Buck Wildby Samora Chapman / Images by Tyrone Bradley / 11.03.2013
I’m at the Bat Centre on a stormy Saturday morning for the Red Bull Beat Battle qualifier and one thing is clear: dance culture in Durban is alive and well. In fact it’s fucking buck wild. Every corner is packed with b-boys, krumpers and moonwalkers flexing and bending, kitted from head to toe in fly gear. Flat peaks, backpacks and wayfarers are the uniform; kick-ass attitude fills the air. Durban brought an army. Let the battle begin!
The show starts, as usual, with a workshop held by legendary mzansi dancers and judges for the day Sello, Vouks, and Mada. In no time, Sello had the entire congregation tapping their townies to the “ba-da-da” – the foundation of pantsula. Soon the dancefloor is on fire and the Durban kids are amping on the bull juice and getting looser than Crazy Legs.
The battle itself was a four-hour marathon accompanied by brain bashing beats and sweat flowing like blood. The sheer number of competitors (20 crews) made it challenging for the average crews to stand out. Bringing a solid theme, flamboyant outfit and tight routine was the key.
Top of the list for me (being a biased hip hop head) was the infamous b-boy crew Floor Assassins. The Assassins are well known in the Durban hip hop scene, having taken out almost every Battle of the Year I can remember and owning every street cypher they every blessed with their presence. But this being an all-style dance battle meant that the Assassins had to bring more than their straight up breaking routine. And they came out guns blazing.
The six-man Assasins crew hit the stage in full on army get-up, carrying imaginary Kalashnikovs and ducking and diving to the sound of gunfire thunder. The routine that followed was tighter than a Mortal Kombat “finish him” number. The b-boys integrated plenty of up-rock, popping and locking and footwork to punctuate the acrobatic power moves. I reckon the Assassins might just have booked themselves a place in the last eight.
Another crew to make an impact was the Angel Players repping Mariann Ridge. They brought some comedic freestyle flavour, integrating breaking, Zulu dancing, hip hop and pantsula into a multicultural routine that woulda made Madiba proud. But what made these cats stand out was their absolute disrespect for the notion of death. There’s this old school breaking move called a ‘suicide’, which is when you quit whatever scary acrobatics you’re up to and you allow yourself to fall to the ground in a weird death-freeze. The move signifies bravery beyond the call of duty. I’ve almost never seen it done, but the Angel Players performed not one, but several suicides during their routine… getting the crowd gasping for air like a fishy outta water.
Death was clearly not a dignitary at the Bat Cave this stormy Saturday!
The best of the pantsulas was a crew of kids out of Ntuzuma called Dlalapantsula. Kitted from head to toe in school uniform, these kids brought their schoolyard battle tactics to the big stage. It was their tap-dancing townies and pure kasi footwork that made Mada from the legendary Shakers and Movers grin from the soul to the halo.
Topping the bill was a wicked crew of kung-fu cats called the Spar10z. Rocking full on silk kimonos, nunchucks, masks and wayfarers; the Spart10z brought the mu’fuckin ruckus like Bruce Lee versus Michael Jackson. Their style was versatile, from capoeira flying kicks to b-boy power moves and teamwork acrobatics.
Filling the gaps was an anonymous legion of krumpers with backpacks and heart murmurs, shuddering and throwing sucker punches and tearing at their clothes like nutcases.
Last shout out goes to the to the two Michael Jackson crews with their white gloves and smooth moves, bringing some much needed grace to the blood thirsty, testosterone filled warzone. And special mention goes to the Glitch Bots for being the only multiracial crew and for rocking the girl power.
All in all it was a banging event, as Red Bull flowed through veins and sweat poured through pores. The overall atmosphere was one of ecstasy, energy and the love and appreciation of the beautiful art form called dance.
The Glitch Bots
The Glitch Bots are a brand new crew straight out of Ethekwini, bringing funky dubstep and hip hop flavour to the Beat Battle Qualifiers. Crew members are Hannah, Tshepho, Bianca and the gangly J White.
“We are a new crew, but you can expect some tight dub-step and hip hop from us… we draw inspiration from legendary the I Am Crew from the States.”
The Converse Crazy Boys
The Converse Crazy Boys (CCB) are a duo of mixed-style dancers that really stand out for their creativity. From flame throwing to playing each other like human musical instrument, these guys are truly innovative. Dancers Erik and S’phiwe are a classic big guy/little guy combination, bringing Laurel and Hardy comedy to the stage. Picture moonwalking, mime, pantsula and some crazy two-man routines.
“We bring the innovation… the crazy inventive mixed kinda style. And we like to use humour too.”
The Spar10z are definitely one of the favourites to come out of the Durban qualifiers. The five-man crew is made up of 2p, Stanza, Dee Kay, Stabby and the one and only Awo Da God Baby Ay. This mixed style crew do everything from breaking to capoeira and kung fu tiger style!
“Our style is versatile, unique, raw, hardcore, transcendental and spiritually lifted. We represent black and red yo!”
Rock Dancers are a massive crew of kasi kids rocking a proudly South African mixture of dance styles, rooted in traditional dance and pantsula.
“We like to dance local. But we have the best dancer in the world… his name is Kwanele, but you can call him ENOUGH!”
The Warrior Knights
The Warrior Knights are a proudly Durban hip hop dance crew who like to mingle a bit of breaking and Zulu dancing into their flamboyant routine. Crew members are Flexi, B-boy Lucky, Exclusive and Bankz.
“We watch a lot of b-boys and we like to mix American styles with traditional dance like Zulu dancing. We bring a high-energy routine complete with big breaking moves like head-slides and flares.”
The Matrix Aviators
The Matrix Aviators brought some seriously stylish mechanical movement and sexy slow-mo’s to the battle. Members are Baby Christ, Tiger and Cya.
“We do mechanical movements… and we try illustrate emotions through the way we dance. Favourite dancer is Madd Chadd from Step Up.”
The Em Fresh Boysz
The Em Fresh Boysz epitomise the word fresh. The crew is made up of Super Kid, MXL, Sweet Bonez and Mel Bleezey. The Em Fresh Boysz rock some seriously unique outfits inspired by the Mario Brothers, kings of the 90s TV game generation.
“We’re a hip hop, breaking and crump crew that have been representing Durban at battles around the country for 3 years. We take influence from the renowned Quest Crew.”
Arguably the best phantsulas at the Durban qualifiers, Dlalaphantsula are a big crew of talented dancers straight out of Ntuzuma.
“We dance strictly phantsula style. Dancing is just the best way to have fun and move your body to the music. The Warrior Knights from Durban are our favourite dancers.”
The Floor Assassins
The Floor Assassins are Durbans most renowned and legendary breaking crew, having taken out almost every Battle of the Year for the last 5 years. But for this battle the Assasins brought more than straight up breaking to the table. The six-man crew is made up of Farrenheit, Bizzo, Kayzo, Craig, Wooda and Tarquin.
“We’ve never entered the Beat Battle Before as we normally stick to our genre, which is breaking. So for this battle we’ve really worked on our routine and our whole battle theme… it’s good for us to keep evolving and challenging ourselves.”
Making a big impact were the Angel Players, representing Marriann Ridge. The Players brought comedic freestyle flavour, integrating breaking, Zulu dancing, hip hop and pantsula. Crew members include Siya, Bonga, Sakhlele and Masa.
“We do our own thing. Nobody inspires us.”
NerdzZ is a talented crew of mixed style dancers, utilizing a bit of breaking, krumping, up-rock and hip hop in their diverse arsenal of battle tactics. Members are Mlu, Masta and Quakezilla.
Learn more about Red Bull Beat Battle here.