Crews from Europe and North America represented at Urban Artistry’s Soul Society Dance Battle this Saturday in Washington DC, and the competition was fierce.
Urban Artistry founder Junious “House” Brickhouse saw an opportunity to bring all genres of dance together for one event to capture the new connection between underground and commercial dance. “The two communities have a big gap in both understanding and history, although they are now beginning to come together a little bit more,” said House.
“Well,” I said, “you know something incredible is going on when you’ve got a few hundred people from all over the world dancing and vibing and smiling ear to ear and not one drop of alcohol in the place.”
And the vibe was incredible. Crews and dancers from Germany, Finland, Canada, NYC, LA, Philly, Baltimore, and DC warmed up together while the DJ played a mix of house, funk, soul, and hip hop. Outside Scotty Patzschke aka BBoy Scotty76 of Stuttgart Germany (Assassins Crew) created an amazing graffiti mural on a designated wall. “I just love being in an environment where everyone has been brought together because of their love for dance” said BGirl Amy Casil. Judging by the smiles and sweat soaked shirts of every other person in the large ballroom, I think everyone would agree.
The choreography competition began first as judges Jayson Wright (LA- has worked with Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z), Rashaad Pearson (DC), JaQuel Knight (LA- choreographed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video and contributed to Britney’s Circus Tour routines), Sophie Richard (Montreal), Junius Brickhouse (DC) and Rizqi Rachmat (DC), and Baronhawk Poitier (DC) were treated to creations from genres ranging from hip hop, popping and locking, waacking, modern and interpretive, house, and breakdancing.
Capital Funk Crew (DC) and YFAMD (VA Beach) brought large group choreography routines while DC’s Enjoy (comprised of Jahaan Amin and Neico Joy) worked as a duo to wow the crowd with their unbelievable synchronization. Philly’s Olive Dance Theatre brought something very different with Jaamal Benjamin’s solo routine which mixed interpretive and modern moves with a bit of breakdancing. Jamie Merwin had actually created the routine 3 years ago with BBoy YNot of the famous Rock Steady Crew. “The routine is usually done in a multimedia theater, with images of man’s struggle against conformity flashing in the background as Jaamal moves on a conveyor belt,” she said. And finally 99 Cents of DC performed their routine made up of hip hop and house moves demonstrated by three male dancers. All the crews were extremely talented, but Capital Funk Crew won the coveted $1000 and multimedia pack prize.
Up next, judges Bboy Ata (Ghost Crew, Finland), Scotty76 and V-San (Germany) determined winners of head to head 5 V 5 battles between 6 competing break crews.
Each group brought their own style of toprocks, downrocks, crowd pleasing freezes and power moves, and theatrical flair for smack talking used in bboy jams. DC’s Sonic Crew emphasized the ability of next generation breakers as 9 year old bboy James Draney threw out headspins and tight freezes all with the confidence of someone three times his age. And the precision and creativity of veteran bboys was demonstrated by DC’s Lionz of Zion. Sonny Tran aka BBoy Ghost said he has been breaking with BBoy Scramblez since 1992 and in 1995 they formed the L of Z Crew. One BGirl represented with the Soul Records crew, and while holding her own in floorwork, reminded the crowd that a little feminine touch on toprocks and downrocks can add a lot more room for individualism and creativity.
In between competitions and judge’s deliberations, audience and crews could peruse the wares of vendors such as Rogue Squirrel, Wildchild, Monsters of Hip Hop, and CypherStyles or just move to the beats which did not stop for 12 straight hours.
The performances of these dancers and crews have inspired to keep attending the dance classes Urban Artistry members teach in the DC area. As 9 year olds and countless amazing BGirls have demonstrated, anybody can be a great dancer if they put forth the same effort and creativity as those involved today.