B-Boys meet world

UB hosts break-dancing competition

The Spectrum

When skilled break-dancers perform, it's hard to determine what's most impressive: their quick legs, their uncanny sense of balance or the look of pure confidence sprawled across their faces as they playfully provoke the opposing team.

UB hosted "Buffalo Breakdown" on Saturday, at which break-dancing crews from all over New York came to demonstrate their skills and catch up with other crews. The $400 first-place prize encouraged stiff competition on the floor, and performers put their talent and emotion on display in the center of UB's Flag Room.

Dance crews feature anywhere between five and 12 members, with five people performing in any given battle. Saturday's battles consisted of two teams at a time facing each other, alternating turns. Each team member performed for about a minute before allowing his or her competitor to take the floor. During their moment in the spotlight, performers contorted their bodies to the beat and showed off the wild tricks they had mastered.

Competitors had multiple chances to prove themselves to the three judges, who decided their fate. Teams competed in a preliminary test to see who moved on to the next round. After a few eliminations, teams were whittled down as the competition progressed through the quarterfinals, semifinals and then the final round, between the top two teams.

Break-dancers are unlike most other athletes - their sport is dance. But like other athletic teams, they develop a camaraderie that is immediately apparent to audience members as they step on stage in ornamented, matching wardrobes and dance in perfect sync.

Some crews have been around for years and have members who have been dancing for decades. Each crew name holds special meaning to its members, as Full Circle member Graham Greece, or "Kilo," explained.

"My nickname is 'Kilo' because of my first name, Graham, which makes sense," Greece said. "My crew has actually been around New York City since the '90s, and I've only recently joined. We call ourselves Full Circle not just because of the obvious: the dancing takes place amongst a circle of people. We also reference the circle of life, and how no matter what happens, everything comes full circle."

To break up the competition, a "flare contest" was held in between the quarterfinal rounds. A flare is a trick in which a performer balances his or her upper body between either arm and circles his or her legs in a straddle position. This move is also found in gymnastics and requires not only upper-arm strength, but also extreme muscle control and balance.

Performer Jeff Ford, or "McFly," from Official Crew, a Buffalo-based group, explained how he and his crew stay in shape to be able to perform the tricks.

"We practice about five times a week, but before we start dancing, we do at least an hour of stretching," Ford said. "Everyone works on what they need. I stretch ... my legs a lot because I want to be able to do more tricks involving straddles. Stretching makes sure we're not putting too much strain on our bodies."

At first, the mini-competition started slowly, with performers only managing 10 or 12 flares. But by the end, the highest-scoring performers had completed more than 30 flares, exhausting themselves and proving their strength.

Confidence is a key element in break-dancing. Dancers will step in each other's faces, snapping their fingers or grinning to intimidate the other team.

Dancers from opposing teams will even break into the circle at the same time and try to drive the other out with their moves. Crewmembers will cheer with encouragement for their teammate and scoff at the opponent, calling them "weak" and "sloppy."

At the end of each battle, members from both crews approach each other and exchange handshakes, hugs and high fives. When they weren't dancing, members from opposing crews showed each other tricks, laughed together and established new friendships.

Freshman exercise science major Courtney Miller thinks the break-dancing community has strong ties.

"I'm actually here to see a friend who came out to support people he knows that are performing," Miller said. "Even though he isn't performing, he's so excited to see his friends and what they're going to bring to the table."

Crews that were eliminated stayed to watch the rest of the competition and see the final results.

The final round was a 15-minute battle between the top two crews. Each group was encouraged to show their best moves in order to win the $400 grand prize.

At the end, Staggered Illusions won the competition.

Though the competition is over, UB's break-dancing crew is looking for new members. The club holds practice Sunday from 12-4 p.m. and Monday from 5-8 p.m. in the Student Union flag room, or Tuesday from 8:30-11 p.m. in Greiner Hall.

email: arts@ubspectrum.com