There Can Be Only One

Fronting and posting at B-Boy City 16

The B-Boy City Crew: (l-r) Erick Salazar, Armondo Vargas, Headspin Hector, Romeo Navarro, Santos Ruíz, Zeshen Wu, Turtle, and Jesse Rodríguez
The B-Boy City Crew: (l-r) Erick Salazar, Armondo Vargas, Headspin Hector, Romeo Navarro, Santos Ruíz, Zeshen Wu, Turtle, and Jesse Rodríguez (Photo by Sandy Carson)

As the Sugarhill Gang wisely said: "Da bang bang da boogie to the beat beat, it's so unique. Come on everybody, and dance to the beat." B-boying and B-girling, the entertaining art of headstands with attitude, popping and locking, and crazy footwork, is about to defrost your cold heart. You can see these amazingly physical artists for yourself April 24-26, when it's on like Tron with B-Boy City 16: The Reunion, an international hip-hop festival.

B-Boy City is a raging showcase of all-ages dancing and judged battles that over the past 11 years has grown into the largest event of its kind in the South. Dancers compete in categories such as Crew on Crew; Double Trouble 2-on-2; Seven to Smoke 1-on-1 BBoy and 1-on-1 BGirl; CircleKing for Poppin, Hip-Hop FreeStyle, and House; as well as various age divisions. They're judged by a panel made up of Austin-based international stars Romeo Navarro, B-Boy City founder and one of three B-boys profiled in the documentary Inside the Circle; Omar Davila of the Mighty Zulu Kingz, Jive Turkeys, and Inside the Circle; Joshua "Milky" Ayers of Mind 180, Masterz of Mayhem, and Inside the Circle; and out-of-state guests such as Artson of New York City's Rock Steady Crew. This year's battles will be at the South Austin Recreation Center and the Parish. (For details, visit www.bboycity.com.)

Seeing these dancers is the freshest $20 you'll spend, guaranteed to leave you smiling and feeling bouncy. But maybe you haven't been to a battle before and are worried about looking out of place. Well, the Chronicle checked in with several B-Boy City veterans to get you some insider tips.

Austin Chronicle:Let's say I'm 40 and want to come to the B-Boy City battles for the first time. How do I fake it? Give us some hip-hop fashion tips. Should I wear my Adidas tracksuit?

Zeshen Wu:The trick is to wear everything in the color burgundy. It doesn't really matter what as long as it is burgundy. People will see you and nod with silent approval.

Joseph Astran: B-boying is something we try to keep as pure as possible, so in my opinion, come as you are! It creates diversity, and an art form like that is beautiful. Tracksuits are always welcome! Ha-ha.

Puteri Astran: Yes, definitely wear an Adidas tracksuit if you're going to an Eighties costume party. Actually, you can get away with it depending on how you rock it. Do not wear goggles with your tracksuit or big jewelry – might injure your eyes or neck. Personally, I love jeans and T-shirts; it works for me. You must be comfortable to be able to dance.

Rules: 1) Match! Match! Match! Matching outfits are very important. For me, no more than three colors. Or have a complementary color.

2) Make sure you buy shoes that are proportional to your pants. No big shoes! You'll know what I'm talking about once you start to notice people's outfits.

3) If you have a hat, please do not turn it to a 90-degree angle. First-time visitors are not allowed to do that.

4) No oversized shirts and/or pants, unless you're a thug.

5) Some men/boys love the skinny jeans, but if they want their private area to breathe, I would suggest pants with a little bit more room.

6) Some men love to wear make-up. I would suggest not wearing make-up to B-boy events, because it might start running all over your face.

7) Suggestion of the year: Wear your true size.

Omar Davila: Just be yourself. Hip-hop is deeper than clothing. But if you wear your tracksuit, that will be dope. Ha-ha!

Jesse Rodríguez: That'll be fresh if you do.

Santos Ruíz:To keep it real, just wear a casual fit and comfortable shoes, 'cause there's no sitting at a battle.

Romeo Navarro: Fitted gear, nice hat with matching fresh shoes. Or rock a B-Boy City or Inside the Circle T.

AC: What's a good compliment to a B-boy or crew? Please enlighten those of us who still call it breakdancing. Give us some terminology and cool dance slang to try out.

Wu:A good compliment to give a B-boy would be something like: "Hey, I really love the color of your pants. Burgundy, right?" Or, "Yo, that cat is burged out," meaning, "Hey, that dancer is entirely dressed in the most fitting color of burgundy and deserves acceptance into our exclusive circle."

