R16 Korea 2014 – Day 1

R16 Day 1 Press Conference and Preliminary Eliminations @ Club Syndrome

The R16 Press Conference was pretty professional and high-class for this set of ElectRow roaming reporters. With juice and Red Bull set up on red-clothed tables and chairs labeled for everyone and his brother, we sat in our ‘Press’ section and took it all in. The bigwigs of the Korean National Tourism Department, specifically the head of the International Division and the Team lead for International Performance, were in suits and ties up front next to Jay Park, who was dressed in street formal-wear. Each judge, individual performer and crew were introduced, and a few looked like they were overwhelmed by the cameras and the spectacle of it all, but I spotted at least on dude totally asleep in the B-Boy Judge section. See? Who says you can’t chill-ax when you need to? Anyway, we met some official people who were either in charge of the event or in front of the audience introducing the show, such as MC Snipa, aka Jay Min Park. We got our free Press bag full of R16 geedunk stuff, and headed out the door to go over to watch the first performance of the tournament at Club Syndrome.  Oh yeah – we stopped in the lobby of Olympic Hall and chatted up some B-boy individual dancers and took their photo. Lots of smiles and encouragement. These folks are the top of the game, and it was cool to get in their small spaces and be casual with them. We met B-girl Roxy from the UK, and made a point to remember her for the solo B-boy battles. She had received a special invitation the World Championships, based on her successful performances in other competitions – sweet.

Open Eliminations for the remaining 6 spots in the final competition were held at Club Syndrome on Friday late afternoon. There was plenty of space to sit at tables or hang over railings around the dance floor, or sit jacked up against the actual R16-labeled dance space. With only two performers getting selected for each of the three categories, competition was fierce, but RESPECT was ruling the house as everyone was grinding hard but giving out hugs, tugs and tags to their peers.

The judges sat in chairs right in front of the dance floor, and two DJ setups were directly behind with two large screens playing the R16 visuals. I did not catch the DJ names, but I will find out somehow. The sound system actually made the floor throb, including where we were sitting, elevated almost directly above the might R16 logo beneath us, and perched in front of a small steel railing, and we steamed along with the performers while the music gave us ass massages for three hours.

Most folks were practicing their moves and getting loosened up in some open spaces near the bars, or in the walkways or the VIP sections. There wasn’t much liquor going down; these folks were straight up here to keep the energy intensely high and their focus concentrated. And speaking of intense, the judges, all five for B-boy, and three each for Popping and Locking, were pretty damn stoic. I guess they were told to be serious about their judgments.

So in this setting where we were in the face of the action, we definitely felt the pulse and power of the jumps, the flares, the one-handed spins, the waves, and wiggles, and the isolations. There was a bevy of B-girls, and at least two or more girl-to-girl battles. I saw one girl dressed in orange pants and black-and-white retro Wingtip shoes beat a guy dressed in black with his own Wingtips and earn her spot in the Locking Finals. Note: this was one to watch, as we will find out later. She was my personal choice, and although I’ve got no judging skills, I just thought she was on top of her game. Likewise for a Japanese girl who took out a dude dressed in pink sneakers and an African skull cap to earn her spot in the B-Boy finals. Mad respect for the ladies at this elimination.

I sat next to B-boy Warrior, aka Celestin Kapelo from Switzerland, who was accompanying his friends on the Switzerland crew KMZ. “That dude looks kind of old,” I said to him, talking about a popper down below. “It’s not just for the young ones. I am thirty, and I started when I was fifteen.” Cool. I felt a little bit older however, since I could tell you the name of the song ‘Get Ready’ released by a band called Rare Earth in 1969 by Motown Records, and which was a solid remix used for the locking battles. I think I used to imitate the long drum solo in the break, but whatever…I was the only one in the house who knew this except for maybe the DJ.Note: More on the older folks later on…

I don’t know where they get the freaking’ energy, but these battles were powerful. I mean they were splitting veins and bending spines like breaking branches off a dead tree. There was so much snap, smack and pop that I thought surely someone was hurting themselves. The word flexibility might be a good word, but a better word for what I saw would be fireworks in a human frame, exploding for one minute at a time. The battles were two runs for each dancer, with the DJ mixing in a new song and a new rhythm for each run. Some of the dancers did not catch the rhythms exactly, and I think that might have been why some of them went down. It was a real challenge for a person to keep their style when the beat slowed down or sped up, and you could see the talent of some of these guys was top notch ‘cuz they were picking it up and not losing a beat. Really excellent talent all around. A closer and more intense experience for sure.

Even though this was an Open Elimination, there were some standouts that probably will go far in the Finals. Yeah, there’s a ton of truth in that as you will see…

Either you stayed at home and read about it or got out here and felt it for yourself.

Dr. Dave