Artist Interview: Artem "R. Tech" Usov

This month, I connected with one of the most recent additions to the Come&Live! artist family, b-boy Artem “R. Tech” Usov from Ukraine. He filled me in on what he’s been up to recently, and talked about how he uses his platform as a breakdancer to share Jesus in the hip-hop scene, both in his home country and around the world.
Katie Schaumann

Katie is a staff writer and part of Come&Live!’s Artist Relations and Development team.​

Artem, can you tell me about yourself: where you’re from, how you started breakdancing, and what made you decide to use that gift to tell people about Jesus?

My name is Artem, but I dance under the B-boy nickname “R.Tech,” which is combination of “art” and “technique”. I’m from Ukraine, from the city of Zaporozhye, but I live in Kiev right now. I started dancing around eleven years ago in my church. I first saw breakdancing there, which is a little bit weird. These guys did a performance, and I thought it would be cool to hang out with them and learn some moves. I think it was kind of God’s calling from the beginning. My first shows and performances were during a small trip, as an evangelistic outreach. That’s how it all started. Since then, I’ve been participating in different battles and competitions, and a lot of hip hop festivals.

Wow - you started young then! Eleven years ago! How would you describe the hip-hop/breakdance scene, and how have you gotten connected with it?

The connection began with these guys at my church, and then we formed a team, and we practiced for several years together. We started going to festivals - mostly secular ones - and we traveled to different cities to connect with other guys in the scene. We created various teams, and battled with other crews, dancing together. And this is what I still do now: traveling around, meeting new people, and making friends in the B-boy scene. Sometimes we invite each other to festivals, to jam together, or to battle together. That’s pretty much how it works in every community.

Do you feel like the hip-hop scene is like a family? Especially in Ukraine?

Yeah, the hip-hop community is pretty big in Ukraine. I wouldn’t say it’s different from any other art community. The people who are part of it have the same view of life, a very similar mindset, and they exchange experiences and stuff like that. It’s like a big family.

Always building each other up somehow?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I have a lot of cool stories of traveling with those guys, getting help from them, and being hosted by them. I usually do the same when they’re in my city. Me and my wife just hosted three people this month for a couple days for the festivals. They visited us, and we had sessions together, and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s like a huge family around the world.

That’s so awesome. What are the festivals you go to like? Are there many different kinds, and are they specifically dance festivals?

Where we go, it’s more like underground hip-hop festivals. There’s a DJ/MC, lots of people who come to dance, and some judges, who might be from different countries or just well-known people. Sometimes big breakdance battles can be part of music festivals, or there are huge hip-hop festivals, where there’s not just breakdancing, but also graffiti art, and hip-hop music.

In what ways have you seen God open doors for you to share the Gospel through dancing?

That’s actually a really good question, especially for what I’ve seen in the last six months of my life. God has been doing so much! During this time, I started practicing much more intensely. I felt from God that this was the right time do this - to put everything into it. I put a lot of time into competitions, traveling, and doing more festivals. In these last months, I’ve taken 1st or 2nd place in five or six festivals. Some of them were local Kiev festivals, and some were battles with people from all over Ukraine.

But the biggest thing that happened was that God gave me the opportunity to dance in the largest underground hip-hop dance festival in the Russian-speaking world, called Yalta Summer Jam. About 1000 people come to it every year, mostly different kinds of dancers or people who relate to hip-hop somehow.

So when you ask how God opens doors to share the Gospel in these places, I’d say firstly it is through community. My wife and I are always open to meeting new people, talking to them, and sharing about our life. Just showing people by example what we’re doing, what we believe in, why we believe it. I’d say what touches my heart the most is when we have these long, deep conversations with people, who start with one viewpoint, and at the end say, “Wow, I had never thought about this that way.” They get closer to God, and they start asking questions and being more open for prayer. I think mostly it’s through having and building personal relationships with people.

This past year, I also organized a jam in my hometown of Zaporozhye, and we did a different kind of performance - an outreach show using breakdance on the streets. After the show, we’d explain about the project we’re doing and share the Gospel with people, and then we’d go out and talk to them. Another powerful thing for me is doing workshops. In the last four months, I’ve done 12 of them in different parts of Ukraine, and one in Switzerland. It’s a two-hour program, where I explain the philosophy behind breakdancing, and my understanding of hip-hop culture. At the end, I relate it all to the Gospel. I like giving people another viewpoint of the hip-hop culture, connecting it to Jesus.

Do you get to do all of this with your wife, Olga?

YES! Yes, of course. God has given us the same passion, which is great because we’ve both been in the hip-hop culture for years. Now we do this together - traveling, hosting people, talking and praying with them. We also have a bible study, that some people from our dance groups come to.

And do you find that the hip-hop/b-boy community is open to Jesus?

I would say yes. Again, I think it depends on the person, but people are very open in this culture. In Ukraine, they usually go to these big festivals to have fun, hang out, talk, and party. These situations are perfect for us to meet new people and share Jesus with them. I’d say most artists are open to spiritual things and experiences, or anything supernatural. This gives us a huge, open door to talk to them about God - not just “energy” or something like that, but a personal relationship with God.

Where do you think God is calling you next? Where do you see your ministry going in the future?

For the last six months, I’ve felt like I needed to do a lot of festivals in Ukraine and I’ve seen God working so much. Now, I feel more of a need to go to Europe, where there is a really big, open door for Ukrainian dancers. I’m thinking of going to festivals there and doing some workshops, and also connecting with the Steiger missionaries in Beirut, to do something with them. There’s a pretty big hip-hop culture in Lebanon, but almost no one goes there. We plan to do this in the winter - some sort of workshop tour, where I would come and give dance lessons. I want to share my understanding of hip-hop culture and its connection to the Gospel, God and Jesus Christ, and to help the local missionaries connect with the b-boy scene in their city.

Has God been teaching you anything recently that you’d like to share with the Come&Live! Community as an encouragement?

I think what I’ve been learning lately is that things don’t always have to be so serious. I can get so focused on the dance battles, that I totally forget to talk with people afterwards. I think we need to keep things simple and try to have fun in a more natural way with people. The more they experience this from us, the more they will be open, and it won’t seem like using our art for God is a job.

How can we as a community be praying for you?

You can pray for these next six months, because there will be lots of different festivals in Europe that I’ll go to, and also for this trip to Lebanon in the winter. I’m still trying to get contacts and connect with the local scene there. We’re planning to do an outreach tour for refugees in France and Spain with different circus arts teams, at the end of September and the beginning of October, too.

Thanks, Artem! We’ll be praying for the right connections in Lebanon and for favor and more open doors as you travel around Europe and to the Middle East.

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