ‘Who’s having a great time?’ and everyone shouted ‘Yeah!’

“Then he shouted, ‘Who has drunk alcohol?’ and the audience were quiet. It’s just not that type of event and not that culture really. People go to enjoy the performance and for those taking part in a B-boy battle, it’s just too serious for them to think about having a drink. It just goes to show how much you can enjoy yourself and have a really cool time without it.

“It was great to hold the event at T13 urban playground at the Titanic Quarter this year. It was such an intergenerational event, there were babies, families and people of all ages. It was very multicultural too, everybody was supporting everybody — it was fantastic. Seeing some of the best in Europe perform, it really blows you away, especially for those who come to see it for the first time — I think this is the start of something really big for Belfast.”

To find out more on Floor B or future breakdance events visit http://www.t13.tv or email floorb@t13.tv.

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