06 Apr 2019 09:51Today is the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), an annual celebration of the power of sport to drive social change, improve community development and promote peace and understanding.
As a member of the Olympic Movement, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) is celebrating IDSDP by recognizing all the dancers, coaches and mentors who through DanceSport are building bridges between peoples, empowering communities, and fostering societal and individual change.
One person who epitomizes all this and more is Navid Rezvani, also known as B-boy Spaghetti, who has spent most of his life learning from and giving back to Breaking and the Hip Hop community around the world.
An Iranian-born Norwegian citizen, Rezvani wears many hats. Depending on the day, he can be described as a dancer, an artist, a motivational speaker, a teacher, a documentary maker, a Hip Hop MC, an ambassador, or all of the above. But one thing is certain: sport has always played a central role in his life.
“In Iran, sport is well-integrated in our culture, especially football and wrestling, and it definitely had an influence on me,” Rezvani says. “I was inspired to not only master something, but master something that had a bigger meaning that could resonate with others – with your family and the community. When these guys won, everyone would cheer and it was a great celebration that brought people together inside homes and out on the streets. So we were always looking forward to the next championship and were hoping for a win so we could all celebrate.”
Rezvani first took to the martial art of Taekwondo, inspired as he was by Bruce Lee and Spiderman. But after moving to Oslo and getting his first taste of Breaking at a youth centre called Xray, he immediately knew he had found his calling.
“Sport teaches values and confidence,” he says. “I am smaller than average and when I was young sport taught me that confidence was inside me. I realized that once you master a sport, you don’t need to put on a mask when you leave the house, you can just be yourself. You learn self-respect and that teaches you to have respect for other people as well. All you need is already inside you.”
He soon started making a name for himself, going on to win the official 1VS1 Norwegian championships and various international competitions, reaching the finals of the Norwegian version of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and finishing second in “Norway’s Got Talent.”
Now 36 years old, B-boy Spaghetti has pretty much done it all, including becoming the first B-boy to receive a three-year scholarship from the Norwegian Art Council, an achievement he is understandably proud of, as it gives him yet another platform on which to promote the artistic, cultural and athletic elements of Hip Hop and Breaking.
Knowing how fortunate he has been to find strength through sport and the arts, he now spends a great deal of his time giving back to others, be they elite-level athletes in Norway or disadvantaged youth in India, Palestine and Bangladesh. Rezvani’s teachings are universal and find receptive audiences around the globe.
Rezvani cites boxer Muhammad Ali, “the greatest of all time,” as a major influence behind his passion for sharing his gifts, in particular the quote: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your time on earth.”
He says he was first inspired to pass on what he has been given through art and sport during the International Baccalaureate program in high school when he discovered the American slave-era adage of “Each One, Teach One,” a philosophy also used by Nelson Mandela and fused into Hip Hop culture from the very beginning.
“'Each One, Teach One’ was a philosophy among slaves where if you knew how to read and write, you therefore had a responsibility to share your knowledge with somebody else,” he says. “And this philosophy is still very active in the Breaking community today, where we inspire and educate each other as dancers, always giving back.”
This was evident at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last October, where, despite being extremely busy as judges, Athlete Role Models and spokespeople, B-girl AT and B-boys Moy and Mounir took the time to hold a free, five-hour Breaking workshop in a community centre in the Argentinian capital. It was one of the highlights of Breaking’s extremely successful Olympic debut, and something the 240 local young people who attended will not soon forget.
One of the most powerful messages B-boy Spaghetti has for young people is that to become the best version of yourself, you must be true to who you really are.
“In our world today, there is such a strong influence from social media and it is easy for young people to steal the identities of others. But if you do that, you fade away as your true self,” he says. “Hip Hop and Breaking allow us to express ourselves and that becomes an integral part of the dance. It is something that even [International Olympic Committee President] Thomas Bach picked up on, when he talked about Breaking not just being a sport but an expression of the individual. I tell young people to dare to be themselves as it is the only way to become a role model in their own right.”
IOC President Bach was complementary of Breaking both at last year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires and again following a recent IOC Executive Board decision to approve Breaking, along with with skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing, for possible inclusion on the sport programme for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
“[Breaking] is a very authentic expression,” Bach said. “You feel with every performance the personality of the athletes. It is not just delivering an exercise, it is expressing yourself.”
The next Olympic test for Breaking will be a vote by the full IOC Session during its next meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland from 24-26 June. Should Breaking receive provisional approval by the Session, a final vote on its inclusion at Paris 2024 will come in December 2020 following the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Rezvani says he would welcome the opportunity for Breaking to be given the green light for Paris 2024, as it would give B-boys and B-girls a chance to learn from athletes of other sports and vice versa, which is one of the most important lessons he himself has taken away from his time as ambassador for the Performance Culture Program at Olympiatoppen, Norway’s top Olympic centre.
“I have seen how important diversity and inclusion are for culture and sports,” he says. “I am often reminded of how much we as B-boys and B-girls have to learn from the sports world, including all the detailed technical training Olympic athletes do to get the best results, their focus on healthy diets, injury-prevention knowledge, post-injury and rehab exercises, and their discipline in prioritizing.
“And on the flip side, we have so much to inspire the sports world with, including our self-thought, creativity and passion as self-expressive artists. Only by working together can we enrich our worlds and pave the way for more interest in physical activity among young and old people globally.”
Learn more about the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace here.View more news