6 Top Breakers on How to Own a Dance Battle
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 (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."
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
The Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center is the 54,000 square foot home of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, one of the largest facilities dedicated to dance on a private university campus. Designed for their innovative new curriculum, that supports a range of dance styles, the school's staff designated Harlequin to provide wall-to-wall flooring for the large 3,500 square foot Performance Studio as well as five dance studios in their new state-of-the-art building.
When watching Megan Skalla dance, several things are immediately obvious. She has legs for days and the archy feet to match. Her core is rock-solid, and her sweet smile is contagious. But the longer you spend with her, the more something else becomes clear: Megan’s got sass. Whether it’s a sharp shoulder roll during a hip-hop class or an intense stare during a sky-high développé, there’s a certain something extra that makes this 16-year-old pop. And her steadfast devotion to dance means she’s only getting better.
Megan started dancing when she was 3 at a small ballet studio near her hometown of Draper, UT, and was hooked immediately. At 7, she switched to a new studio, Pulse 31, and started to compete, but she still wasn’t dancing as much as she wanted. Finally, she came to The Dance Club in Orem, where she currently trains. She takes ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary and lyrical, and sometimes supplements her training with private ballet classes at nearby Barlow Arts Conservatory. “I’ve always loved ballet,” says Megan, who has attended summer intensives at Pacific Northwest Ballet School on scholarship for the past two years. “It’s the foundation for everything, and it makes me a stronger dancer in other genres.”
Though she dances from morning until night, Megan admits to boogying through her kitchen when she gets home, and would still do more if she could. “There’s a dance company that’s a big deal at my high school, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do both,” she says. Devoting her time to The Dance Club, she says, is more conducive to her goal of dancing professionally. The studio is full of mega-talented dancers, and Megan shines among them. Her secret? “In class, some dancers will avoid going across the floor with someone they think is better than they are,” she says. “But I like to go across the floor with the best dancer in class. That way, I can push myself to come up to her level.”
Megan’s strategy is working. She won the Teen High Score Solo award at New York City Dance Alliance regionals and was a Top 10 Outstanding Dancer finalist at NYCDA Nationals. She has performed as Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and was one of four Capezio NYCDA Model Search winners. As for the future, Megan knows one thing for sure: She’s going to keep dancing. “I want to go to college for dance, maybe to Brigham Young University, Marymount Manhattan or Juilliard,” she says. “But I still have a while to decide.” Until then, she’ll stick to her busy schedule. “It’s a lot of late nights and early mornings,” she says. “But it’s worth it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
Birthday: March 6, 1996
Favorite food: Pasta
Most-played on her iPod: “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
Dream dance role: “It would be really fun to be a Rockette. I want to do the Rockette summer intensive this year.”
Three words that describe her dancing: “Soft, passionate, aggressive”
Dream dance company: Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Favorite dance movie: Step Up
Who would play her in a movie: Nina Dobrev from “The Vampire Diaries”
First thing she does in the morning: “Hit the snooze button so I can sleep for 10 more minutes.”
Favorite dancers of all time: Travis Wall and Joey Dowling
Hidden talent: “I like to sing, but I’m only OK. I’d like to take voice lessons.”
Performer she’d die to work with: Celine Dion
Must-see TV shows: “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Lying Game”
Allison Thornton, Megan’s teacher at The Dance Club: “Megan has the body that every dancer dreams of: long legs, beautiful feet, great extension. But the best thing about Megan is that she knows how to use it all. She works really hard, and as good as she is in rehearsal, she’s even better onstage. Megan is very humble. She always has a smile on her face, she gets along with the other girls and she’s easy to work with. She’s a good person who has been blessed with great talent.”
Joanna Numata, street jazz instructor at Broadway Dance Center: “The first thing I noticed about Megan were her beautiful lines. She also had a really good, positive energy during class. She took direction and corrections well, which is so important.”
It's in Odette's gracefully arched neck, the Lilac Fairy's regal bearing, even a contemporary dancer's extreme lines. The "it" in question? Épaulement—the nuanced positioning of the head, shoulders, and neck. Using your épaulement (which translates, literally, as "shouldering") does more than make your dancing prettier: It makes it better, richer, and more artistic. But achieving effortless épaulement is easier said than done, especially since technique classes tend to focus on the legs and feet.
Paige Fraser has performed on world-class stages and in a video with Beyoncé—yet some of her most meaningful dance moments happened in tiny classrooms on a small island 1,000 miles from America. This past spring, Fraser, who's danced with Ailey II and is a founding member of Visceral Dance Chicago, teamed up with the non-profit Milk Carton on a String to bring dance to underprivileged children in Haiti. Fraser taught daily ballet and modern dance classes and used YouTube videos and social media to introduce the students to other aspects of dance they hadn't been exposed to.
Now, Fraser plans to continue to use dance to give back through her own newly-funded non-profit, The Paige Fraser Foundation. But instead of traveling outside the country, Fraser will be helping kids in her childhood home: the Bronx. She wants her foundation to assist aspiring dancers no matter their color or abilities.
Read our interview with the dancer and do-gooder—and discover the life-changing diagnosis that inspired her to help other dancers achieve their dreams.
DancerPalooza, America's Largest Dance Festival, is moving to sunny SAN DIEGO, California from July 24-29, 2018.
Check out all of the NEW Intensives DancerPalooza has to offer this year!
You can never go wrong with a classic black leotard. Discount Dance's long-sleeve mesh leo will add a sleek edge to your studio style. Pair it with tights and a skirt for ballet class, or layer some leggings and sweats for contemporary class. Enter below for your chance to win it!
Kyle Van Newkirk is a tap dancer you probably remember from the premiere season of NBC's World of Dance. In case you missed it, he is also one of Showstopper's incredible convention teachers. What makes Kyle stand apart from some of today's other incredible tappers? He isn't afraid to change what tap means to his audience and even himself. This modern view of tap dancing is important because it shows us that tap dancers are just as versatile and dynamic as dancers of any other genre. We sat down with Kyle to get his advice on bringing tap dancing into the 21st century.
Last night was both the best and the worst night of "Dancing with the Stars: Athletes." The best, because one lean, mean, dancing machine of a couple got to take home the Mirrorball trophy. The worst, because we won't be able to tune in to "DWTS" each Monday to get our weekly dose of dance mania until the fall. But all good things must come to an end, and "DWTS: Athletes" was certainly one of the best seasons yet. The remaining three couples all brought their A-games to the dance floor for the finale, showcasing two dances: a traditional ballroom routine and a freestyle. Here's the final recap.