July 22, 2008

China BOTY 2008 in Shanghai

Shanghai is the place to be for China’s big, summertime Hip Hop competitions. The day after the China DMC DJ Competition, I attended China’s 2008 Battle of the Year (BOTY) Competition, organized by Shanghai’s Caster Dance Studio. Ten different crews from around the country competed. The BOTY is an international breakdancing tournament for B-boy crews, as opposed to individual breakdancers. There are national qualifying rounds, followed by regional qualifying rounds, followed by the Battle of the Year World Finals, held this year on October 18 in Braunschweig, Germany.

Hip Hop dance, or jiewu (“street dance”) as it is commonly called in Chinese, has had considerable success in China compared to the development of the other Hip Hop elements. Jiewu competitions are broadcast on national television, and many advertisements, promotional events, and other forms of pop media will often feature a Hip Hop dance crew. These opportunities come much less frequently for Chinese rappers, graffiti artists and DJs. However, China’s b-boys have yet to succeed on an international level. Common criticisms of Chinese breakdancing are that many b-boys are still in the imitation phase, and that an over-emphasis of power moves combined with a lack of creativity has made Chinese breakdance more acrobatic than artistic. The day before the 2008 China BOTY, we had the chance to talk with the three judges, all of them b-boys themselves (Lamie from France, Amjad from Switzerland, and Drunk from Hong Kong), and each one of them said that they would be looking for personal style, something besides “just copying moves they’ve seen on YouTube.”

In my opinion, the 2008 China BOTY was a success. The venue was packed with a diverse audience including fellow dancers, families, media representatives, and what seemed to be curious onlookers. The shouts and cheers from the audience were persistent throughout the event, reaching their high point whenever the crowd-favored Shanghai crew took the stage. Each of the crews had six minutes to perform a choreographed number, after which the judges decided which four of the ten crews would move on to the semi-final battle round. At least half of the choreographed numbers incorporated elements from Chinese traditional culture, from Tai Chi to fan dancing, all very well received by the crowd. Despite the occasional stumble, most of the crews’ performances were high-energy and included a number of impressive moves.
This year’s semi-finals featured Fujian’s Jingwumen vs. Guangzhou’s Energy, and Beijing’s X-Power vs. Shanghai’s Dust. Energy and Dust made it to the final round, where, after a close battle, Guangzhou’s Energy was pronounced the winner. Energy first place victory at China’s BOTY means that they will be flown to Thailand to compete in the regional BOTY Asia on August 7th. I wish Energy the best of luck.

Take a look at the highlights from the 2008 China BOTY.


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