Over the course of four thrilling days at the Parque Mujeres Argentinas, breaking brought a heady concoction of youthful energy, strong emotions and urban creativity to the Argentinian capital. Large crowds gathered at the Urban Park venue to watch the action unfold, generating almost as much noise as the music booming out of the loudspeakers.
Participants competed against each other in “battles”, an exciting and intense format that gives a genuine sporting edge to this athletic style of street dance. And there aren’t many sports where the judges – all former breaking legends themselves – get up on the stage and spin around on their heads before the competition gets under way.
The Buenos Aires 2018 competitions produced some exciting new stars of the sport. Ram (Ramu Kawai of Japan) won gold in the B-Girl competition, while Bumblebee (Sergei Chernyshev of Russia) won the inaugural B-Boy event. B-Girl Ram then collected another gold in the mixed team competition, where she joined forces with B-Boy B4 (Le Minh Hieu of Vietnam).
“I’m happy when I dance. It’s just a joy,” said Ram, 17, after beating B-Girl Emma (Canada’s Emma Misak), one year her senior, in the women’s final. “It makes you so happy when the fans feel the music and you feel it too public. There’s nothing like it,” commented Misak. “There’s a bit of an edge during the battles, but there’s nothing but love when the competition’s over. I think that’s what makes breaking unique. We really are a family and I’m so happy right now.” B-Girl Yell (Republic of Korea’s Yeri Kim) won the bronze.
In the men’s competition, the 18-year-old Bumblebee took the gold after getting the better of Martin (France’s Martin Lejeune) in the final, this after the Russian had seen off Shigekix (Japan’s Nakari Shigeyuki) in a dramatic semi-final. Though he went into the competition as the favourite for gold, the Japanese B-Boy was still smiling at his bronze.
“I have so much fun. It’s just a pleasure,” commented the 16-year-old Shigekix. “My inspiration always comes from the music we listen to when we compete. I love it. I make a lot of elaborate moves but when I’m on the stage I just let the music guide me. There are two facets to breaking: sport and art. We need stamina as athletes, but we also have to be artists and express what we feel. It’s great to give the fans something to cheer, and I get a real kick out of it. The crowds in Buenos Aires have been amazing. We shared the vibes.”
The judges and the fans were also very appreciative of the mixed team event. “Putting together dancers for the two-on-twos, pairing different countries together - that is totally representative of hip-hop culture,” said US judge Richard Colon, better known as breaking legend Crazy Legs. “Hip-hop has served as a bridge between cultures in the past, creating alliances, and I love that.”
“We danced so well together. There wasn’t much choreography, but it worked,” said B-Boy Broly (Argentina’s Mariano Matus) after winning mixed team silver with B-Girl Lexy (Italy’s Alessandra Cortesia). “She was creative and we gave each other energy. We were stronger together. The fans responded brilliantly, which gave us even more energy. They were making so much noise that we could barely hear the music. They were right behind us.”
B-Girl Vale (Argentina’s Iris Valeria Gonzalez), 18, who was eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the women’s competition, summed up the feeling of mutual admiration that epitomises the sport of breaking: “There’s so much respect between the dancers. I think it’s different to other sports, where people hang out with their teams. We spend the whole time together, in the Village and the canteen, for lunch and dinner. It’s part of our culture.”