His obsession started in his mother’s basement, a training ground he called The Lab.
There, beginning at age 15, Matthew Torchia began breakdancing with little more than a linoleum cover on a cement floor, a 3-by-5 mirror to reflect his movements and a $100 stereo to blast James Brown or The Crystal Method.
Matt had two guides: Universal Soul Circle, his first breakdancing video, and six written instructions from a cousin, Ted Karabetsos, that served as his Bible of Breakdancing.
For the next three years, Matt spent countless hours refining his moves and style. Or, as he says, throwing himself on the floor until it looked good.
He did it because he loved the art – because it took skill, strength and perseverance. And because, at least in part, he envisioned emerging from that Lancaster County basement to tear up the dance clubs and get all the attention – and the girls.
During his senior year of high school, he studied in Italy and met a professional salsa dancer, Katiuska, who wanted to learn breaking. They were drawn together by their mutual passion. She taught him Italian; he taught her English. For nearly four years, they dated and traveled and danced, often practicing in a vacant house with a friend, Rosario. They nicknamed themselves the Hopeless Three.
From there, Matt’s life as a b-boy – the preferred term for a breakdancer – took him across the world.
He has danced in churches, schools and halftime shows. He has performed with his twin brother, Chris, at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. During his study-abroad orientation in Rome, he performed with a Norwegian rapper and a Bolivian DJ.
He helped build a performing arts community in Lancaster, and each Thursday night for the past five years, he has taught breakdancing to children at the Pottstown Dance Theatre.
He has spun windmills on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange and completed back flips in 11 countries. Once, in Florida, he had an impromptu breakdance with the CEO of a hotel and casino.
But of all the experiences Matt has had, none rivaled the one at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. There, he was spontaneously challenged by another b-boy he had never met.
Matt’s aggressive style is designed for battling, where one breakdance crew attempts to outduel another. This time, it was three on three.
The battle escalated for 20 minutes, a frenetic sequence of moves known as freezes, 1990s, halos and knee drops. Hundreds of onlookers gathered, cheering and snapping photos.
It might have been corny. But it was also a raw, call-out street battle that reflected the origins of breaking – and, just as he had once hoped, Matt tore it up.
– Brandon Lausch
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