Five-on-five crew competition helps grow Calgary urban dance scene

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B-boys and b-girls from across the nation gathered at Calgary’s St. Vladimir Cultural Centre Saturday to leave it all on the dance floor in a five-on-five crew breaking battle.

More than 160 people hit the dance floor with their best footwork, flips and fighting words for the third annual 5 Kings competition put on by People’s Militia, Pulse Studios and the Calgary Hip Hop Society (CHHS).

 “These events are the heartbeat of a scene,” said Christopher (Mr. Clip) Clare, member of Calgary’s Original Rudes breaking crew. “You can practise as much as you want, but you got to get out there and battle. This is the only real opportunity they (dancers) get to come together, battle, celebrate, learn from each other and vibe with each other.”

Building a breaking battle

5K main2Gill Co of Pulse studios estimates there are more than 30 breaking crews in Calgary alone. This year’s 5 Kings competition hosts talent from Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Toronto, and even Whitehorse.

Photo by Pamela Di PintoCalgary-based breaking crew People’s Militia started 5 Kings back in 2010 when members like Vince Truong saw a need for battles where crews could compete as a unit.

This year’s all-ages competition featured 32 crews, up from just seven crews in 2010.

“For us, this event was one of those things of how we could give back to the community,” said Truong.

At each round of the competition, two crews face-off with a set time limit to outperform the opposing crew. One crew is eliminated after each battle, as decided by a panel of judges.

Each year, special guest artists are invited to judge the competition. This year’s judges were:

  • Mr. Clip (Original Rudes) from Calgary
  • YNOT (Rock Steady Crew) from Philadelphia
  • Nasty Ray (Boogie Brats) from San Jose

World-renowned break DJ Lean Rock was also in attendance to keep the beats flowing, even during “cyphering” breaks when dancers would form freestyle dance circles to take turns showing off their moves.

“(We) want to elevate the dancing, and the one way to do that is to bring international talent,” said Gill Co, one of four co-owners of Pulse Studios.

Co said the big-name breakers not only act as a draw for competitors and audience members alike, but also help establish Calgary as a dance hub in Western Canada.

“They’re basically spreading the word about our event through their network,” she said.

Getting down in Calgary

While it’s good to think global, Co said Pulse Studios and CHHS focus largely on providing a platform for Calgary artists to stay local.

Events like 5 Kings are a key part of that mission because they allow b-boys and b-girls to compete at the national level without having to travel.

5K mainThe Yukon’s Groundwork Sessions Crew stand their ground during an intense breaking battle, enough to later win them the 5 Kings crown and $1,000 in prize money.

Photo by Pamela Di Pinto“We want to continuously promote hip hop culture and urban dance,” said Co. “In that, we’re building a greater community.”

Co and Clare agree the Calgary breaking scene is growing in both size and talent.

“Our breaking scene here is very powerful,” said Clare. “It’s very true to the dance.”

And, the winner is…

After rounds of intense battle, Groundwork Sessions Crew (GWS), the Yukon’s only breaking crew now based out of Vancouver, beat out Winnipeg’s Dangerous Pandas for the first place title and $1,000 prize.

“It was a good vibe,” said GWS crew member Riley Simpson-Fowler of the competition.

“As a crew, we haven’t won since two summers ago, so this is a good win.”

Looking ahead, organizers like Truong hopes the winning streak at 5 Kings never stops.

“We’re definitely just trying to do what we can to leave a legacy,” said Truong, “so that in the future, the younger kids can take over it, keep it growing, and make Calgary known as a dance hub for Western Canada or even nationally.”

Correction: In the fifth last paragraph and one of the photo captions, one of the crews who made it to the final round was incorrectly identified. Groundwork Sessions Crew and the Dangerous Pandas were the two crews who competed in the final round. The Calgary Journal regrets the error.

Breakdancers from across Canada throw down for battle crown

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