Getting to Know: Bboy Tata

If you’ve ever ridden the subway in New York City and been lucky, you’ve witnessed crews of kids spinning, flipping and breaking on the train. Tata—his real name is Teshawn Ulysses—was one of those kids. For most, that’s where dancing ends. Not so for the 25-year-old Brooklyn native, who parlayed his unparalleled skill into a robust career as professional bboy breakdancer, competing in worldwide competitions, securing big sponsorships, and dancing for tours and shows. Here’s how he made it happen.

How did you find breakdancing?
I used to watch You Got Served and Honey everyday after school. I saw one guy do a spin on his hands and I just decided to try it. I trained that same move over and over and over until I could do it. My uncle saw me training was like, “How about you come see these guys doing street performing on 42nd Street.” I will never forget that he mentioned that to me. I asked him about taking me every day. When he finally took me, I asked the older guys, “You mind if I take a solo? I’m a dope break dancer myself.” They were all like, “You too little to be break dancing! You should be in school.” “I was like, “Just give me one chance. Let me try.” Ever since then, my career was history.

What motivated you to keep dancing?
When my father left my life I was living with my siblings and mom and we were struggling. Breakdancing gave me a way to provide for my family. My first day street performing, I left the house and didn’t come back. My mom was calling my phone. I knew if I answered, she’d make me come home. So I just kept dancing. When I got home I was like, “Mom, before you get mad, check this out.” And I dumped $300 on the bed. She was like, “Whatever y’all is doing, keep doing it.” And so I did.

How do you describe your breakdancing style?
When I go to competitions, they people see my style and are like, “He’s different. Why is he not doing the same moves? Why is he not doing set solos?” It’s because I let myself go and whatever comes to my mind, I just do it. People are like, “How do you you look so raw when you dance?” It’s because I express myself on the dance floor.

What’s next for you?
I want to give back to the community in any way that I can. I have a lot of siblings and I want to do better for my family. I want to buy my moms a place. I’m going to be honest, time motivates me. Every step is a rush. I gotta get it done. I know I can’t do this forever.

What advice to you have to other people waiting for their big break, so to speak?
Stay focused, go as hard as you can and don’t stop. Don’t get discouraged. I was told so many times along the way, “Breakdancing isn’t for you. You need to do something else.” Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it. No matter what, it can be done.

Hear more stories of ambition from our denim cast right here