hosted by DanceXchange
The Patrick Centre, Birmingham
Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th December 2005
Man vs. Mouse
Reality tv shows seem to have heightened the status of the ‘last (wo)man standing’ lately. For breakdancers the mentality of keep going ‘til you drop down, are upstaged or asked to leave is not just a media-hyped phase. The survival of the fittest rule prevails over Beat Street: diva fits are not tolerated and there is definitely no time to run off and have a whinge in the diary room. The two day event represented a good mix of professional and up-and-coming talents from the hip hop dance arena. There were performances from guest artists: Mamson, Babyson and Junior representing France’s Wanted Posse; Bias; and Marso (who also acted as adjudicators for the dance battles). Crew battles took place on the Saturday and there was no shortage of local Midlands-grown talents competing against each other: Dynamite Souls (Birmingham); Under Attack (Stoke & Stafford); Physical Jerks (Bristol); and Last Minute (Norwich). Soul Movement (UK) was chosen as overall winners against finalists No Gimmicks (Birmingham). Inbetween organised events the venue’s informal open performance space was great for impromptu displays of movement banter from performers as well as from enthusiastic spectators, and all to the sound-drop of dj ROC 1 (Punch Records) lyrically adorned by mc Mad Flow.
On the Sunday bboy crew Two Faced Boys (Worcester) warmed up the dancefloor with a neat piece of locking-based choreography, infusing stock 70s moves with a contemporary New York hip hop feel. They also made use of their skills in other dance genres such as contact partnerwork and jazz-influenced street. A series of floorwork solos to finish allowed each dancer to show his individual style.
Following on from the previous day’s battles, competitors returned to the scene to settle who exactly deserved to be the biggest brother. But first, the sisters proved that they were pretty sizeable too in a Seven to Smoke. During one of the friendliest cat fights I’ve ever seen (maybe they were playing nice because their families were watching) the bgirls put on an orderly display of footwork, floorwork and were not short of power moves either (so don’t even bother with gender stereotypes please). Well-timed tricks kept the competition lively, and the youngest competitor Bgirl Bingy was not just there to soak up the ‘aaahs’ from the crowd: she was a serious contender with incredible gymnastic ability. Lady T also put on a good show, but couldn’t quite match local hotshot and crowd favourite Firefly. Guest adjudicator Babyson chose Firefly as the undisputed winner, and then almost immediately sprung up from her seat straight onto the dancefloor to demonstrate how the professionals do it.
Wanted Posse’s cleanly performed choreography is upbeat and cheeky, but don’t mistake it for trivial. Unified by sections danced as a trio, their real strength lies in their presence as three solo artists. Junior’s title is deceptive: I can’t imagine anyone commanding superiority over this man, especially when he is balanced face up horizontal to the floor supported only by the kind of arms usually only seen in the bodybuilding domain. Mamson towers over the diminutive Babyson, and uses his extended limbs to exaggerate the speed of his nifty footwork. These tapdancer’s feet are contrasted with the fluidity of boogaloo arms and tight spins, giving the effect of a contradiction in motion. Babyson is as nimble as a Kung Fu artist zipping in 360 degree directions. She could probably confuse any opponent into submission - that’s if they are not already hypnotised by her angelic smile.
To finish off the weekend the bboy semi-final and final battles commenced, the boys showing that they may not be as good at organising themselves as the girls, but they were going to distract the crowd from the odd moments of confusion with their charismatic gesturing and comical face-pulling. As the competition progressed it became not just a battle of skills and wills, but also a tough test of endurance - not to mention a confrontation of egos. Unlike the girls, who had acted pretty calm and collected and played the game straight, a number of the male competitors acted up, adopting dramatic personae from superhero to camp queen to court jester. For me, the range of bboy styles represented was unexpectedly wide-ranging, from displays of Northern Soul footwork to Run DMC video moments - proof that Beat Street has acquired respect across the region since it started out three years ago (in fact, I’m sure I heard some Scousers in the audience). For the last two years Beat Street has made a lot of headway under the direction of Marso, Artistic Director of urban dance agency Bboys Attic (for more info check out www.bboysattic.com
). After a lively semi-final, Pepito and Mouse were chosen as finalists for 2005, Mouse gradually gnawing through the competition through sheer staying power and understated confidence… Not so small any more mighty Mouse.