B-boys (and Girls) Get Greensboro on a Good Foot
The first Fools of the Floor B-boy competition pulled battlers into Greensboro, No’Calina on April 2 from the Boogie Down Bronx and the mean fields of Faison.
Held at the Greene Street night club and pulled together through the organizational efforts of a collection of local promoters, graffiti writers and DJs, the event drew some of the hottest dancers from New York, Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area to the Gate City. The out-of-town talent lent validity to the battlers from Greensboro, Charlotte, Fayetteville and down-east cities who came hungry for recognition.
The first thing to know about B-boying ‘— or breakdancing, as it is popularly known ‘— is that although it exploded as the creative expression of black and Puerto Rican youth in 1970s New York, it is now an international and multicultural form.
The prime mover behind Fools of the Floor is WiTeBoi, aka Josh Glawson, a B-boy so named because he considers himself a ‘“messed-up white kid.’” With a well-coiffed shag haircut covered by a jaunty farm cap, he looks more like an indie kid than a hip hopper.
‘“I got into it because of a lot of the Asian kids back in Charlotte,’” he says. ‘“In the Asian culture, it’s not so much about dancing as doing tricks. I bought instructional videos to learn.’”
Early in the evening the B-boys and girls pour in, and limber up after car rides from distant cities.
There are the Mexican kids from the Goldsboro area who belong to the One Time Design crew and look sullen and hungry.
‘“My cousin from Florida brought up a video and I saw this girl breaking; I said, ‘I could do that,’” says Ciyf, aka Romero Villalon, a 20-year old from Faison whose parents work in the poultry and hog farming industries. ‘“We were kind of basic at first. We’re kind of crazy and suicidal now. You’ll see.’”
There are two Asian kids from Atlanta ‘— Doeboi, aka Keooudone Doe Inthirat, and Misfit, or Kennedy Phanthavong ‘— respectively a chunky guy with a good-natured smile and a goth kid who wears garish black lipstick, red eyeliner and demonic-looking white contact lenses. Doeboi commands a lot of respect here, thanks in part to his winning the Southeast Emerging contest in September.
There’s the New Yorkers, a super group of several crews competing tonight under the name Food Stamps. As representatives of the originating scene, they possess an unflappable cool.
As soon as they’re in the door the breakers are on the floor stretching down. Once that’s accomplished they start dancing without formality: ‘popping’ limbs like funk robots, throwing arms, doing hand plants, spinning, and doing back flips. During rounds of competition, the collective mood vibrates with unbearable intensity with shouting supporters forming a circle around the battlers. During breaks, the kids naturally break, dancing with relaxed syncopation. Perhaps they hug each other, entertain each other with new moves, or show off to impress a dancer of the opposite sex.
‘“I’m more aggressive when I’m on the floor, but we’re all friendly after the battle’” says Knowell, aka Noel Pichardo, a 21-year old Bronx B-boy. ‘“Unless they don’t like you and jump you, but that’s not too common.’”
The reason behind the New York crew’s decision to spend 10 hours on the road to attend a contest in Greensboro is pretty simple: prize money.
‘“A thousand dollars? Come on! That’s good motivation,’” says Rebel, aka Mark Evans, a curly-haired guy who is one of the more agile dancers.
Sid Vicious, an African-American dude with a bleached mohawk whose real name is Sid Johnson, is one of the judges tonight. He splits time between San Francisco and his parents’ home in Charlotte. The Carolina crews will have an uphill battle against the more experienced breakers from New York, Cali and Atlanta, he says. North Carolina lacks an identifiable style such as the more established scenes have, but Sid won’t go so far as to say they don’t stand a chance.
‘“You get a lot of outside crews wanting to come in to help out,’” he says. ‘“There are different styles in Cali, Atlanta and Florida. Here you’re going to see a mixture of styles. It’s growing real good. Last time I saw them they were coming up quick.’”
Of six crews, the all-female Beauty Skool Dropoutz and the Mexican One Time Design crew from down east get eliminated early despite valiant efforts.
Challenging East West North South, a geographical hybrid crew with dancers from Fayetteville and Charlotte as well as Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the Dropoutz display fierce attitude even if they can’t match their rival’s power moves. When B-Boy Durell from EWNS comes up to blow a kiss at the ladies, they make a gesture in response of grabbing their crotches. When B-Boy Mike grabs his bicep as a challenge, B-Girl QL from Charlotte grabs her breast as if to say in scorn: ‘“What’s that?’”
Ciyf, Riot and Cricket from One Time Design hit the floor and execute a series of spins and head plants, fairly bouncing off of each other and knocking their heads against the floor when they land. They eschew the casual front of the Cali and New York dancers. Ciyf hurls himself across the floor with a hard combination of back flips and spins and comes close to kicking Sid Vicious, who shakes his head with disapproval. For that, OTD loses points and goes down in defeat to the New York’s Food Stamps.
Gravitated Anomalies, a fusion crew from Greensboro and Charlotte, also goes down ‘— to the West Coast Immigrants ‘— despite some mind-blowing performances: the furious uprocking of B-Girl Urf of Greensboro; the slamming aggression of B-Boy N-ER-G, also from the Gate City; the smooth strutting of Charlotte’s B-Boy C-Roc; and Phil Funk’s dazzling back flip.
‘“I’m so happy I’m not a judge,’” says Syke 101, aka Kyle Sides of Greensboro, who’s MC-ing the event. It looks close.
The final bout comes down to Food Stamps and the West Coast Immigrants, which despite its name also includes Doeboi, Misfit and Sako from Atlanta, as well as Optimo from Charlotte.
Doeboi starts the round by launching Misfit into the air and spinning him on his shoulder. Manny from New York, who is built like a circus acrobat, responds by dancing with taunting skill. Knowell does a fake dead man and springs back to his feet. The Immigrants respond by having Misfit launch off of B-boy Hollywood’s back. The audience edges up onto the sides of the stage, as Syke 101 announces: ‘“In three minutes we got a champion.’”
Ultimately, the Immigrants best the Food Stamps crew 12-10 by losing fewer points on the merits of execution, style, power and originality. Lots of audience members are unhappy and the members of Food Stamps swarm around Sid Vicious to complain.
Then two security guards impose themselves on the stage and the tension abates. The dance floor fills with early-morning revelers, and the elaborate structure of the dance breaks down into a generalized mob of drinking and flirting.
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at email@example.com