Break-dancers battle in Parkrose

Check out the energy at this event, where the only “rumble” were the bass notes blasting out of loudspeakers, as dancers acrobatically swiveled, spun and did handstands …

Break-dancers from miles around show their moves in this unique dance contest they call a “battle”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The name of the event itself, “Arcane Arts 2: The Apocalypse“, sounds like an invitation to a gang fight. But this “battle”, as participants call it, is actually a rather civilized dance contest.

“We held our first event if the kind last year,” says a Portland Parks & Recreation employee Trevor Todd, manager of the Parkrose SUN Community School. “Over 400 showed up, and it became an ‘instant’ annual event. This year we’ve got a crowd of nearly 600.”

Nearly 600 break-dance affictionados enjoy the heavy beat and light-on-the-feet moves of the battling dancers.

In “break-dance battle” competition, we learn, competing teams, or “crews”, of five members each take turns demonstrating their acrobatic hip-hop dance steps that include handstands, cartwheels, spins, and squat-steps reminiscent of traditional Russian dancing.

“They’re battling for a $500 grand prize,” Todd says. “We’ve got local break-dance and music celebrities judging the crews’ performances. DJ Sugarman, DJ from Arizona, is mixing the music.”

Parkrose joins the dance battle circuit
For some time, other battles have been hosted at colleges, such as Portland State University and Reed College, Todd tells us. “We’re becoming a break-dancing hub out here.”

In addition to checking out the newest and most creative dance steps, people who attend this event also consider it a social venue, Todd explains. “They wouldn’t call it ‘networking’, but that’s what it is for them. They get to see what moves the other teams have put together.”

The dancers put their heart, soul, and all of their bodies into their performances, Todd continues. “They definitely they blow off some steam in the process; they call it a ‘battle’ for good reason.”

MC Robert Moore, credited with bringing the dance competition to Parkrose, announces the next crews up to “battle”.

Crediting the Parkrose SUN Community School instructor – and tonight’s Master of Ceremonies – Robert Moore with creating this event at Parkrose High, Todd explains, “He’s brought everything together for this battle, from getting the judges, to the DJ, to printing and distributing the fliers.”

Under Moore’s tutelage, between 30 and 50 of kids and young adults gather at Parkrose High to practice their steps – and learn new ones – three times each week. “The sessions draw from not only Parkrose, but also David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds, Madison and Benson High Schools,” reports Todd.

One of Skoolie B’s “Mini Bs” – a seven-year-old from his class at Mt. Scott Community Center – impresses the crowd.

Mini-Bees bust a move
This enthusiastic crowd of hip-hop dance aficionados loudly laud dance moves that can only be described as acrobatic – they twist, turn, and jump as the dancers each take their turn.

But the crowd doesn’t reserve cheers for only a few participants. When the 6- and 7-year olds from the class at Mt. Scott Community Center led by “Skoolie B” take the floor, they shout their approval for the youngsters’ dance antics.

Instead of hogging the spotlight, Skoolie B leads off with a couple of steps, and lets his “Mini-Bs” take over.

Skoolie B, also known as Marko Bome, says he’s happy to see his Mini Bs so well received. “We’re from inner SE Portland, you know, Brooklyn and Richmond and those neighborhoods. I have about 30 kids that come to the class. They work hard; they deserve to show their stuff here.”

While enthusiastic about the music and dance, the crowd at the “Arcane Arts 2: The Apocalypse” battle is mellow.

Says dance keeps one grounded
A graduate of Cleveland High School, Bome says, of the art form: “It’s true freedom of expression. It keeps you grounded, keeps your body up, and makes you feel good about yourself. And, it keeps you out of trouble.”

Looking over the crowd, gathered around center court at the Parkrose High gym, Bome adds, “Look at all these people here, there are no problems; everyone’s having a great time.”

Even if you can’t dance a step, Natalie Caminiti and Gina Richardson can help you look cool with one of these limited-edition T-Shirts they’re selling.

The winner is …
The “Massive Knuckle Force” crew won the team prize. We’re told they are a “super-group” recently formed from members of Massive Monkees (Seattle, 2004 World B-Boy Champions) and Knucklehead Zoo (Las Vegas) and other crews. They beat “The Freshest Kids” in the finals.

“Kareem”, a member of Massive Knuckle Force, won the individual prize.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact Trevor Todd, Parkrose SUN Community School, at (503) 408-2640.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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