Victor Montalvo, 28, from Orlando, Florida, is arguably one of the most talented breakers in the world (that’s the break dancer for you, Pappa) and recently won the top prize at the Red Bull BC World Finals One 2022, a contest known as the most prestigious breaking contest on the planet. In order to outplay his opponents for nearly a decade, “Supa” Montalvo likes to stay constantly active so he can work on his strength, agility, and stamina. And, while breakdancing is certainly considered a niche sport at the moment, it is also a discipline that is on the rise. While breakdancing should be included in the Olympic Games in 2024, M&F caught up with the B-Boy to find out how he got started, honed his craft, and became one of the scene’s most innovative movers.
Congratulations on winning the 2022 Red Bull BC One World Final. How was that experience for you?
I celebrated with my wife and closest friends. I was really nervous! Even a week before the event, I was waiting for it to be over. In fact, I couldn’t train as hard as I wanted to. I only had about three weeks and they were super intense. I was doing a lot of interval running and interval breaks, which involves a full 30 minute set followed by a 20-30 second rest. I also incorporated a lot of calisthenics. I went to Vegas afterwards to have a big party. I still feel like I’m enjoying this win because I went to Vegas, spent some time at home in Los Angeles where I live now, and then had a bit of a vacation in Japan, then to Hawaii. He is now back in Los Angeles to train!
When did you first fall in love with breaking?
When I was 9 or 10, I remember my cousin invited me over and in his room there was this music playing. He taught me a few moves and I remember it was really hard, but I loved how hard it was. The next day, I was too shy to go back so I stood outside his door listening to the music. It was something in the style of music that made me want to move and dance. And at that age, it automatically clicked. Breaking quickly became something I loved to do and it became so natural to me that it eventually became a career.
Breakdancing is definitely a family affair for you, isn’t it?
I was training at my cousin’s house. He would put cardboard on the carpet and we would dance. My uncle is Hector Bermudez and my father is Victor Bermudez. They were twins who started breaking when it really became famous in the late 1980s. They formed a crew with their other siblings and five out of ten were breakers. From what they told me, at the time, they had to hitchhike to all these events to meet different breakers and crews to fight in their city of Puebla, Mexico. They stopped when they left Mexico to come to the United States around 18 or 19 to start a new life, because in Mexico life was really hard and it was super dangerous.
You were only 14 when you won your first breaking contest. Do you have any memories of this first victory?
I remember it was one of the happiest times for me. I was shocked, but I worked so hard for this. I remember friends who wanted to hang out before the competition, but I turned them down so I could continue training. I had to win this event. All that training was worth it for the win!
Does breakdancing have a routine where you make up certain moves or is it more freestyle where you decide what to do as you go along? What processes and thoughts go through your mind when you dance?
For me, it’s more feeling and freestyle, at the beginning, that’s how I discover new moves like my signature moves (the ‘Super Montalvo’, which is a one-handed spin, and a combo back- flip-into-flare). But at the same time, you need structure when it comes to competing in bigger events and competitions, like a Red Bull BC One or an Olympic qualifier. So it’s half freestyle and half structured. When I dance or fight, I get really nervous. So many things are going through my mind and I can be quite stressed. Sometimes, honestly, I can’t wait for the event to end. But at the same time, while I’m fighting, I tell myself positive things like “you got this, don’t worry” and I always have plans B, C and D, just in case!
Breaking must be hard enough, from a physical point of view?
I once had a really bad back spasm which caused me a lot of pain in my lower back. I couldn’t sit or sleep and it hurt a lot to do anything. But luckily one of my uncles is a chiropractor so he fixed me up and I was ready to go in two weeks. Another time I had a serious shoulder injury. I tried to do a move where I throw myself in the air and spin around, but I accidentally landed on my shoulder and it really swelled up. I had a competition shortly after and had to compete with a swollen shoulder. I also got water in my knees once and wasn’t really able to dance. But when I need it, I keep working around my wounds. If I get injured, I know which parts of my body I can’t use, so I find different ways to dance and land.
The older I get, the more difficult braking becomes, so I have to maintain myself. This means I need to eat better, stretch more, and be more physically active all the time.
I remember when I was younger, I could party all day and wake up the next day to compete and perform amazingly, but I can’t do that anymore. I have to go to bed early and get ready. It’s a lot of preparation, stretching and dieting.
What does your training regimen look like?
As for breaking, I practice every day for two to four hours, depending on how I feel. But I am also physically active throughout the day. I always do something. I like running on the beach or riding my bike. Other than training during breaks, I don’t really have a set schedule for training as it’s just a full day where I like to stay active. I have intense training sessions at the Red Bull Athletic Performance Center (APC), where Red Bull athletes train. Then, on other days, I like to train in my friends’ garage.
Break dancing requires strength, speed, agility, balance and endurance. What are some of the methods or exercises you incorporate to work on each aspect?
Calisthenics helped me a lot because it helped me with balance and strength. I also incorporated boxing and Muay Thai to keep things fun. The mental aspect is also important. Breaking is very physical, but for me it’s almost more mental. There is form to learn, which is where a lot of physically stuck breakers lack practice. You have to learn about the dance and set your strategy when fighting in order to be the best.
Do you need to watch your weight as a dancer?
I try to eat three meals a day, my first being a light breakfast but honestly most of my mornings I don’t eat. I go straight to training and eat a big meal afterwards. I drink a lot of water too. Food is really important to me before a big event. I avoid salty or sweet snacks like chips, candies and cakes. I always tell my wife not to bring home snacks because I will eat them all! For protein, I eat a lot of chicken and fish; like salmon. I try to avoid beef because it makes me feel heavy. And of course, I eat a lot of vegetables and drink a lot of water.
Do you have a good support system?
I have a few crews I’m involved with, but mostly I train with the Squadron in Los Angeles. But most of the time when I train, I’m alone or with my wife, who is also a breaker. When I’m in full practice mode for a big event, it’s just me pushing myself to the limit. It is a privilege to be sponsored by Red Bull. Few breakers have sponsorship opportunities. It’s amazing and there are a lot of benefits that Red Bull offers its athletes. I’m able to fight at any event in the world thanks to Red Bull and I’ve met so many great people thanks to Red Bull.
Are you excited for break dancing to be part of the 2024 Olympics?
For me, I’m just in the moment and so all I’m worried about right now is qualifying. I just hope to qualify and participate in the Olympics. But it’s an amazing thing that the station wagon is part of the Olympics and I hope I will represent the United States. I think after the Olympics, and even before, there will be a lot more opportunities for breakers and more big companies will start sponsoring breakers. I look forward to earning even more money through a career break so I can support my family in the future!
Follow “Supa” Victor Montalvo on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/supamontalvo