DJ Skeme Richards is on the decks, dropping old-school funk. Fresh cats, like B-Boy Elmo, B-Girl Kastet and Ez Mike, all warm up around the room. Everyone is getting ready for the Top to Bottom battle (Top Rock and Footwork), put on and hosted by one of the best top rock B-Boys on the planet – B-Boy Y-Not from the Rock Steady Crew.
I warm up my joints and then hit the big cypher to test the floor on which we'll battle. It's a bit sticky so slides might be hard, but it's a good floor. Being at the 2018 Red Bull BC One World Finals, I had to enter this battle because footwork is what I love.
The qualifier starts, one breaker at a time on the big stage, all the room watching as you do a showcase round. I'm sipping water and going over the steps and texts I want to show in my head – best stuff always, don't hold back, getting through to the main battle is the first priority.
Elmo comes out and keeps it short, sweet and fresh. I know he's in so that's one spot gone.
B-Girl Kastet goes next. Funky and animated with original footwork, I tick off another place gone for her. Ez Mike comes out and makes it look easy. There goes another spot.
Waiting for your turn is the worst, it gives you too much time to over think things, but experience has taught me to accept the nerves and anxiety. It's part of the process and there's nothing wrong with having them. I've battled on the biggest stages in the world, against the highest level of competition, I've got this.
Y-Not finally calls my name and I stride with rhythm and swagger into the middle, and get into the music. On top I keep it clean, sharp and cool, putting my personality on basic steps. Then I go to the floor with one of my favourite go-downs and display the steps, texts, and combinations that I've created and used time and again over the years, changing levels, pace and using dynamics. I finish, spin up, snap my legs together, looking right at the judges, and swagger off. Qualifier rounds always feel like they are over in a flash; you wait and wait, and suddenly it's done, just like that.
The qualifier finishes, the judges leave to talk and pick the eight dancers going through to the next round. About 15 minutes later, Y-Not returns and announces who's qualified. He reads the list:
"Jerry Metal." He was fresh and is B-Girl Kastet's husband and crew member.
"B-Girl Kastet." I knew she'd qualify.
"Ez Mike." Yup!
"B-Boy Tonio." Uh huh, I thought so.
"Elmo." I never doubted he wouldn't qualify.
That's five so far, only three spots left. A bit of doubt creeps into my mind, and then Y-Not calls out, "Manny from UK," I'm in! One of the eight chosen from about 34 breakers.
Bullet from Space and Skillz take the last two spots, and the battle starts again – one round of top rock only followed by one round of footwork only.
Elmo defeats Tonio in their battle, while Ez Mike, my pick to win, knocks out Bullet from Space.
(photo by Little Shao)
Then it's me up against B-Girl Kastet. She's original and full of crazy personality. In footwork I can take her, but in Top Rock I think she's got the edge on me. The battle starts, I feel the beat and go first. Once again, I'm clean and sharp on top, making basic steps look fresh, adding spins and pauses. I keep it short, maybe too short.
Kastet comes out pumping her arms, dancing with her whole body. Wild, but fully in control. The girl's got funk and I'm enjoying the exchange. She finishes and I think she probably took the Top Rock round.
I've been trying to incorporate new transitions into my footwork but haven't practiced them enough to bring them out here so in my footwork round I fall back on what I usually do, and when I finish I immediately regret it. I'd done my thing, but it felt a little empty – I tried to win the round instead of just enjoying the moment. Kastet comes out and puts down her original Russian footwork flows. I think her footwork round is a little short, but still solid, and I feel the battle was close. Y-Not counts down the judges and Kastet wins, two votes for her, one vote for me. It was close, but I can see why she won.
I'm slightly mad at myself for not being more free in my footwork round, but you either win or you learn and I still made top eight, and got to battle one of my favourite breakers of the weekend. I sit and enjoy the rest of the contest. I'm still a fan of breaking and a student of the game, always wanting to see what I can learn.
Skillz beats Jerry Metal to end the first round, and then in the Semi-Finals Elmo loses to Ez Mike. Elmo is always light and moves well, but Ez Mike just brings more to the table in their battle.
Kastet then knocks out Skillz to make it to the Final against Ez Mike.
(photo by Romina Amato)
In the finals, Kastet is dope, but Ez Mike again just brings too much to the table. He dances from his shoulders all the way down to his feet, all musicality and rhythm, knowing every inch of the track. In his footwork, it's the same. He makes basic steps funky, and reminds me that I know all those steps, and need to use them more like he does.
Ez Mike, my pick, takes the win. As for myself, like always, I'm inspired and ready to take that back to training with me so next time I can bring more to the table.
(written by Emmanuel Adelekun)