My Life in Sweats: Dance Battles

If there were ever a phrase that I have uttered that carries with it a gravity stronger than earth’s pull on your water-filled bodies, it is this one: I absolutely freaking love dance battles. From time to time I will find myself drifting subconsciously to a video of one on the internet and then, well, there goes half of my day as I start researching a dancer that I liked so that I can watch more videos of that dancer only to lead me to yet another dancer…

I’d like to share with you a story from when Ryder and I were first dating.  My Dad had invited him to go to an MMA fight one evening but I had chosen to stay home.  He wouldn’t be getting home until much later and I hadn’t planned on staying up.  So I’m laying there in bed and I’m suddenly (but not unpleasantly) awoken by my boyfriend standing next to me with the crazy eyes.  He stood there with both hands clenched into fists with elbows slightly bent and I think he was trembling a little with the excitement of the raw animal display of human brutality still coursing through his veins.  If I recall correctly the words that came out of his mouth were, “Honey… YEAH!  YEAH!”  Half asleep I giggled and rolled back over and lost consciousness once again.  That night went down in our couples history as one of the funniest and cutest things I’ve ever seen him do.  (I just read this paragraph to him and asked him if that was about how he remembered it.  He said “It doesn’t even matter whether it’s the truth or not because it’s LEGEND,” which almost made me cry laughing all over again.)

But now, now, you see… I get it.  This is how I feel when I watch these dance battles.  I’ve lost count of how many I’ve watched online but in my recent history I’ve now physically been to five: The Turf Inc guys in New York in October, the Urban Movement Festival in Plano in November, a Trap Battle at Fenton’s in December, and two of the monthly dance battles in Deep Ellum. I’m averaging one a month!

Best pic I have from the Turf Inc battle in NYC. I know. I know. I just wanted to be in the moment with the dancers instead of watching it through my tiny screen.

I’ve been watching a bunch of videos from two dancers who are my instructors’ instructors on a youtube channel called FunkinFocus. “Future” and Rashaad are collecting stories by interviewing some of the old school street dancers. I’ve heard from a few of their interiewees that they don’t actually like the dance battle format. This is not the first time I’ve heard this either. Another dancer at a battle I attended once told me he preferred good ol’ cyphering over the battle because the cypher is about supporting each other and having a good time. B-boy Midas from one of Future’s interviews mentioned that the battles end up churning out the same kind of dance over and over. Dancers know what the judges like and they are aiming to win, so… do this dance just like this. There’s not much room for experimentation. I get it.

Deep Ellum cypher

I think I would probably get the same rush by witnessing (and eventually participating in) a non-judged dance jam. I’ll do that long before I enter a battle myself. I guess the competition adds that “us vs. them” element, for better or worse, that makes me extra excited when someone I know hits the floor. I support my team! I also cheer for other dancers when they do something dope. (Don’t laugh, I’m trying to get used to using this word.) From what I can tell, most other dancers behave the same way I do at these things. It’s not that way for everyone though. Competition can breed bad blood. Saw a guy get some ice poured on him and punched in the face right after at one of the battles. He uh… kinda had it comin’ though.

Ryder came with me on Valentine’s Day to my popping class. I’m injured so rather than popping, my movements were more like oh… a fish in a bucket using the last of its energy to make itself comfortable before it dies. But that’s more movement than usual at least. I’ve been coming to class and sitting against a wall, silently crying into my fitness and dance goals notebook while I watch my classmates be badasses. I digress. After popping class we hopped in my car and headed to the Independent Bar in Deep Ellum for the one year anniversary dance battle. Little jokes about the “YEAH! YEAH!” were made all night long. As I suspected he would, Ryder had a great time. We left there at 1 AM and got home at 2 AM like freaking teenagers.

My popping instructor Camo (with the lightning fast hands) and fellow dancer Rishi (facing away from us in black) killin’ it.

I asked Ryder what he thought, who his favorite dancers were, and what dance styles he liked on our way home. My husband, ever the analyzing observer, remarked that he didn’t expect the battles to be as aggressive as they were. I initially felt that way too but maybe I’ve become a little desensitized. I remember thinking, “Is that really necessary? What about good sportsmanship?” Let me explain. When a dancer is on the floor they may choose to provoke their opponent by miming something obscene or actually pushing, stealing their hat, or otherwise intruding on their space. There is sometimes a lot of posturing and glaring, maybe even words exchanged. Then after the judges choose the winner everyone hugs. Probably some fake hugs in there but much of the time the dancers who are battling each other are friends and the “battle” part of dance battle is simply theater. Part of me doesn’t want to know about the real drama but maybe I should be informed so I don’t spread any mistruths.

Don’t let that spoil your impression of the battles though. All in all it’s a really good time. The crowd goes nuts when a dancer brings their best and everyone screams when a dancer’s moves synchronize with the music. Ending with a very slick, highly corporate sponsored b-boy showcase. Enjoy!

These guys are in-freaking-credible.

Don’t hurt yourselves. Love,


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