B-Boy Black (his real name is Thiyagu) takes a lap inside the circle of hooting dancers watching the battle unfold at The Swingers Dance Studio, Kilpauk. Faint traces of energy drinks and sweat linger in the stuffy room throbbing to the beat of hip-hop music.
It’s #BhotHard — as our Gully Boy Murad Ahmed would have said it — at Red Bull BC One’s breakdancing world championship. In another hour filled with head spins, back flips, windmills and hand hops, B-Boy Black and B-Boy Flexi (Karthick), both from the All For One crew, will be declared winners.
The world championship, that started in 2004, has been holding auditions in India since 2015. However, this is the first year that Chennai is one of the venues, and B-Boy Black couldn’t be prouder. “Chennai’s breakdancing scene is finally getting recognition,” says the 25-year-old, who went to Hyderabad to audition last year, and ended up qualifying for Top 4.
The right attitude
The judge, Red Bull BC One All Star, Wing, sits at the head of the cypher, and draws two chits from a lot. The two dancers are called out, and the battle commences, one round given to each dancer. Inside the dance cypher, Black Thiyagu replaces his otherwise good-natured smile for a mocking grin, as frosty as the tips in his hair. He impresses with a powerful 2000, a move that involves him bringing all his body’s momentum into a handstand, and then rapidly spinning like a top. He ends with a Michael Jackson-like crotch grab, staring into the eyes of his opponent.
Even when his opponent is dancing, he circles him like a vulture, catching every missed beat with a tap on his ear (“Can’t you hear the music, bro?”), and tapping his imaginary wristwatch when it went on for too long.
However, after both sides have finished dancing, they hug — in the classic male handshake, followed by a one-arm hug style.
“When it comes to the battle, we are quite naughty,” he later admits. “We have different sets of moves, and judging our opponent, we have to decide which move will intimidate him the most. It’s like a game, you have to throw questions they can’t answer.” But all that attitude is strictly reserved for inside the cypher. “Otherwise, as a crew, we are very loving. We ask doubts, learn from each other, and share our dance tricks,” he says.
For years now, Mylapore boys Thiyagu and Karthick have been practising at Nageshwara Rao Park. “We grew up together, like family,” says Karthick, who has been dancing since the age of 10. “We do it on the streets as well, and so many people stare at us — some even scold us! When there are people watching, we become more conscious of perfecting our moves. That’s when the energy comes,” he says.
While they started out imitating videos of international B-Boys they found on YouTube, their practice became more streamlined about a decade ago, when Malaysian B-Boyer Antonio George came to Chennai and with them, founded the All For One crew. “It was he who taught us everything else that goes with dancing: the attitude, the clothing, the nutrition,” says Thiyagu.
The RedBull cyphers coming to Chennai proves that breakdancing is surely rising out of the underground, he believes. And that is his long-term plan: to bring Tamil Nadu to international notice. But for now, winning this championship is the one goal Karthick and Thiyagu have in mind. And they will do what it takes — even battling each other — in the zonals in Bengaluru on Saturday.
Follow the championship at www.redbull.com/in-en/events/red-bull-bc-one-2019-india