A jam is a highlight in any b-boy or b-girl’s diary. It’s an event for breakdancers to showcase their skills often with a live DJ and a big audience. Sophie Lodge tells us about Battle Time 3, a jam that recently took place in Newport.
My expectations of a jam were what I had seen on terrible street dance films from the 2000s; bad 90s fashion, cornrows, and a lot of angry guys with dark pasts who were there to ‘win it’. Whilst I’ve been breakdancing for just over a year, I headed to my first jam in Newport last weekend with Cardiff Breakdance Society for Battle Time 3. Thankfully the vibe coming from the Riverfront Theatre was anything but angry; instead, a sense of anticipation filled the air. We turned up just as the crew battles were kicking off, and everyone was raring to go. The main theatre in the Riverside is your average auditorium with plush red seats and a large, raised stage. For Battle Time 3, the stage was brimming with DJ decks, a leather sofa for the judges and the crowd, who were sitting around the edges of a vast linoleum floor. The rest of the theatre stood empty.
The first thing that struck me was the sheer variety of people who had turned up. There were toddlers who made everyone laugh when they tried to copy their dads and brothers, but there were teenagers who looked about fourteen entering battles and winning against adult b-boys and b-girls. That’s not to say the younger dancers stole the show. There were entrants over forty showing they could still groove. Apparently this broad age range is normal for breakdancers, many of whom get involved because of other family members in the scene, and its popularity with the younger generation is growing. No longer is this a sport obsessed with crazy power moves (the flips and head spins) but instead the focus is on style, allowing younger and older entrants to do as well as prime-aged, more experienced b-boys and b-girls. Musicality, originality and style are core elements in judging breakdancing. Moreover, this isn’t just a sport dominated by men: b-girls made a fair shout in both the crew and solo competitions, with the all-girl crew Trouble Funkers storming their way to the semi-finals.
The crew battles were definitely where things kicked off. You could feel the energy pulsing from each team as they battled it out for a place in Floor Wars, a well-known international competition held in Denmark for which Battle Time 3 was the UK qualifier. As the knock-out rounds wrapped up, only the best crews went on to the semi-finals (with nail biting tie-breakers), and then onto the brilliant final. For me, the best parts of the battles were where crew members used pre-planned routines as smooth transitions and round highlights. The competitive element in battles can often lead to things getting a little too heated, but at Battle Time 3 it seemed to only bring out the best in everyone, and each team gracefully took their leave as Soul Mavericks took the top spot.
The solo battles were less intense, with only a cash prize, but it was a pleasure to watch such a vast variety of different breakdancers. The dance style has evolved rapidly since its birth on the streets of New York and each dancer is unique in their musical interpretation and rhythm. Some focused on top rock (any dancing without your hands touching the floor), some on comedy, and some on straight-up, mad power moves.
While I was expecting rivalry and competition, the event was really much more social in nature. Even during the frequent breaks the DJ would keep the music running and circles (creating a circle and taking turns breaking in the centre) would pop up as people danced purely because they enjoyed it. It was all about seeing old friends, dancing because you love it and celebrating other people’s performances.
Battle Time 3 opened my eyes to the huge diversity and multiplicity of people in breakdancing, and that breakdancing itself is not the narrow stereotype many people perceive. Just like any other artistic outlet, it means different things to different people, whether that is a sport, a social activity or an art.
You can watch the whole competition below: