This weekend, the weather’s not the only thing that’s going to be bringing the heat. Red Bull is hosting its BC One Qualifier at the Aragon Ballroom July 23, bringing the 16 best b-boys in the country together to compete for a spot at the world finals.
This isn’t You Got Served, or even So You Think You Can Dance. The A.V. Club talked to one of the judges, Ronnie—a 2007 BC One finals winner himself—about the history of breakdancing, the culture, and what fans should expect to see this weekend.
The A.V. Club: Can you give us a two-minute rundown on the history of breakdancing for total newbies?
Ronnie: It really went mainstream in the early ’80s, when it was popularized by movies like Beat Street. When it went mainstream, people had this misconception about what the real dance and culture is about. They thought breakdancing was just about spinning on your head, when really it’s a dance. It’s more than just spinning. It’s dancing and musicality.
It started in New York, and it started off as something really raw in nightclubs. The media took hold of the dance, though, and watered it down. During that period, though, it started making its way to Europe and became more popular there in the underground, and while everyone in America thought it died out, in the mid-’90s, it got the momentum back.
The Radiotron competition started around then, and it was very credible. Freestyle Session ended up being a very big crew competition, and then one of the first really high-budgeted events was the Red Bull Lords Of The Floor two v. two competition in Seattle in 2002. In the past 15 years, the scene really grew in America and everywhere, really.
AVC: Why is that? Do you think that’s because of all the dancing on TV and in movies?
R: I think everything on TV is a teaser. It gives people an idea of what the dance is about, but anything in a feature film or in a basketball movie or whatever is always going to be a watered down version of what the sport of culture’s about. Like, people who know about basketball, let’s say, know that any basketball movie’s corny. It just gives people an idea. You Got Served, all my friends knew that movie was corny.
I think the reason why it’s growing so much is the true essence of the culture and dance. We’re building a fanbase because of things like the movies and shows like America’s Best Dance Crew, and that might be why people are still getting into breakdancing, but it’s undeniable how much the style of dance is constantly progressing.
In other dances, like ballet, there’s really only one way to do everything. Breaking is ever-evolving. It’s create, create, create. Every year, people are getting crazier and doing more amazing things. That’s why the scene and the competitiveness get bigger and bigger. You can watch a video online from an hour ago of some battle that happened in China. The technology’s moving so rapidly, too, and everyone’s trying to get on the next level.
AVC: Let’s say I’m a breaking novice and I want to watch some awesome videos on YouTube. What should I go and look at?
R: Definitely BC One, because you’re definitely going to see some top competitors from all over the U.S. You’re going to see B-Boys who’ve been creating a lot of buzz, and you’re going to see different styles from different areas of the country. Even in the U.S., and the U.S. has a distinct style from the rest of the world, even in the U.S., each city and state brings something different. The only people who recognize that, really, though, are the judges. We’ll see B-Boys who are more technical and some who have more dynamic power moves or dance skills and musicality. I think, as a judge, though, we’re looking for the B-Boy who has everything. For me, personally, I look for originality and what makes a dancer special or unique.
As for other things to watch, of course we give a lot of respect to the Rocksteady Crew, because they’re the ones who helped popularize B-Boys and being a crew. Freestyle Session is a very prestigious event held every year in the U.S. If you’re looking for something global, check out Battle Of The Year. That’s a big international event with crews battling crews all over.
As far as individuals go, there are a lot of people to watch. If you want just one, though, check out ATN, who’s from my city and is in BC One. He’s from Las Vegas, my city, and so that’s always nice. Imagine how many B-Boys there are, and one of the top 16 is from your city? That shows how the scene is progressing.