The R16 World B-boy Masters Championship was recently held at Olympic Park. Frankly speaking, I had to google ‘B-boy’ to actually have an idea of what it was. I was wrong in thinking it was beat boxing; it’s actually what I would describe as break dancing. I instantly had a childhood flashback to RUN DMC’s hit ‘It’s like that’, followed closely by memories of all the boys in school throwing themselves on the floor, trying to impress.
To say the least, I was excited.
Undeterred by the rain I arrived at Olympic Park. Outside was a Korean model posing next to an F1 car surrounded by photographers keen to get a sexy photo for either their own personal collection, or whoever they were working for. Also outside were the contestants taking a quick break between performances, sipping on cans of Cass. B-boying’s essence is street dancing, hip hop, body popping and generally just looking cool – nothing a sideways hat can’t solve. Following this theme there was an outdoor graffiti interactive art space held at the Urban Arts festival, in conjunction with the competition.
The layout was great with good views down onto the stage, seating options and an area for the privileged to stand, fist pump the air and get close enough to watch the battles. I was won over within the first ten minutes. This year, R-16 invited more than 200 B-boys, poppers and lockers from 16 countries. DJ Batus and DJ Light created a wicked soundtack set behind the Warsaw Band orchestra to mix it up a little. All built up for a great atmosphere.
I made one negative observation though: no bar. I was informed that this decision was made because in previous years minors had gotten drunk and caused a scene. This was an obstacle that was overcome with a short walk in the rain to a nearby GS. I got a nice supply of Makkoli and paper cups stashed in my bag and was ready, set, go.
The countries were keen to impress with their co-coordinated outfits and insane routines. I found myself gasping in shock, alongside everyone else, when the groups pulled off some acrobatic stunts that I could only describe as ‘mental’. The B-boys were fit, flexible and fanciable. It definitely beat some of the break dancers we usually see in Hongdae park at 11pm on a Saturday night. There were several rounds of battles, locking and group routines, among other crowd pleasers.
Finally, the winner was announced (drum roll please): KOREA! The Korean dancers won two out of three solo categories on the Saturday while the local JinJo Crew won the $15,000 grand prize in the group battles on the Sunday. Korea has now established itself not just on soju, kimchi, tae -kwon-do and rice, but on B-boying too. Hooray for Korea.
To finish off the marathon two-day event Drunken Tiger took to the stage. I was actually previously oblivious to this hip hop phenomena by the name of ‘Drunken Tiger’, but I was politely informed that he is pretty big here. The crowd got stirred up for even more fist pumping and everyone seemed to know all the words. It was a perfect end to a perfect event.
Korea have emerged as B-boy Masters over recent years, and I think they will continue to prove themselves. I could say I haven’t tried to bust a move in my bedroom since, or thought of a different career path…but that would be a lie.
Photos by Lauren McGee and Devin Wilson.