6 Top Breakers on How to Own a Dance Battle

Antonio "Kid Black" Smith (photo by Richard Hardt, courtesy Smith)

Your opponent is staring you down. Your reputation is on the line. You've entered the ring at a break-dancing battle—and it's time to work. But what makes a successful battler? We asked some A-list breakers for their tips on how to battle like a champion.


Longka "M-Pact" Lor

"In a battle, you actually have four opponents: the person in front of you, the judges, the audience, and yourself. And you are your main opponent—you have to understand yourself. That's the hardest part. In breaking, there's a certain set way of doing foundational movements, but being willing to step outside of what's usually done is what gets you noticed. You have to find the way your body best executes each movement, because everyone has different body mechanics. And you can't fear making mistakes. Mistakes turn into originality. Take the moves you stumble into and use them."

Longkue "VillN" Lor

Longkue "VillN" Lor (photo by Robert K. Lim, courtesy Lor)

"The best breakers make things look easy. And a lot of that is about stamina and endurance. Breaking is such a physically demanding dance form. You have to be able to go three to five rounds without dropping your energy. There are also battle tactics to consider. You have to think, 'How could I make this person look like he's not at my level?' You have to create a character that no one can step on."

Ana "Rokafella" Garcia

Ana "Rokafella" Garcia (photo by Yu Wadee, courtesy Garcia)

"This is a male-dominated field, created by men, and often judged by men. When I first started as a b-girl, I wanted to hide my womanhood. But as I grew up, I learned to embrace it. When I judge battles today, I'm looking for the female competitor who owns her femininity. Wear the tight pants, wear the lipstick, throw a kiss—or be aggressive, if that's more your style! Just don't be afraid to be you."

Antonio "Kid Black" Smith

"When I first started, people would say to wait to start battling until you've earned your place in the scene, but I disagree. Jump into it, soak up the culture, and get a feel for the atmosphere, no matter how new you are to the form. Never be afraid to show what you've got, regardless of skill level. And know that it's not always about winning. I enter battles to inspire and to represent my style. Sometimes that means more dancing and fewer point-earning stunts. I know I'm going to have a harder time winning if I dance more, but who cares? I'm there to represent and to show that breaking is a valuable culture, with or without the competition."

Marie "Quenn Mary" Slavova

"Battling is a game. If you know how to play it, it can be quite interesting. People who take it too seriously are forgetting that it's still a performance art—that the point is to share our craft with an audience, so that they can enjoy it. It's kind of like old-school boxing. The people who earn a place in history, like Muhammad Ali, are the ones who enjoy being in the battle. They make audiences see how interesting it can be. They put smiles on our faces."

Tadd Gadduang

Tadd Gadduang (photo by isa Tucker, courtesy Gadduang)

"It all comes down to grit and perseverance. Everything about this art is intense: the moves, the training, the culture, the persona, what a b-boy represents. It takes a strong attitude to succeed, and not every just anyone can handle the rigor. You're going to practice a move 100 times and mess it up 99 times. Then repeat. But that's the beauty of the form: It doesn't just teach you cool stunts. It pushes you to persevere in the real world.


A version of this story appeared in the February 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Battle Ready."

Dancer to Dancer
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

Keep Reading Show less
Fitness
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School
Kendra Oyesanya, Marcus Mitchell, and Carlito Olivero (courtesy YouTube/Lionsgate)

Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).

Keep Reading Show less
Dance News
The cast of "Oklahoma!" during last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.

Keep Reading Show less
Trending-posts
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher (left) meeting with Bloch owner David Fox (right) in NYC. (Marius Bugge for Bloch)

For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.

Keep Reading Show less
Ballet
Martina Sandionigi as Giselle

We updated your favorite story-ballet tutus with modern details that'll please any 21st-century prima ballerina. Who needs a cavalier, anyway?

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Fashion
Dancers are total brainiacs.

Dancing impacts pretty much every aspect of our lives—including our brains. That's right: Dance makes us smart. Like, super smart. Here are seven ways being a dancer enhances your brainpower.

Keep Reading Show less
Just for Fun
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

Keep Reading Show less
Fitness
The ultimate dance mom: Debbie Allen with her daughter, Vivian Nixon (courtesy Nixon)

Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Samantha Little

It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.

The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
Paloma Garcia-Lee (center, in gold) and the cast of "Fosse/Verdon" (FX)

The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.

Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.

With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)

Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways