With a shy smile hiding behind shaggy brown curls, Santa Fe’s Ricky Rodriguez, Jr. seems like a typical 10-year-old. That is, until he effortlessly pops a handstand and comes up into a b-boy freeze, arms crossed high on his chest, chin cocked in an expression that reads “bring it on.”
“B-boying is my life,” Ricky readily offers as he prepares for a world championship in California next month. Mom and fellow breakdancer Michelle Rodriguez says, “He’s been breakdancing since he was in my belly. His first ultrasound, he was trying to do head spins.”
Ricky, Sr., a well-known dancer and teacher in Santa Fe and Espanola, has been dancing since sixth grade. It’s no stretch to describe he and Michelle’s dancing dynasty as a prophecy fulfilled. As kids, they would pass each other love notes in class that read “Michelle + Ricky = Breakdancing Babies.”
Since his first dance battle at age four against a twenty-something b-boy in Albuquerque, Ricky Jr. has racked up awards around the country, including his title as Brooklyn’s Finest earlier this year.
But it was his performance at the Kids Breaking League Competition in Colorado last year that caught the attention of a professional adult crew called the Freak Show, with members from all over the Southwest. Ricky is now not only their youngest member, but also the only dancer they have ever invited from New Mexico.
The boy prodigy has a simple formula for success: “Eat healthy, drink a lot of water, and always practice or you’ll lose it.”
While most kids his age trudge to obligatory soccer matches once a week, this professional breakdancer practices twice a day, every day. At recess, Ricky’s fourth-grade teachers encourage him, and Ricky says “I end up being the coolest kid in school.”
Ricky Jr.’s favorite move to practice is the airflare, a dizzying upside-down handstand spin move he can repeat up to 32 times in a row. The usually modest kid shows a little of the swagger that make his performance in battle so compelling: “Me and my dad did a video together and we were throwing airflares at the same time, and I counted his. He stopped at 12 each time, but I kept going.”
Ricky Sr. sees more than just a talented dancer in his son:
“He has this attentiveness, this talent, this skill that’s going to go on beyond dancing. It works in the classroom, it’s just who he is, how he represents in life. I’m crazy proud of him. I can only imagine what he’s going to do, and you guys are going to be reading about him later on.”
Ricky’s next opportunity comes Nov. 10th and 11th when he returns to one of the biggest breakdancing battles in the world, the Freestyle Session World Finals in Los Angeles, battling his idols in the Adults 2-on-2 bracket for one of the greatest b-boying titles in the world.
If he doesn’t win? “I’m going to come back next year. Like how I do every year.”
Meow Wolf is proud to join Ricky Jr’s family in sponsoring him at the 2018 Freestyle Sessions.