Breakin’ the mould

Gravity-defying: Craig Turner in action
Gravity-defying: Craig Turner in action
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A FORTNIGHT ago Craig Turner ripped the tendons in his arm. In the summer he shattered two fingers. At the start of the year an x-ray revealed he had a handful of broken bones lose in his feet. Previously he’s fractured ribs and cracked his skull.

“Is it worth it?” he says. “A million times over. I wake up in the night thinking how much I love doing this.”

Craig, of Rangeley Road, Walkley, is a professional breakdancer.

He’s good, too.

For eight years he’s been spinning, flipping, body popping and toprocking across the world.

He’s performed everywhere from theatres in Paris to casinos in China, from a hotel in Abu Dhabi to a gig in front of the Colombian prime minister in Bogota. Today, he’s just back from Austria where he was hired to wow the world’s largest opera festival.

Now this 28-year-old has a new project: he wants to use that experience to set up Sheffield’s first dedicated breakdancing studio. He’s been in talks with the city council and reckons if the authority provides the space - “basically a city centre room with a floor” - he can get youngsters active, motivated and off the streets.

And parents really shouldn’t worry about those injuries either, he insists. They only happen because he pushes himself as a pro.

“It’s actually a safe activity,” he says. “A lot safer than most sports. And the adrenaline rush you get is incredible.”

Craig is proof of its positive effects.

He took up breaking, as protagonists call the art, shortly after arriving in Sheffield from Middlesbrough to study for a film degree at Hallam University.

And it kept him going when he started struggling with his course and found himself homeless after a rental disagreement.

“I was sofa surfing and slept on the street a few times,” he says. “In that situation I couldn’t bring myself to care about studying but breaking was the one thing I never let go of. I didn’t have enough money to pay to get in to the campus gym so I would do it on the streets. It got me through a very dark time.”

It helped him back on his feet too. He left university when the financial burden became too much and, after finding a room to rent, sent a long-shot letter to the council offering himself as a breaker teacher.

“They gave me some sessions,” he says.

From there, he applied for performance jobs and was taken for a UK circus-style tour by The Generating Company. He’s been touring and teaching ever since.

“But my partner and I are expecting our first baby now,” he says. “And I’m 28 which means, in this game, I’m getting old. I’d love to set up this space and help others.”

The city’s breakdancing community - roughly aligned around a group called Steel City Rockers - currently has a nomadic existence. Gyms tend to be too expensive for what is an informal and loosely-organised activity.

“It gets to the point where we practise on the Arts Tower concourse,” says Craig. “It’s not ideal. But the council seems positive about this idea. I’d love it to work so I can give something back both to Sheffield and to breaking.”

He has his (unbroken) fingers crossed.