As breaking makes its Olympic debut, an Anchorage dancer is focused on growing the sport in Alaska

A man in a ball cap style hat poses for a photo.
Jeremy “Icey Ives” Viray at FlowZone Dance Studio in Anchorage on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Jeremy Viray, better known as B-Boy Icey Ives in the dance world, warmed up for a breaking set in his dance studio in Midtown Anchorage. He showed off some classic breaking moves — including one where his legs swoop under him in just a few steps while crouched and supported by his hands.

Ives started breaking in 2007 at a local recreation center.

“There were these kids that were just like, ‘Hey, you should just try this out. You guys look cool. We’re breakdancing. I think you’d be really good at it.’ And ever since that day, we never stopped. We were just inspired,” he said. 

Breaking is making its Olympic debut in Paris this summer. Ives missed qualifying for Paris, but is still committed to the sport. He said Alaska’s dance scene is flourishing, but it needs more leaders to grow.

Ives began competing nationally when he was a freshman in high school and has since competed in events in over 20 countries. In 2019, he was the first Alaskan to win Red Bull BC One, which is billed as the world’s largest one-on-one breaking championship. 

“Just to be a part of those competitions. It’s just everything I dreamed of when I was a kid,” he said.

That following year, breaking became an Olympic sport when it was added to the 2024 summer Olympics. Ives said the addition is significant for the dance community because it offers an international platform. He was excited for an opportunity to be on Team USA and to represent Alaska.

But he fell short at the Olympic qualifiers last year, placing in the top eight.

“I made it to Nationals, which was cool,” he said. “An even cooler story is that I lost to the gold medalist who’s representing the U.S.”

Despite not making the Olympic team, he’s training harder than ever. Ives said Alaska has a tight-knit dance scene that’s welcoming to all skill levels. 

A breakdancer
Jeremy “Icey Ives” Viray hits a freeze mid dance at FlowZone Dance Studio in Anchorage on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Dance studios in Anchorage occasionally host jams and battles, which are freestyle competitions where dancers improvise to the music. Ives and dancer Billy Fuller introduced Sahvanna Thompson to the battling-scene when she was in eighth grade. 

Known by her dance name ‘shakT’, Thompson is from Anchorage and has been dancing for 15 years. She moved to Arizona in 2017 to pursue a degree in dance. Thompson flew to Anchorage in June to judge a jam hosted by a local dance group. 

“It’s really awesome what is happening right now in terms of more jams more consistently and with battles as well,” she said.

She said Alaska’s hip-hop dance community is a safe and supportive space to be creative and it’s grown over the years. 

“Sometimes it feels like I never left. But there are a lot of new faces, like of the newer generation that I do see once in a while when I come back,” she said. “It’s nice to see them, see their growth.”

Ives co-owns a dance studio called Flow Zone, which opened in 2022. Ives said it was challenging as a dancer growing up in Alaska due to limited resources compared to the Lower 48. There were fewer competitions, dance studios and coaches. 

He said he’d have more opportunities in the Lower 48, but he’s committed to growing the sport in Alaska. 

“I feel like our community needs pioneers,” he said. “It’s rare, but I know there’s those gems out there in our (hip-hop) community that are willing to be students and willing to take those things on in terms of just leadership, mentorship, and sharing.”

A break dancer practicing moves.
Jeremy “Icey Ives” Viray rehearses at Flow Zone Dance Studio in Anchorage on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Two years ago, Ives injured his rotator cuff and doctors told him he could need surgery in the near future. He said this news put him in a dark place and he worried the injury was the end of his career. Instead of giving up, he decided to see how far he could physically push himself. Now, he trains for at least an hour and a half each day.

Ives said the beauty of dance is that you can adjust to what your body is capable of. 

“There’s a way to dance smart. I think that’s what I’m about now,” he said. “That’s been very important to me, and very pivotal in my dance journey.”

Ives said now that breaking is an Olympic sport, dancers will have more financial opportunities, like sponsorships. He also said breakdancing is a relatively new dance form, and its addition brings a level of professionalism to the sport.

Breaking is not included in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, but advocates are pushing for the event to be included again in 2032.

Ives said competing out of state has allowed him to gain perspective and experience new cultures. Now, he’s dedicated to sharing what he’s learned with Alaska’s dance community. 

“That’s my dream so far,” he said. “Just tour Alaska with a group of individuals who believe in the same values, just to share as much as we can.”

Ives said he’s looking forward to a partnership with the Anchorage School District this school year which he hopes inspires children to dance. He said his goal is to take his dance career as far as he can, whether that be teaching or competing internationally.

The next hip-hop dance event is being hosted by Flow Zone in Anchorage on July 20. The “style your flow concept jam” is open to all styles of dance. 

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