On Friday, some members of my crew and I went to the City Dance Hip-hop Dance Battle / Showcase / Fundraiser at the City Dance studio in downtown San Francisco. It was a solid four hours of non-stop dancing, showcasing the full-spectrum of hip-hop dance. The event demonstrated for me how interconnected and community-oriented the San Francisco hip-hop dance scene is.
Here's my quick take on the evening's festivities.
Typically hip-hop dance contests are of two varieties: the Arena or the Gym.
Sometimes they are huge spectacles like Red Bull BC-1 or World of Dance held in giant amphitheaters or sporting arenas. You see endless streams of different troupes and crews performing choreography far off in the distance, amidst a crowd of thousands of onlookers. Because of the size, crews tend to be massive in number, sometimes 30-40 dancers all on stage at the same time. It's totally overwhelming and exhausting to watch.
At the other end of the spectrum is the more local, community-organized comps. These are smaller affairs often held in gyms, community centers, or schools, where local dancers and crews compete for much smaller cash prizes. Often there is no seating at all, just people standing and squating around a circle, as dancers battle in the middle. It's extremely intimate, but also kind of frustrating trying to catch all the action with everyone crowded around the cyphers.
The City Dance Battle was a nice balance of the two. It was an intimate event, where you were close to the action and could meet all the dancers if you wanted. But it also well-organized enough that you could catch all the dancing without having to push your way to the front of each cypher.
The structure of the event was super simple. To start there were 3-4 cyphers (dance circles) going on during the prelims that you could wander around to watch and paricipate in. And then there were about four performances by invited dancers and crews. And then there were a couple of semi-final battles between pairs of dancers, and then a final round between the two highest judged pairs of dancers. That's it!
Here's one of the judges, the legendary Buddha Stretch from New York City, showing his old skool style. I love when the judges get to strut their stuff, demonstrating why they are in a position to rank and score other dancers.
One thing I really liked about the competition was that it was a mixed-styles contest. Basically anyone could enter with whatever dance was your forté. There were poppers, lockers, krumpers, house dancers, wackers, b-boys and b-girls in the fray.
Now I love b-boy battles — but after awhile you can only watch so many flairs, hand-hops, and freezes. Every round at City Dance I was at the edge of my seat wondering what each dancer would pull out of her or his bag of tricks. Seeing a locker and a krumper battle was really interesting as a spectator, although probably much more challenging for the judges to score.
Each of the heats had a variety of different kinds of music too, from soul to house to dubstep and even some jazz! I love hip-hop, but give me some James Brown, disco funk, and Mo-town and I'm ecstatic.
In the end, there can only be one winner (or pair of winners.) The final heat was Journey and young Gavin from Art of Teknique crew versus Mcfly and Lucid. There was some fine dancing all around, but Journey and Gavin took home the win.
Beside all of that, if all I got to experience was the Art of Teknique crew from Sacramento, I would be a very happy audience member. Art of Teknique is a kid crew from Sac town that brings a very high level of dance to the floor, well beyond their years. Not only can they do awesome choreo, as this video shows, but they can improvise and battle on the spot on par with their much older peers. Really inspiring seeing the next generation of dancers coming up.
Check out their awesome performance!
If I have a quibble, it's that there was a lack of female talent on display. I don't know if that had to do with the dearth of female entrants in the contests or something about the contest design. But it was disappointing that the only female dancers were in the under-18 division.
That aside, I had a fantastic time at the City Dance Battle. I'm totally inspired and now even more want to learn more styles of dance, particularly house and locking. I wish I had participated in the workshops afterwards. But I'm glad that City Dance Studios and other places in the Bay have ongoing classes and practices that I can take advantage of.
San Francisco is a really great place to be as a hip-hop dancer and a fan.
City Dance Studios , located in downtown San Francisco , provides quality dance instruction in a variety of genres, from ballet to contemporary to hip-hop. Definitely worth a look if you want to step up your dancing. Not a paid endorsement!