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[Herald Interview] B-girl Yell from ‘Street Woman Fighter’ looks to become world’s top breaker

21-year-old dancer rises above hearing impairment to represent S. Korea at 2022 Asian Games

Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
With breakdancing taking the country by storm on the back of TV survival shows, fans were yet more excited by the news that four break dancers will represent South Korea in the upcoming 2022 Asian Games.

Among them stands Kim Ye-ri, who has recently cemented her status as Korea’s top female breakdancer.

Better known as B-girl Yell or dance crew YGX’s Ye-ri to cable TV dancing competition “Street Woman Fighter,” Kim got to where she is now thanks to a “spirit of dogged persistence,” she told The Korea Herald at YGX’s studio in Seoul.

But her start in dance didn’t come from a long-held dream.

Kim, 21, took up dancing less than 10 years ago at her parents’ suggestion that she learn it as a form of exercise. Becoming a B-girl was not her initial goal, but she soon fell in love with it.

Passion and endless practice enabled her to join both breaker team Gamblerz and YGX, the dancer said.

As well as being looked down by other Gamblerz members as the only B-girl, she had a more unusual hurdle for a female breaker: Her hearing impairment had begun to develop even before she started. 

Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“I started losing my hearing way back. When I was in the third grade of elementary school, I noticed something was wrong (with my ears) and told my parents about it. ... I’m fine with dance choreography because I can practice the same movements repeatedly following the songs that I know,“ Kim said. “But I often can’t catch sound of music that is played during breaking battles. You can never predict the song the DJs will play. 

“When I monitor my performance after the battles, I frequently find differences between the music I heard during the competition and the actual music. But I got so used to it and (difficulty in hearing) has become a natural thing for me. I face more hardships communicating with people wearing face masks these days,” said Kim, who uses a hearing aid as well as lip reading.

But nothing seems to be holding her back in the last couple of years.

Kim was one of the recipients of the government’s Talent Award of Korea in 2019, and this year won fans on Mnet’s “Street Woman Fighter” with her spectacular performances and unique charisma.

The dance competition, which featured eight top-tier female dance crews, has opened a fresh chapter in her life as a B-girl and strengthened her conviction, she said. 




It has also helped fuel an increased interest in breaking, which will debut as an Olympic sport at the Paris Games in 2024.

But despite the rising profile, Kim is still in exclusive company.

Only about 30 female dancers are professionally active as B-girls across the country, with nearly half of them not well-known to the public, she explained.

While Kim’s schedule is packed with numerous commercial shoots, concerts and practice, she has also been successful in competition.

Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Kim Ye-ri, also known as B-girl Yell, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at YGX dance studio in Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Her eye-popping breaking skills have bagged her second place at Taipei B-boy City in 2017, a bronze medal at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2018, top prize at Red Bull BC One Cypher South Korea 2019 and a bronze medal at the Asian Dancesport Games 2019.

And Kim won a ticket to next year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou by coming in first place at the inaugural Breaking Project Korea in November.

Ultimately, Kim hopes to have a positive impact on others with her dancing. Just like how she fell in love with breaking, Kim wishes to see more talented young dancers conquering world stages.

“I would like to clinch the top spot in world competitions, including the Asian Games, the Olympics and Red Bull BC One World Final. It’s my wish to win at least one trophy at an event where many international dancers compete against each other,” she said.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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