You can hear them before you see them. Past balance beams and uneven bars at Spokane Gymnastics, tennis shoes squeak on hardwood floors. Long after typical workout hours, four break dancers practice intricate footwork and tricky spins. Eventually, four more dancers arrive.
This is the Paper Cutout Crew.
For the next hour, the dancers — five PCC members and three breakers visiting with EWU's Asia University America Program — take turns throwing down a few moves. At various points, a member steps away to work on a move, rejoining the group when they're ready to try again.
It's a small but supportive community, one the dancers want to introduce to as many people as possible.
The PCC began in 2008 after Tucker "Tux" Frye and David "Classic" Moyle began dancing together at Spokane Gymnastics, where they both work. Dancers brought friends interested in learning, and the crew began to grow. Today, there are about a dozen members, though the group says there are only six or so "serious" members.
In the early stages of the PCC, members volunteered with Pony Tales Youth Services, a nonprofit run by Kitara McClure, who Moyle affectionately calls the group's mom, along with "matriarch" Nadine Burgess, who owns Spokane Gymnastics.
"We didn't really have any aim to where we were going," Frye, 23, says of the crew's beginning. "We just really liked doing it."
The Paper Cutout Crew now performs several times a year. In the past, they've performed at schools, Hoopfest, First Night, Unity in the Community, a conference to help teachers incorporate fun fitness programs into their classes and even quinceañeras. The crew has also worked with local hip-hop group Flying Spiders.
Though a few members have danced before, many have been breaking only since joining the PCC.
Members pay out of pocket, traveling to competitions (most in the Northwest, others as far away as California, Canada and the Philippines). Paying gigs are few and far between. But the crew doesn't mind; they're not in it for the money.
"We're just doing this for fun," Frye says. "We like to be together.
"It's my goal to make it sustained, and if we ever did move away or had to stop for whatever reason, [the crew] would still keep going."
Despite good intentions, the crew's mission to bring break-dance culture to the city's attention hasn't been without struggles.
"[We face] the same challenge that anybody in Spokane has: getting people to come out," Frye says.
Hector "Zeroni" Aizon, 23, adds that getting people to understand that hip-hop and break-dance culture come from a place of peace, love and unity — not violence — is another challenge. But he says more public shows have increased the number of people aware of the crew.
The Paper Cutout Crew stresses its open-door policy and encourages anyone interested in learning more about break dancing to stop by during practice or approach them if they're dancing around town.
"Don't give us your money — give us your time," Moyle says. "If each person gives each other a little time, we can all build together." ♦
The Paper Cutout Crew practices most weeknights from 8:30 pm-11 pm at Spokane Gymnastics, 2515 N. Locust Rd., Spokane Valley.