|During a period of open dance, Eugene Cleveland practices a head spin at the Technical Grounds three-on-three break dancing competition.
Ever walk into a room and get the feeling that you’re just not cool enough to be there? Well, that’s exactly the vibe I got upon entering the Clark Gym on March 26 for the first annual Technical Grounds three-on-three break dancing competition. Sponsored by the RIT RIThym Crew, the College Activities Board and Red Bull, the b-boy/b-girl battle had completely revamped the atmosphere of the usually docile gymnasium. The scent of free Red Bull was so thick in the air that it clung to the insides of your nostrils, and the thunderous hip-hop beats pounded so hard you could feel them from your chest to your toes. Chicago’s DJ Franco De Leon reigned over the crowd from up on stage, warming them up for the show, but the real spectacle was down on the floor.
Anytime you see someone doing handstand pushups on their fingertips for a warm-up, you know it’s going to be a good show. Over a dozen three-man/woman crews from RIT, the Rochester area and across New York state took to the floor to battle for over $250 in gift cards, a five pound Hershey bar and — most importantly — bragging rights.
A three judge panel that included RIThym Crew president Brian “Mistavio” Douangradty, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology major, picked which crews would advance from round to round. But this wasn’t like Ellen Degeneres judging American Idol. All three judges were proven b-boys and knew exactly what they were looking for from the competitors. Words like “foundation,” “style” and “explosiveness” were used to give the dancers some criteria. After an opening routine from Velocity, RIT’s hip hop dance team, the battle was on.
In a battle, attitude is everything. The comedians, the acrobats, the crowd pleasers — every b-boy has their own personality and letting that uniqueness shine is what wins over the crowd and the judges. But the best dancers focus on one thing: their opponent. The playful combativeness between teams was almost like watching a swagger tug of war; you went this hard, so I have to go that much harder. Some breakers taunted and mocked their opponents, sometimes even mimicking them mid-routine to say, “Yeah I can do that too, what else you got?” Yet there was never any malice afterwards. The handshakes and hugs after each contest were a testament to the strong sense of community between the performers.
The best example of the camaraderie that defined the event took place between rounds. As the judges deliberated, the dancers quickly took to the floor and started a cypher, the name given to a group of breakers who circle up and perform quick sets in the center one-by-one. The cypher is where you get to truly see the diversity and creativity of this insanely talented group. From head spins to floor work, to a kid who put his leg over his head and slid himself across the floor, almost every element of street dance was covered. It was like watching Cirque du Soleil with a better soundtrack. Some brave audience members even hopped in the mix. With smiles all around, the cypher demonstrated the passion and unity of this group of individuals. Yet even with the camaraderie of the scene, only one crew could walk away victorious.
The finals came down to a decision between crews DFC and Jedi Knights. Citing their high energy and willingness to take chances, Douangradty made the final call. The Jedi Knights were crowned tournament champions, walking away with a slick prize pack and the respect of everyone in the room.