Victor Montalvo, 28, from Orlando, FL, is undoubtedly one of the worlds most talented breakers (that’s break dancer to you, Pappa) and recently claimed the top prize in the 2022 Red Bull BC One World Final, a contest known as the most prestigious breaking competition on the planet. In order to outdance his opponents for nearly a decade, “Supa” Montalvo likes to stay constantly active so that he can work on his strength, agility, and endurance. And, while breakdancing is certainly considered a niche sport right now, it is also a discipline that is on the ascent. With breakdancing set to 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 most innovative movers on the scene.
Congratulations on winning the 2022 Red Bull BC One World Final. How was that experience for you?
I celebrated with my wife and my closet friends. I was really nervous! Even a week before the event, I was waiting for it to be over. I actually didn’t get to 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 breaking, which involves a 30-minute all-out set, followed by a 20- to 30-second rest. I incorporated a lot of calisthenics as well. I went to Vegas afterwards to have a big celebration. I still feel like I’m enjoying that win actually because I went to Vegas, spent a little bit of time at home in Los Angeles where I live now, then vacationed a bit in Japan, followed by Hawaii. Now it’s back to LA 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 couple of moves and I remember it being really difficult, but I loved how challenging it was. The next day, I was too shy to go back so I would stand outside his door listening to the music. It was something about 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 doing and it came so natural to me that eventually it became a career.
Breakdancing is definitely a family affair for you, right?
I would practice at my cousin’s. He’d put cardboard down on the carpeted floor and we’d just dance. My uncle is Hector Bermudez and my dad is Victor Bermudez. They are twins who started breaking when it became really famous in the late 1980s. They formed a crew with their other siblings and five out of the ten were breakers. From what they told me, back then, they had to hitchhike to all these events to meet up with different breakers and crews to battle around their city, Puebla, Mexico. They stopped when they left Mexico to come to the U.S. at around 18 or 19 years of age to start a new life, because back in Mexico life was really tough and it was super dangerous.
You were just 14 years old when you won your first breaking competition. Do you have any memories of that first victory?
I remember it was one of the happiest moments for me. I was shocked, but I worked so hard for it. I remember friends coming over wanting to hang out before the competition but I turned them down so that I could keep training. I had to win this event. All of that training was worth it for the win though!
Does breakdancing have a routine in which you come up with certain moves or is it more freestyle where you decide what to do as you go along? What processes and thoughts are going through your mind when you are dancing?
For me, it’s more feeling and freestyling, at first, which is how I discover new moves such as my signature moves (the ‘Super Montalvo’, which is a one-handed spin, and a back-flip-into-flare combo). But at the same time, you need structure when it comes to competing in bigger events and competitions, such as a Red Bull BC One or an Olympic qualifier. So, it’s half freestyle and half structured. When I’m dancing or battling, I’m really nervous. So much is going through my mind and I can get pretty stressed. Sometimes, honestly, I can’t wait for the event to end. But at the same time, while I battle, I tell myself positive things like ‘you’ve got this, don’t worry’ and I always have Plans B, C, and D, just in case!
Breaking must be pretty tough, from a physical standpoint?
Once, I had a really bad back spasm that caused a lot of pain in my lower back. I couldn’t sit or sleep and it pretty much hurt to do anything. But luckily, one of my uncles is a chiropractor so he fixed me up and I was good to go in two weeks. Another time, I got a bad shoulder injury. I tried to do a move where I throw myself mid-air and I’m spinning, but I accidentally landed on my shoulder and it got really swollen. I had a competition soon after and had to compete with a swollen shoulder. I also had water in my knees once, and I wasn’t really able to dance. But when I need to, I still work my way around my injuries. If I get injured, I know which parts of my body I can’t use, and so I find different ways to dance and land moves.
The older I get, the more difficult breaking becomes, so I need to keep myself maintained. That means I have to eat better, stretch more, and be more physically active, consistently.
I remember when I was younger, I could go partying 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 sleep early and prepare myself. It’s a lot of preparation, stretching, and diet.
What does your training regime look like?
When it comes to breaking, I train every day for two to four hours, depending on how I feel. But I’m also physically active throughout the day. I’m always doing something. I like running to the beach or biking. Outside of break training, I don’t really have a set schedule for training as it’s just an all-day thing where I like to stay active. I do have intense training sessions at the Red Bull Athletic Performance Center (APC), where the 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 that you incorporate to work on each aspect?
Calisthenics has helped me a lot because it helped with balance and strength. I’ve also been incorporating boxing and Muay Thai to keep things fun. The mental aspect is important, too. Breaking is very physical, but for me, it’s almost more mental. There’s a form to learn, which is where a lot of breakers, who are stuck on the physical aspect, lack training. You need to learn about the dance and nail down your strategy when you battle 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 one being a light breakfast but honestly, most of my mornings, I don’t eat. I go straight to training and will eat a large meal afterwards. I drink a lot of water too. Diet is really important to me before a big event. I stay away from salty or sugary snacks like chips, candy and cake. I always tell my wife not to bring any snacks into the house because I will eat them all! For protein, I eat a lot of chicken and fish; like salmon. I do try to avoid beef because it makes me feel heavy. And of course, I eat a lot of vegetables and drink plenty of water.
Do you have a good support system?
I have a couple of crews that I’m involved with, but I practice mostly with the Squadron in Los Angeles. But, most of the time, when I train, I’m by myself or with my wife, who is also a breaker. When I’m in full-on training mode for a big event, it’s just me by myself, pushing myself to the limit. It’s a privilege to be sponsored by Red Bull. Not many breakers get sponsorship opportunities. It’s amazing and there are a lot of benefits that Red Bull provides their athletes. I’m able to battle at any event in the world through Red Bull and I’ve met so many awesome people through Red Bull.
How excited are you 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 the qualifiers. I’m just hoping to qualifying and get into the Olympics. But it’s an amazing thing that breaking is going to be part of the Olympics and I will hopefully represent the USA. I think after the Olympics, and even before, there will be a lot more opportunities for breakers and more big companies will begin to sponsor breakers. I’m looking forward to making even more money through break as a career so I can provide for my family in the future!
Follow “Supa” Victor Montalvo on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/supamontalvo