A lively combination of dance music, applause and cheers spilled out of the entrance to Observatory Hill Forum on Saturday afternoon of the Hooligans Breakdancing Club’s 6th Breakdancing Grounds event. Community members and students were invited to stop and watch 27 teams of two compete in a tournament-style competition for a grand prize of $400.
Doors opened at 3 p.m., with free admission for college students and a $10 fee for non-college students. People interested in performing were able to register for the event, regardless of their level of experience. Daniel Rothwell, a third-year commerce student and president of Hooligans, says it was a conscious choice by the club. He believes that removing barriers to participation in breakdancing and encouraging diversity are important ways to encourage urban dance.
“Looking at all of the Breaking Grounds contestants and viewers, you’ll notice how diverse the community is and comes from different racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Rothwell said. “In a predominantly white institution, I hope the Hooligans Breakdance Club can provide a space where people of color feel heard, safe and welcome.”
The Hooligans Breakdancing Club was established with the aim of spreading the culture of breakdancing to the wider University community and to act as a welcoming space for individuals to practice and experiment with different genres of dance.
“Hooligans’ mission is to provide a community for people interested in breaking, general dance and hip hop culture,” Rothwell said. “We really emphasize that we are accepting of everyone, regardless of previous experience, because community is about more than just how good you are, it’s about celebrating each other, supporting each other and supporting each other. enjoy.”
There were five rounds of the Breaking Grounds competition – a 27-team preliminary round, a top 16 round, a top eight round, a final four and then a final round. Each team competed with three judges determining who would advance to the next round based on criteria such as technique, expression, and fluidity.
The judges, under the stage names of Prolix, Ookie and No Cents, are active members in the breaking communities of Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, respectively, and were chosen for their previous experience as judges. in other breakup jams. As fourth-year engineering student and Hooligans executive member Derek Wu described, the judges selected to break jams, like Breaking Grounds, have a significant influence on the progression of breaking culture as a whole.
“Judgement is very subjective,” Wu said. “Judges have different styles, so depending on which judges you choose, they’ll choose a winner with a certain style that will inspire the next generation. Thus, the winners of the competitions will inform the style of the next generation. That’s why, as a jam holder, you have a lot of power over what kind of judges you want to bring in and what kind of style you want to see on stage.
Inspiration is another important foundation of breaking community. Wu describes how individuals always seek to cultivate their skills through their peers. Jams provide them with a creative and welcoming place to exchange moves and feedback and spark inspiration.
“In the community, feedback is so important,” Wu said. “People are constantly asking, ‘How can I get better?’ And we build on top of each other in a jam. You show people what you’ve got and then people chat or talk. A lot of the time you leave a jam feeling more inspired than before.
Culture exchange occurs both inside and outside the University. Although many of the teams performing were involved in Hooligans, several teams were also student representatives from other breakdancing programs around Virginia or were Virginia College alumni in the breakup community. Other college teams at Breaking Grounds were Team Breakfamous from George Mason University, Team Kinetix from James Madison University, and Team Flowmigos from Virginia Tech. Wu thinks the statewide involvement speaks to the communal nature of the break.
“[Breaking] is so accessible and has certain elements that people want,” Wu said. really cool. Whether it’s hip hop, rap, breaking or any other type of dance, it’s very liberating and a lot of fun to do.
Daniel Zhao, a sophomore in the College and a member of Hooligans, echoes this sentiment and expresses that the breaking community is welcoming and that he has found mentorship and a close community since joining Hooligans in the spring of 2021. .
“Hooligans was the only club I joined last spring that was in person on the pitch,” Zhao said. “Daniel Tran, the club’s former vice-president, gave lessons and taught us how to break during this time. He was a great inspiration to us and gave me a sense of community despite periods of social distancing .
Beyond great music, Breakup Culture is proud of its origins, history, and growing global popularity.
“Breaking Grounds increases exposure and awareness of hip hop and breaking culture,” Wu said. “And I think raising awareness kind of gives people a more complete perspective of the world and local culture. Hip hop is survival, it’s adversity [faced by] poor African-American and Puerto Rican communities in New York. So Breaking Grounds isn’t everything, but it’s a piece, a glimpse, of what breaking and hip hop culture has to offer.