Get to Know the Queen City Bittys
“When we go places, people are excited to see us,” said Leah “DragonMuffin” Vissers, founder of B-girl crew the Queen City Bittys. She’s right — as the only competing all-female breakdancing crew in the Carolinas, they command attention when they walk in the room.
With seven members, the Queen City Bittys are now in their fourth year together as a crew. They showcase their skills Friday, May 10 at the Charlotte SHOUT! Festival. DefCLT caught up with four members to speak about how they got started, what it’s like to compete in a sport dominated by men, and the difference breakin’ culture had made in their lives.
Sisters Imani “Lil’ Chaos” Bell, 24, and Imiah “B-girl Miah” Chew, 22, grew up in the competitive world of dance and cheerleading. Imiah rose to an elite level of cheerleading at one point, competing on a world stage, but an injury forced her to quit. Imani had just quit the UNCC cheer squad when she happened upon a group of guys breakin’ on the quad one night. She introduced herself to Dejarius “DJ” Bright and showed the crew some of her dance and tumbling moves. They agreed to train her and she convinced her sister to join, and they both became members of the Familia Vongola crew.
Leah, 30, was consulting for Blumenthal Arts and curating a showcase for Breakin’ Convention, back in 2015. She knew the ladies in Familia Vongola as well as a few others from the dance cyphers at Knocturnal, so she invited them to perform with her. Once they began practicing together, they decided to form the Bittys.
With distinctive green hair, Leah is one of the most recognizable b-girls in North Carolina. She started breakin’ around 2010 when she moved from Charlotte from Michigan. She began taking classes at Dharma Lounge and went to a battle at the Breakfast Club (RIP to both beloved Charlotte hangouts), where she met Tron Robinson. She has trained primarily with him in the years since, and the two teach children’s classes together as well.
At age 16, Connie Kingston is the youngest of the crew; she started breakin’ seven years ago upon discovering dance videos on Youtube. She was primarily self-taught until one day she looked on Instagram to see if there were other dancers in her area, and randomly hit up Eli “the Elite,” who invited her to come practice with him. She joined the crew Endo FX before linking with the Bittys in 2017.
Connie made history last year as the first breaker, male or female, from the U.S. to qualify for the Youth Olympics. She crowdfunded her trip to compete in Japan to qualify and left ranked No. 6 in the world.
Other members of the crew include Naomi Ksor, Jade “Sway” Sisouphone and Kayla Irizarry, who took home the b-girl trophy at this year’s Red Bull BC One Southeast Cypher – a high-profile qualifying event for the Red Bull BC One international breakdancing championship. Imani also qualified to move on to the next round.
“When we said we were gonna make the crew, we said Rule No. 1: We’re gonna be friends. Real friends. We talk every day in our group chat about everything, like ‘Should I buy these pants?’ We support each other on and off the dance floor,” said Leah.
No. 2. “We’re not gonna be divided by anyone saying ‘Y’all are both b-girls, y’all should battle.’ Nope. We’re in the same crew. We’re not letting anyone pit us against each other,” Leah said.
No. 3. “We don’t add anyone to the crew without battling them in,” said Leah. That means potential new members have to battle every existing member of the crew before they can join.
No. 4. No fighting, ever.
“Yeah cause Imani was ready to fight somebody,” said Imiah.
“Yeah, it was probably inspired by me,” Imani admitted.
“Fighting happens a little in the breaking scene,” Leah explained.
“Yeah, like that one guy at Shamrock who hit someone, but I smoked him later,” said Connie, then: “Shoutout to that dude I smoked.”
No. 5. Practice. “We decided when we go to jams, we’re gonna show up as a crew and have a unified vibe. We’re dressed the same and we roll up four or six deep. We show up to jams out of state as a solid unit and I think we add an energy that’s sometimes not present. Typically, when we go to a battle, the organizer will ask us to please come back,” said Leah.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten easy props,” said Imani. “We work really hard and people know we do. When we go to a jam and we’re the only crew that shows up with a 30-second routine with five girls included, it shows we come together on our own time and practice for hours. We put in a lot of time and effort. It’s never a funny routine, it’s real thought-out, with timing synchronization and a Plan A and Plan B for different music. We want to gain respect and so we work hard for it.”
Competing as women
A common thread through each dancer’s origin story was how the b-boys in the scene had trained with them and helped them develop their skills. “The culture in general of breaking is very helpful. If people see you putting in work, they want to help you get further,” said Leah, “Sometimes guys have ulterior motives, but there’s a lot who want to help just to spread the culture. You just have to watch out and think ‘Who’s gonna help me if I’m not single or not interested in them romantically?’”
“We get lots of support from the guys, in a respectful way,” Imani said. “Especially ones in this area, because they know us too darn well, except for one or two–do I need to call them out?”
“They can get smoke from all seven of us,” warned Leah.
“If there’s a girl battling and no one is behind her, I am there,” said Imani, “I’m like ‘Hey, you got this!’ ‘Oh, he’s got a shoelace untied? You better tell him! Get in his head!’ People are intimidated by us sometimes. They’re like ‘Why is she running her mouth like that?’”
“Mostly people have been really receptive of us because they see us doing something different. We have caught a little shade from other b-girls. Sometimes they’re maybe territorial or questioning what we’re doing. Definitely not all b-girls, though. Honey Rockwell [a b-girl icon] and Floristas [a b-girl crew from Florida] have been so supportive. They’ve been like sisters to us,” said Leah.
“When our first promo was released, it went viral,” said Imani. “ It was such a blessing to know we had people on our side, people from all over the country. We went to Texas and got props from people we didn’t even know.”
What would you say to others interested in becoming b-girls?
Imiah: “Just go for it. If you want something, you have to go for it and commit and show drive. Don’t be intimidated by other people. Do you, be you, live it up and have fun. The most important thing is to have fun.”
Leah: “Any women or girls who want to get involved, reach out. Message some of the OG b-girls, they’ll offer you knowledge, they’ll be supportive. If you’re interested, reach out to your idols, because in our culture, they’re real people who you can talk to.
Also, not every great dancer is a great person. If you do reach out and they’re shitty to you, it doesn’t diminish what you’re doing, they’re just a shitty person. Just keep working. Hard work will surpass natural ability every time.”
Overall, Leah said she never could’ve imagined all the ways breakin’ would change her life.
“Connections between people fosters empathy and understanding, and I think that breakin has given me a way to facilitate those connections between people who might not ordinarily talk to each other. I really think it changes the world and now we get to be a part of that,” she said.
Check out Queen City Bittys Friday TONiGHT
7:30 p.m. at Knight Theater, 430 S Tryon St.