Cool break dancers flaunt their stuff

Break dancers were flipping, leaping and spinning their bodies to hip-hop, techno and funk music during the qualifying round of the third annual adidas Street Dance Competition.

More than 100 dancers from 27 teams performed on Sunday before a capacity crowd at the Sha Tin Park Amphitheatre for a chance to compete in the finals in two weeks. The competition was split into break dancing and hip-hop categories this year.

Participants were judged according to the difficulty of the dance routine performed, their ability to dance to the music being played and teamwork.

“They have to know how to use their skills,” said Janice Wong, one of the judges. “They have to be confident, too. Some of it has to do with the way they express themselves.”

They were also judged according to their costumes. Outfits ranged from jumpsuits to T-shirts and jeans. Bandanas, wrist and arm bands and baseball caps worn backwards were a common sight. Three hip-hop teams and six breaking teams were selected for the finals.

“It’s a sport, just like basketball or soccer,” said Ho Kai-nam, 16, who breaks for the group RSBC. “You’re not just dancing. You’re competing to win.”

In battles, two teams of four people will dance in the allotted five-minute spot. One dancer starts off and then a breaker from the opposing team has to emulate the move.

“But you have to try to do it better,” said Daniel Pleatman, 16, who is a part of the team Freestyle Project. “If you can’t, move on to something else.”

Part of the appeal of breaking comes from its improvisation. Unlike ballet or jazz dancing, breaking was more free-flowing and based on creativity, Daniel said.

“Normally we have a rough order of who is going to go up,” Daniel said. “But it changes because each person specialises in a certain thing. If the other team does something you specialise in, then you go up and answer them. Normally the order breaks down and we just wing it.”

Crowd support plays a huge factor. Breakers feed off what the crowd wants to see, said Chong Chi-ho, 17, a breaker for the team.

“We want to do something they haven’t seen yet,” Chi-ho said.

When teams were evenly matched in a tight battle and support from the crowd was mixed, teams tried different things. Some dancers used props, like basketballs. Others used non-verbal communication – when a dancer taps a hand to an elbow, it’s a breaker’s way of flipping an opponent off.

“It’s disrespectful,” Pleatman said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you’re so uncreative you have to take moves from someone else’.”

The winners of the competition will receive cash prizes from adidas. The champion in each category will be awarded $ 8,000.

But for Daniel and others, it isn’t so much about the money as the chance to compete. “This is really an opportunity to show your stuff,” Daniel said.

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2004 edition of the South China Morning Post.

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