By Nicole Cohen
“You’re good — for a girl.”
It’s a sentiment fourth-year RTA student Sara Fenton hears a lot as one-fourth of Shebang!, an all-girl break dancing crew.
Fenton used to be intimidated by being a b-girl in a typically b-boys’ world, but now she says it’s what drives her. “I think you find complete jerks wherever you go, no matter where you are in life,” says Fenton. “I do things to prove to people that I can,” she says. “We’re inspired by the challenge.”
In October of 1999, Fenton noticed the small number of girls in her break dancing class at the Randolph Academy. The excitement of finding three like-minded female break dancers in her class led to the birth of Shebang!
The crew is Fenton, a.k.a. Ms. Mighty, fourth-year Ryerson film student Eva Nikitova, a.k.a. Maehem, Jennifer Hollett, a.k.a jennrock, and Peggy Lau, a.k.a. Blazin.
“On a personal and political level we do what we can,” says Fenton. “Our cause is making the hip-hop environment a more pleasant place for women and encouraging more female talent.”
Shebang! teaches all-female break dancing classes weekly at the Bloor JCC and Trinity Church to help more girls break into the scene.
Shebang! used to only battle girls at break dancing competitions because they thought they couldn’t beat a male crew. At an international competition in Los Angeles last summer, Fenton watched a European female crew dance against guys and decided Shebang! was being held back by only battling girls.
“They were just so good and it made me re-evaluate what I thought my personal limitations were,” she says. “[The girls] were on par with everyone else. It’s just a matter of dedication.”
Since then, the girls are happy to battle guys and are content when they make it past the first few of rounds.
“You can dance and people will applaud and say you’re amazing, no matter who you are or what you do,” she says. “But if you’re really good, you get twice as much respect.”
Shebang! has an extensive list of accomplishments, including appearances on MuchMusic, Breakfast Television, CTV’s The Chatroom and competing in the Ultimate Breakdown Battle in Rochester last month, where Fenton and Blazin won two rounds of competition.
The highlight of Fenton’s break dancing career was performing with feminist elctro-punk band Le Tigre on their Canadian tour this past summer.
“We were so fortunate to get hooked up with [Le Tigre],” says Fenton. “They’re really inspiring politically.”
Last week Shebang! spent four days in L.A. shooting a Nelly Furtado video for the single “On the Radio.” Furtado saw the crew perform two years ago at Honey Jam — an annual female hip hop showcase — and contacted them about dancing in her video.
Fenton says it’s tough to balance Shebang! on top of school and jobs, but the girls make it work by meeting at Fran’s for 8 a.m. planning sessions and fitting in practices when they can.
“We love it and that’s what keeps us going,” says Fenton. When their hectic schedules permit, Shebang! will celebrate their two-year anniversary.
“We spend all this time in sweat suits, we never get a chance to wear normal human being clothes,” says Fenton. “We have occasional babe’s nights out and go out on the town and work it.”
See Shebang! work it Friday at Back 2 Da Underground at La Casa D’hall, 19 Sable St. 416-379-0200.