‘Ruthless’ Koreans sweep B-Boy tournament

‘Ruthless’ Koreans sweep B-Boy tournament

B-Boys, poppers, lockers gather at R-16 World B-Boy Masters Championship
Jay Park
K-Pop star Jay Park, center in white T-shirt, performs during a battle between his b-boy crew, Art of Movement, right, with Red Bull BC One Allstars Crew.

Kimchi, tae kwon do, and now, B-Boying, are what come to mind when you think of Korea, according to R-16 host MC Go. But while that might be a stretch, the former hip-hop dancer’s claim isn’t as groundless as it may initially sound.

In recent years, Korea has emerged as a B-Boy powerhouse in the global acrobatic hip-hop dance scene, and the 2011 R-16 World B-Boy Masters Championship it hosted this weekend is considered one of the world’s top five such events.

This year's R-16 (which marks the championship's fifth anniversary) invited more than 200 B-Boys, poppers and lockers from 16 countries for a two-day showdown at Seoul Olympic Park.

Korean dancers swept two out of three solo categories on Saturday while the local JinJo Crew won the $15,000 grand prize in the group battles Sunday.

It was a marathon display of mind-bending, joint-popping and gravity-defying contortions, and more than 1,000 fans convened to watch their idols.

"Bright futures"

“Koreans are ruthless -- they mastered B-Boying, especially power moves, to another level,” said judge Popping Pete, an esteemed American popper. “This is my first time coming to R-16 and it’s very well organized -- the best of the best are here.”

Popping Pete has been visiting Korea since 1984 -- even before breaking and funk dances became mainstream –- and was excited to see the development of the genres here. The best thing about R-16, he says, is that it shows how “bright the future of B-Boying is.”

Dokyun poppin peteDokyun, left, winner of the solo popping competition on Saturday, poses with judge and veteran popper, Popping Pete.He was particularly impressed by popper du jour Dokyun, a nimble dancer with a mane of fiery orange hair. A member of popping group Real Marvelous, the 21-year-old Korean was the runner-up in last year’s solo popping competition.

“I saw him a few times before (when I came to Korea to teach classes), and I saw his growth. The prize was deservedly his -- he has musicality, rhythm and groove,” said the veteran dancer.

In the semifinals Dokyun demonstrated a flair for inciting responses from the crowd as he grooved to the music -- DJ Batus and DJ Light spun exhilarating beats while the Warsaw Band provided live drums and sax  harnessing pops to a more syncopated effect.

The dancer was up against last year’s popping champion Poppin J, also from Korea. Though cellophane-thin, Poppin J displayed more rhythmically disjointed contractions and relaxations. Dokyun beat the reigning champion and went on to challenge China’s Bing Go.

“It was exciting that I got to battle with the guy I lost to last year -- performances depend on how my condition is that day, and I’m going to work harder in order to do better,” said Dokyun.

Urban Street Arts FestivalVisitors inspect works by graffiti artists on Saturday at the Urban Street Arts Festival in Olympic Park, Seoul, which was held in conjuction with the 2011 R-16 World B-boy Masters Championship.Someone's head is going to roll

Due to miscommunication among organizers the winner of the locking category was incorrectly announced, and finalist Takeshi had to return the $3,000 award. But as much as the “R” in R-16 stands for “respect,” the smiley Japanese dancer that won last year’s locking competition demonstrated honorable sportsmanship while switching medals with Korea’s Pop Kun.

“It’s too bad they mixed up the awards,” said Lucy Wharton, a member of the audience. The 25-year-old Briton said she nevertheless enjoyed the tournament.

A B-Girl herself, Wharton said she came to Korea last year for the B-Boy scene. “In the United Kingdom we focus more on style and footwork, but Korean B-Boying has a surprising level of power and technicality. I learned a lot here and performed with (the crew) TIP,” she said.

Last but not least, in the B-Boy semifinals Korea’s Pocket, a petite 14-year-old with a knack for doing mean windmills, hyped up the crowd by showcasing a jaw-dropping stunt using his T-shirt.

Lil G from Venezuela, however, won with his brisk downrocks and went on to challenge Japan’s Taisuke, who beat France’s Mounir. Taisuke became the B-boy of the hour with his funk-inspired toprocks interlaced with rhythmic locking moves.

As B-Boying is essentially a street dance that stems from hip-hop culture, the tournament also featured an outdoor graffiti competition and special showcases.

Just one of the boys

K-Pop star Jay Park took part in a group battle with his Seattle-based crew Art of Movement, against Red Bull BC One Allstars, comprised of power dancers from Brazil, Italy, Japan, Korea and the United States.

Park then joined beatboxer Korean FX, who recently won a beatbox championship in Canada, for an exciting interplay of quivering vocals, before presenting popular songs such as “Count on Me (Nothin’ On You)” by B.O.B. to the great excitement of his fans.

The tournament culminated on Sunday evening as Korea’s JinJo Crew beat France’s Vagabonds. Hip-hop star Tiger JK, the official spokesperson of the event, sang along with Jay Park.

“I’ve hosted events in Holland to New York, but it’s exciting to be in Korea, to create something intensely alive like this in Korea,” said MC Jaz Ivy, who co-hosted the event.

For more information about the championship, visit the official website.

A member of the UNESCO International Dance Council, Hyo-won Lee writes for The Korea Times while contributing to The Hollywood Reporter and appearing on English radio programs. In her free time she can be spotted ordering “jajangmyeon” during a picnic by the Han River, snooping around vintage boutiques or trying to compose tone poems.

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