Phil “Wizard” Kim on Vancouver’s Breakdance Scene and Dancing on the Rooftops of Paris

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Team Canada’s first Olympic B–boy, Phil “Wizard” Kim, breaks down his travels and favourite places to bust a move, from the streets of Vancouver to the steps of Sacré–Cœur Basilica.

Discipline

Breaking

Age

27

Hometown

Vancouver, BC

Motto

Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.

For Phil Kim, the road to becoming an Olympian is lined with t–shirts and beanies. He sweats through four tops and three hats per breakdance session. “I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging,” he says from Cape Town, where he’s landed for a competition. “I just meant that I get really sweaty.” Kim will make history when he takes centre stage at Parc Urbain La Concorde in Paris as one of 32 B–Boys and B–Girls battling for a medal as breaking makes its Olympic debut. After winning the first–ever gold in men’s breaking at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, the Vancouver native known as Phil “Wizard” heads to France as the B–Boy to beat.

July 2, 2024

enRoute How did you get your start in breaking?

Phil Kim I started breaking when I was around 11. I first saw the Now or Never Crew spinning on their heads and doing all these crazy moves in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It just blew my mind. Then one of the crew members came to my elementary school right before I was graduating. I started taking classes with him and the rest is history.

I wasn’t particularly talented – there were a lot of other people in the scene at that time that were around my age and better than me. But over time, I became the most obsessed with it. In all my spare time, I watched breakdancing videos. During high school, sometimes I would ask to go to the bathroom just so I could practise a move.

By the pier in downtown Vancouver
Vancouver   Photo: Dogukan Sahin

ER What kind of training goes into being a world–class breaker?

PK Physically, it’s extremely demanding. I work with a personal trainer two to three times a week. When I’m not with him, I’m working out. I also go to actual practices. It ends up being about 20 to 25 hours a week. I even find spots where I can move in airports when I have layovers.

ER Breaking mixes artistry and athleticism. How do you view the sport? 

PK I do see it as an art, more so than a sport, to be honest. Wherever I am in my life, mentally, I manifest it through dance. We are going into the Olympics as a sport, but breaking has never been about who is the fastest and the strongest. There’s a lot of self–expression that goes into dance. A big part of it is what we call storytelling, which is how you put the sequence together, how you flow between your moves, and your ability to put that together in a cohesive and esthetic way.

ER Do you go into a breakdance battle with a game plan? How much room do you leave to freestyle?

PK I approach battles with a combination of free–form and a bit of a game plan. I used to be more rigid and try to stick to a set plan, but I found that it only stressed me out during competitions because I often couldn’t remember what I wanted to do.

I focus on practising in a freestyle manner, allowing my body to naturally dictate my movements. While I may have one or two moves in mind during battles, I don’t stress if I don’t hit them exactly as planned. Instead, I listen to the music, feel out my body and let the dance flow organically. I do keep a list of moves on my phone as a backup, but I prefer not to rely on it.

ER Are you working on any secret moves for Paris?

PK I’m not working on secret moves specifically for Paris, but I’m constantly engaged in the creative process of developing new movements. Breaking is a brutal environment in that people get tired of you quickly, so there is pressure to constantly innovate. I’m lucky because I love finding new movements and evolving my style. I’m working on some new moves, but I’ll also be trying to execute my existing ones to the highest level.

ER You have said that breaking at home is where you find inspiration. What makes Vancouver’s breaking community special?

PK I have so much love for the spaces and community that Vancouver has provided me. There’s a lot of diversity, and my style was very much influenced by the people I grew up around. I get to see lots of cool places, but I get homesick – I miss home and being home with my people, with my spaces. In Vancouver, I train out of a studio called Boogaloo Academy, and the co–owner, Jheric, was one of my first teachers. Having a place to call home is essential for me to thrive creatively.

ER In your travels, you’ve danced on subway platforms in New York City, the Formula One track in Montreal and the rooftops of Paris. What’s the coolest place you’ve pulled some moves?

PK I’ve had the privilege of breaking in some truly amazing places around the world. One standout memory was a shoot in Vancouver where we took a helicopter into the mountains, landing in different locations so I could jump out and dance. Last year, I competed at the iconic Stade Roland–Garros in Paris.

Phil "Wizard" Kim performing a breakdance move

The Questionnaire

  • Window or aisle? This very much depends on the flight. If it’s a shorter flight, I’ll go with an aisle seat. I have a very small bladder, so I get up a lot. If it’s a longer flight, I’ll take a window seat and I will not drink any water because I don’t want to disturb the people next to me. I like the window for longer flights because I can lean against it and sleep.

  • Dream seatmate Nobody. I want to sit up front, by myself, with no one beside me. But if I had to sit beside someone, I’ve actually never really travelled with my parents. I’d love to sit beside my parents. Hopefully to Paris!

  • Guilty travel pleasure Any time I’m travelling, it’s kind of my time to think about life. I don’t really watch movies or anything, I just like to sit there and think. I don’t know if it’s a “guilty” travel pleasure, but flying gives me a moment to think about life, what’s going on, where I’m going and all the things I’m grateful for.

  • Travel has the power to… Give you perspective. I’m very fortunate to travel a lot for work, and it’s given me the opportunity to see different lifestyles, different countries, and what people have in their lives. Some people have more and some people have less. It gives you a lot of gratitude for the things that you have.

  • First travel memory I will say, my memory is not very good. I can barely remember anything about my life and my childhood is just a blur to me. My first international trip was going to Orlando for a big breaking event. I worked a lot that summer – it was my first job – and I saved up so we could go on this trip. I remember taking that flight and thinking, I paid for this – I did this with my own money and all my hard work. So, it was one of my first memorable travel experiences.