Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Funky City: Los Angeles - Competition

To finish off our series on the funkiness of Los Angeles this Thanksgiving holiday, we're focusing on the competitiveness of our street dance culture. We're thankful that this city's dance community hosts contests and that folks come out to enter and to support. This competitive streak is one of the strongest factors in building up the current generation of bboys, bgirls, poppers, and lockers. Without competition, there wouldn't be as strong of a drive to improve. We need competition as much as we need rivalries to push us further. (Photo above is from a Getty Images archive.)

Throughout the 2000s, Los Angeles has hosted the last BBoy Summits as well as recent versions of Freestyle Session, How Tha West Was Won, the Homeland Jam, and many other contests in dance studios, clubs, and community centers. Whether it was crew vs crew or 1 on 1 rounds, Los Angeles has seen several memorable competitions that keep the local community training hard for the next one. For a street dancer, it's often a strong motivation to train. An aspiring track and field runner may look to the next Olympics as a goal for their training schedule. It's the same for us. We may not have highly publicized competitions like the Olympics, but the continual stream of contests throughout the year keep us motivated to work on our weaknesses and to push our strengths further. We often find that in the few moments when we're battling in a contest, all of our training will show. Movements, transitions, and concepts that we drilled will come out. Weak spots can also pop up. Like a boxer training for the big fight, we know that we have to work hard and be disciplined in our dance before a contest because everything that's inside of us shows up in those thirty to forty seconds of a contest round.

Competition also brings our community together. It gives us an opportunity to see folks whom we only see from time to time. Living in Los Angeles is an exercise in learning how to be adaptable in a city that's spread out over a wide geographic region. Anyone who has experienced LA traffic can tell you the same. So naturally, our dance community is also spread out and we often don't see each other unless it's at competitions. Every contest is a chance to show each other what we've been working on as well as to privately discuss feedback and share tips. We're thankful that even in such a competitive setting, our community still maintains an open attitude about helping each other to improve. Sure, there are heated rivalries and some personal animosities that pop up. But, those are rare compared to the larger vibe of welcomeness that permeates through our culture.

Finally, competition is a strong factor in pushing our creative edge in street dancing. When we face off against an opponent, we want to show how we're interpreting the music in new ways that no one has ever seen before. Each match-up in a contest puts two different, unique personalities together. So this is bound to bring out something new inside of us. Sometimes, we dance differently against different people and that can help us to shape our dance styles in the moment. Without competition, we wouldn't have the opportunity to dance under pressure. We need that in our culture in order for it to grow. Bboying, popping, and locking thrive on the battle mentalities that come from dancers facing off in a contest or a cypher. We're glad that this competitive spirit continues to this day in our current generation as we pay homage to our predecessors who set the bar for us.

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