Ali, who goes by the street name Sega, learned to breakdance while living abroad with his family in the United Arab Emirates. Like his brother Haedar, Ali was inspired to dance by his uncles, who were traditional dancers and were Ali’s first introduction to dance. When the two brothers returned to Iraq after living in UAE they began to practice their dancing in the streets, despite the threat of backlash in the constantly oppressive environment. Ali and Haedar’s street dancing began to inspire others to learn, so the brothers began teaching dance classes. Ali specializes in hip hop and modern dance and has performed in Baghdad, Tunisia and Algeria. Along with his brother, Ali is an avid rapper.
Haedar, born in Baghdad in 1991, grew up watching his uncles, who were professional traditional dancers, and was inspired to become a dancer himself. His family moved to the United Arab Emirates when he was young, and it was there that Haedar learned to breakdance. He also got into modern dance and began mixing styles to create his own unique style that combines hip hop, breakdancing and aerobatic moves. Equally committed to rap, he raps regularly in Baghdad live on the streets and in parks in impromptu cyphers as well as on radio. He views rap as a useful vehicle for spreading messages of positive social change and awareness. He has performed in numerous shows in Baghdad, and has participated in dance festivals and workshops in Tunisia and Algeria. Haedar and his brother Ali, also a member of First Step Iraq, opened a dance class in Baghdad where they serve as instructors. They also formed Double B, a breakdance group, and Haedar is interested in singing and acting in the future.
Halwest became interested in breakdancing in 2010 as part of the YES Academy Iraq in his hometown of Erbil. As a Petroleum Engineering student in the Kurdistan region, Halwest fills his days balancing his dance training and his studies. He is fortunate to have parents who are supportive of his art, and he continues to train in anticipation for First Step Iraq’s U.S. tour this fall.
Hussain has lived in a notoriously rough neighborhood in Erbil, Kurdistan for nearly 18 years. Hussain was first exposed to break dance by U.S. soldiers on patrol in Erbil in 2004. He was with his friends when an American soldier called him over and showed him the “ocean move,” which was Husain’s very first introduction to hip hop dance. He was inspired to learn to dance, learning through TV and video at first, and then from 2010 at YES Academy Iraq. He has started his own crew, Street Wolves, and enjoys being the groups main choreographer. Husain is excited for the upcoming East Coast tour and says his parents are truly supportive of his dream.
Mustafa is from the far southern Iraq city of Basra near the Persian Gulf, the center of Iraq’s oil industry and a very conservative city. He became captivated by b-boying during visits to Baghdad where he saw local crews dancing in public parks in impromptu batthers and cyphers. As break dancing in public is unthinkable for now in Basra, Mustafa moved to Baghdad to pursue dance, where he met brothers Haider and Ali and joined the YES Academy.
Shalaw is from Sulaimaniya, the largest city in the Kurdistan region, near the Iranian border. Growing up Shalaw was interested in soccer and music, and it wasn’t until he stumbled upon a dance crew while attending music camp that he realized his true passion was dancing. He has danced with the White Lions, the first b-boy crew in the Kurdistan region, since 2008. Shalaw is also a drummer and first participated in the YES Academy’s Jazz and Rock bands program. As his interest in dance grew, he joined the YES Academy’s Hip Hop program in 2009. He attended the High School for the Performing Arts in Sulaimaniya and is currently planning to attend University.