Jill Sander vest from Holt Renfrew; Hermès pants; Dior sneakers; socks and toque Phil’s own.

The Vancouver Athlete Taking Breakdancing to the Olympics

There is a lyricism to Phil Wizard. His legs twist into intricate knots as he glides on his head into a hold that appears to levitate. He makes this impossible feat look effortless. There is no showboating, no explosive braggadocio to his breakdancing. His style is unconventional, moving through a playful flow that demonstrates mastery over the language of creative physicality.

Wizard will bring his signature style to Paris when he represents Canada at the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, where breaking is a new sport. For the Vancouver dancer, it’s a chance to showcase the art form and push the culture forward to the next generation. “I think it’s a beautiful thing,” Wizard says of the inclusion, sitting in East Vancouver’s Elastic Studios where today’s fashion shoot will take place. “I think it opens up doors more than anything, but also opens up the opportunity for more people to see breakdancing, which has always been my dream.”

Wizard, now 26, was still just Phil Kim and barely out of Grade 7 when a group of performers near the Vancouver Art Gallery caught his attention. It was Now or Never, a breakdancing crew of local legend with over 20 years of history in the scene. Later, one of the members, Jheric Hizon, was teaching hip-hop at Wizard’s school. The young Wizard approached Hizon and asked if he taught breaking, too. He did. Wizard started taking classes and was instantly hooked, driven by the joy it gave him and his passion for developing the craft.

Hermès jacket, shirt, and shoes; Loewe pants from Holt Renfrew; toque stylist’s own.

Dior look.

Hizon and other older crew members became important early role models. They instilled a sense of positivity in Wizard, which he continues to carry, and a strong emphasis on community. Community, of course, is deeply rooted in hip-hop as a cultural expression—breakdancing emerged from the streets of New York in the 1970s as one of the key elements of hip-hop, alongside rapping, graffiti, and DJing. “I remember joining a crew early on, a few years after I started dancing, making friends, and those people becoming my second family,” Wizard recalls.

Until now, international competitions were considered the pinnacle of breaking. He didn’t give it much thought, he says, when the sport debuted at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. He had been busy establishing himself as one of the best b-boys in the world, winning top titles at the Undisputed World Series, World DanceSport Federation World Championship, Red Bull BC One, and most recently, gold at the Pan Am Games. The Olympics, he notes, are simply “the natural progression of the next event to go to.”

Dior hat; Comme des Garçons pants from Holt Renfrew; Gucci socks and shoes.

Bottega Veneta coat and Comme des Garçons pants, both from Holt Renfrew; Gucci socks and shoes.

Left: Fendi bag and jacket; Acne Studios T-shirt and Jacquemus pants, both from Holt Renfrew; Boss sneakers. Right: Acne Studios T-shirt, Jacquemus sweater and pants, all from Holt Renfrew; Boss sneakers.

Still, it’s a historic moment, and one that invites the age-old debate of whether dance is an art or a sport. Wizard believes both can be true: “I think the beautiful thing about breaking is it can transcend these kinds of labels.”

Ultimately, he hopes the global platform can amplify breakdancing as a viable career. “As supportive as my parents were when I started dancing, when I wanted it to be my career, they struggled,” he says. “And I struggled with grasping that. Coming from an immigrant family—they had left Korea and sacrificed their life to give us something different—they wanted us to go to school, get a regular job, and I chose breakdancing. So I struggled for many years thinking about the financial repercussions of trying to pursue this.”

As he prepares for Paris, not much has changed in his approach. His motto is “stay ready so I don’t have to get ready,” which includes consistently hitting the gym and training in the studio for up to three hours at least five days a week, if not daily. It’s important to sustain his physicality like an athlete, he adds, while “recognizing that this is still, first and foremost, for me, a dance and art form and a form of expression.”

Tommy Hilfiger shirt, pants, and jacket; Boss toque; Dior sneakers.

Tommy Hilfiger shirt and pants; Dior sneakers.

This expression has evolved over the years. Reflecting on past performances, he can see the different stages of his life: times when he struggled, trying to prove himself or to fit in. Now, he feels authentic in what he brings to the floor. And, more than anything, he seeks to express positivity.

“I really do embrace the fact that I am very lucky to be where I am,” he says. “I am living my dream. I try to put that positive attitude in whenever I’m competing, whenever I’m on stage, because it’s important for me. I think it is very serious and a lot of things that we’re doing, especially now, there’s a lot at stake. But I want to show people, and especially people that have never seen this, that we’re still having fun out there.

“This is me really just enjoying my life,” he adds. “And I try to express that whenever I’m dancing.”

Gucci look; toque Phil’s own.

Gucci look.

Acne Studios jacket and T-shirt, both from Holt Renfrew; Hermès pants; Dior sneakers; socks Phil’s own.

Jill Sander vest from Holt Renfrew; Hermès pants; Dior sneakers; socks and toque Phil’s own.

Acne Studios toque, Alexander McQueen sweater and Comme des Garçons pants, all from Holt Renfrew; Dior boxers and sneakers; socks Phil’s own.

Grooming: Win Liu for Lizbell Agency. Styling Assistant: Camilla Lesyk. Digitech: Rob Seebacher. Photo Assistant: Sean Ponsford. Production: Anne Lee. Post-production: Marius Burlan.

Flip through other fashion shoots, and read more from our Winter 2023 issue.

Post Date:

December 5, 2023