Beauty and the Beastsby Ts'eliso Monaheng / Images by Justin Mcgee / 29.03.2013
“You must put this in there,” instructs Shawn (aka b-boy Ice) of Beauty and the Beasts. “Our motto is: ‘no crew’s routine formed against us shall prosper!'” He’s speaking to me over a jangly phone connection, late at night after rehearsal on a Tuesday. This is the only time they have for the interview. Some of the crew are college students while others have day jobs. Yet much like their dance style, an innovative cross-breed of breakdancing and martial arts, they have consolidated these seemingly-clashing schedules and lifestyles into a well-oiled unit.
Beauty and The Beasts is an 8 strong crew, consisting of Devon (aka b-girl Dust), Egan (aka b-boy Momentum), Shawn (aka b-boy Ice), Sheldon (aka b-boy Action Figure), Roche (aka b-boy Edge), Welcome (aka b-boy Frozen Flame), Hloni (aka b-boy Mentor), and Glen (aka b-boy Phantom).
These days the crew is spread between Kempton Park, Benoni and Eldorado Park but they began as a loose collective called Freeze Frame “waaaay back, like, eight years back” says Devon (aka b-girl Dust), the ‘Beauty’ amongst all these ‘Beasts’. But the crew as it stands is fairly young. They came together in 2010, swiftly getting involved in a range of battles around the greater Johannesburg area. “We’re a whole bunch of battlecats; you know, b-boys and b-girls.” Says Dust.
“But,” Ice interjects, “besides battling, we’ve got a responsibility as professional dancers. While the battles are central, they don’t necessarily bring in the money.” So the crew picks up as many corporate gigs and the odd school show, as often as they can. “At the end of the day, we need to fund it somehow.” Concludes Ice.
It’s this passion which has seen them sticking to a relentless rehearsal schedule over the last months in preparation for the Red Bull Beat Battle Finals, taking place at Walter Sisulu square in Soweto on the 1st of June. They were hands down, the toughest crew to get a hold of, due to their demanding practice schedule. But even on this late night telephonic interview, the crew brings and channels an intense and contagious energy down the phone line. They’ve exciting cats. Their routine at the Johannesburg qualifiers a few weeks back popped the lid off the Alex Theatre with it’s eclectic, high energy style and wild genre defying acrobatics.
“That was just a warm-up!” Says Ice. “We’ll reveal the full routine during the finals.”
The rest of the crew are backing him up with a string of “yohs and yeahs”– an affirmation, perhaps, of their solidarity when facing the steepest of challenges. And in their careers as professional dancers the’ve had to face a vast number of obstacles and adversities. From hustling to get fuel money and transportation to get to gigs, to some members getting hijacked on their way home from practice. Yet through all of that, the collective remains strong, spiritual even. “Though we walk through the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for God is with us.” Says Dust.
So how would define a breaking style that takes as much influence from old skool b-boy routines as it does from the Bruce Lee movies?
“It’s how we decide to represent our ‘swag’ if you wanna put it that way.” Says Egan (aka b-boy Momentum). “It’s how we interpret the beat, and how we want our audience to feel. We want to give them a sense of danger, it’s a ‘don’t trying this at home’ kinda thing. But the main thing is just to entertain.”
And that’s exactly what’s to be expected, come 1st of June at Walter Sisulu Square in Soweto. So what is it that Beauty and The Beasts are gonna bring to the Battle? Glen (aka b-boy Phantom) flips the script. “We want other crews to bring it, because we’re gonna come hard! We’re gonna bring fire, we’re gonna blow up that stage, we’re gonna stunt like no South African crew has ever stunted before. That’s what we’re gonna do!”
* All images © Justin Mcgee