Next week New York sees the World BBoy Championships. Pro breakdancers will battle it out at the qualifier on May 14th and of the hundreds of hopefuls, 16 will make through to the final the following day in Tribeca. The founder is Frank Hernandez, a former dancer known as ‘Sirswift’, he toured the world with Run DMC during the 1980s, as well as Afrika Bambaataa. He’s on a mission to legitimise breakdancing as a sport.
“We’re doing that through having a scoring system, similar to gymnastics. There are 100 points on ten elements including stamina, creativity, dance, execution, form, flexibility and speed,” Frank told me. “The judges will score them on each, including the degree of difficulty of the floor routines.”
“One of the things we’re bringing to the forefront is that these athletes train; they have to control their bodies. When you watch the top pro bboys, their feet really don’t touch the floor – they’re vertical. It’s all about training, nutrition and stamina. Each athlete has to get through 12 rounds of flow routines to get the high score and come out champions; it’s really tough.”
Contestants far and wide will be jetting in to New York to compete. “We have contestants from China, Taiwan, Russia, Japan. These pros have 9-5s but travel all over the world to battle. And, most excitingly, the 2015 World BBoy Champion ‘Bboy Changibis aka Vicious Victor’ (also known as Bboy Victor) is competing. This guy won every major tournament around the world last year!”
Victor is 22 years old and hails from Orlando, Florida. He broke onto the scene in 2011 and has been blowing away the competition ever since. He picked up his skills from his dad who was also a breakdancer back in the day. Definitely one to watch next week, he could well walk away with the title.
Now in its second year, the World Bboy Battle 2 Extreme Breakdancing Pro Championships takes place in two venues over two days. On Saturday, May 14th, the qualifiers at Queens Community House (108-25 62nd Drive, Queens) is a free eight-hour event starting at midday. The Community House has a long-running breakdancing program of over 18 years and the hope is that holding the qualifiers there will help to raise awareness in the local community and support its continuing success.
Frank knows all about dancing providing a way out. He grew up in Washington Heights. The upper Manhattan neighbourhood is known for its Latino culture and the beautiful Cloisters, but back when Frank was a kid it was infamously known as the murder capital of the world. “There were drive-bys and shootouts. It was like the wild, wild west over here,” he tells me. “It’s totally different today.” As a teenager, Frank’s dedication and talent in breaking took him all over the world, he was paid well and made a fantastic living from it. Now Frank wants the next generation of breakdancers to have similar opportunities.
“The average Bboy gives back,” he says. “As an artist, and we’re athletes as well as artists, we want to give back and inspire so it’s important for our foundation to launch after school programmes where kids can learn and train to dance. We want them to stay focused, stay off the street and stay positive.”
“I have faith the mainstream will embrace breakdancing as a sport. It doesn’t take any money to get on the floor and learn this. Most taking part are inner-city minorities; I hope they aspire to become professional athletes and make a living from it.”
The 16 finalists will display their gravity-defying acrobatics at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers Street, NY) from 15:00, Sunday May 15th. Tickets range from $40-$95 at the seated venue.
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