If you follow RAM Squad’s social media pages like I do, you’ve probably seen countdown photos to its annual dance competition, Rhythm Spotlight. In honor of what is possibly the “biggest ever” competition, Derek Mon, the president of RAM Squad, Kelly Park and Tonnam Balankura sat down with Valley to share some juicy details about the event – and to give a quick lesson in Break Dancing Basics 101.
Valley: What is special about Rhythm Spotlight?
Tonnam Balankura: This competition is not like other dance competitions you see here on campus. It’s a battle. It’s similar to [what you see in] movies like You Got Served [and] Step Up. You know, when they battle, it’s not a performance.
V: Who can compete?
Kelly Park: In a Bboy or Bgirl battle, it’s a team of two against another team of two; in all-styles, it’s a solo dancer versus another.
V: How does a dance match work?
TB: For example, if Kelly and I were battling, if one of us wants to go first, [that person] goes first. If nobody wants to go first, we can spin a bottle to decide who has to go first.
KP: Each competitor is given the same amount of time.
TB: After each round, usually the DJ will change the song. One round lasts like a minute.
V: How are dancers judged?
KP: We don’t have a set [of criteria]. We dance and there will be three judges. Each judge picks one person. If the first round is a tie, we will go another round.
TB: Judges will look at things like, are you dancing to the music? Are you listening to the music and dancing to the beat? They want to look at your foundation, your technique and also your energy – like how the crowd reacts to you and how you express yourself and your feelings. And also, how you battle. You do your best to show the judges you are better than the other team.
V: How many people are competing?
TB: Right now, Bboys are 47 teams. We cap at 50. And for the all-style people, there are like 40 people but we expect more.
KP: Maybe 100 [teams now]. As the date gets closer to the event, there are always more people who sign up.
Derek Mon: I believe this year will be our biggest year. We never had to cap our competitors before. We never had to say, “Okay, we cannot have more than 50.” We’ve always had them at 20 or 30. We extended the cap and the hours are longer now.
V: What do you attribute to the growing interest in the event?
DM: I think the name of Rhythm Spotlight has gone around a lot more. The people we are bringing in this year have a lot of influence in the dance community and in Hip Hop culture.
V: When is the final date for competitors to sign up?
KP: On the day of the event.
V: Can you sign up to compete at the door?
V: Are there different styles of dance?
TB: Yes. B-boy[ing] has a lot of floorwork and power moves.
KP: In all-styles, there are popping, locking, Hip Hop…
TB: Whacking, house…
TB: Popping is when you see the muscles jerk and do little pauses. It’s like your body pops. And also there are body waves.
KP: Like the robot dance.
V: What’s locking?
TB: Locking is funky, quirky, lots of personality. It can be cartoony. We have this move called Scooby-Doo. It’s basically coming from how Scooby-Doo walks. You’ll look like Scooby-Doo.
KP: A a lot of jumping, too, I think.
TB: Yeah, it’s very energetic. The key word is funky.
V: Can you explain Hip Hop?
TB: Sometimes, Hip Hop is used as the umbrella term for everything, but also there’s a specific break dancing style where you do a lot of bouncing. You can see artists like Usher, Ne-Yo and Omarion. And house is a lot of footwork.
KP: Whacking is a more girly dance. You see a lot of girls do this dance. It’s clean, a lot of poses, very flirty.
TB: Whackers usually have characters they want to portray, like a sexy spy. And also there’s a dancer in Thailand who plays a drag queen. So he dresses up like a girl. A lot of circular arm movements.
V: What are the highlights? Something to look forward to?
DM: DJ Fleg. He is from Baltimore, MD. He’s from this crew called Lionz of Zion, which is where one of our judges is also from. He has traveled to California, to all over the U.S. I think he has been overseas to Europe. He’s been DJ-ing there for big competitions as well. We had him last year and we really wanted to bring him back. He is someone who really knows his art and how to create energy in the events he is part of. He brings people together. He, you know, moves us.
Note: Bboy Moy, one of the guest judges for the event, will host a break dancing workshop for free on Friday, January 24 at 6:30pm in 106 White Building!