Joseph Astran: To truly fit in with slang, you must say, "Hey guys, you were dope!" or, "You guys killed it!" Saying "good show" or "amazing" is a dead giveaway.

Puteri Astran: It's really weird: Anything that's bad means good, so you can compliment someone by saying, "You're so nasty!" or "That was a sick move you did." You can also substitute these words: ill, bad, filthy. Do not use: radical, jiggy, super, or swell. Words you can get away with: cool, awesome.

Davila: "That's dope!" "You guys are sick!" Just go into the event ready to learn. Don't act like you already know everything. Crews [worth respect]: Jive Turkeys, HaviKoro, Masterz of Mayhem, Soul Power, Vicious Germz, United B-Boys, SIN Cru. Do not ask, "Can you spin on your head?"

Rodríguez: If you see some move or shit you like, say, "Yo B, that's fresh," or "Your gear is dope, yo."

Ruíz:"Yo! Your style is fresh. That's amazing, much props."

Navarro: "You are on point out there."

AC: What is something lame to do at a battle? What's a boring question that you get? After you lose a battle, do you want a hug? Do you like pictures and autographs?

Davila: [Lame things to do:] Walk in the middle of the dance floor.Spill drinks. Bite.Talk crap the entire battle. Lame questions: Can you spin on your head? Did you take gymnastics? Are you the real Omar?

Ruíz:Don't sit at a battle and look bored; wefeed off the crowd's energy. Don't spill drinks in the cypher or talk shit to a B-boy when you're just a spectator. The worst thing to do is walk through a cypher with B-boys getting loose without acknowledgement ofany kind. The battles can get really heated at times, so the best policy is just give compliments and stay out of their way. Cheering and screaming during the battle is much appreciated.

Wu:Boring questions that I've gotten? Hmm, something like, "Have you seen the movie The Break-Up?" or "What's the difference between burgundy and maroon?"

Joseph Astran: I love taking pics with old and new friends, and, hey, if you want an autograph, and it's not for a contract, I am down. Hugs are cool, but competition losses mean nothing, so just do the hug for love.

AC: The last thing people should know?

Joseph Astran: Please know B-boys are not your neighborhood thug or your new TV show monkey. Most of us do this for the love and art of it. We always look forward to teaching others and are actually excited about it. Feel free to talk to any of us; we don't bite, unless you ask, and we are some of the most down-to-earth people you'll find.

Puteri Astran: We are not thugs. Please do not affiliate us with anything negative this world has to offer. We are people just like you. I'm a vegetarian, and I recycle. Peace and God bless.

Rodríguez: Lots of people think we are heathens because of the way we walk, talk, and look, but we are not. We are the nicest people you will ever meet in life. Thanks for the love and support. Hope to see y'allat B-Boy City. Keep it real. Don't fake the funk, but keep it funky.

Ruíz:Keep supporting the local talent, artists, and respect. And the best way to support us is to show up to our events.

Davila: My dance is an expression of the life I have lived and am living. It is my God-given talent. I have put all my heart into this, blood, sweat, and tears!

Navarro: Thanks to all my peeps that truly believed in me and the movement. I've been saying the same message for over 15 years: We can't be stopped. There will be a future for our culture, and now there is. We have come a long way from being unaccepted by society to being loved by society, from rags to riches. One mind, one love.


Jesse Rodríguez, aka Recon

B-Boy City, age 29

Born in Corpus Christi but moved to Austin at age 4. Started B-boying when he was 15, just because of "the joy of dance." Went to the first B-Boy City ever and goes "all the time. I love it." He now assists with setting up the event.

His power moves, dramatic freezes, and passionate style get the audience clapping: "My style makes the skills and moves, you feel me?"

Favorite part of B-boying: "Being yourself."

There Can Be Only One
Photo by Sandy Carson

Romeo Navarro, aka Rome

B-Boy City founder, age 33

Born in the Philippines but has lived in Austin 27 years. Began B-boying in fourth grade. He has produced B-Boy City for 11 years and is the indefatigable event manager, master of ceremonies, and a judge at the B-Boy City battles. One of the three dancers profiled in Marcy Garriott's documentary Inside the Circle.

His style is fluid, infectious, and always on the beat: "Everything I do is spontaneous and freestyle. My style is my best style." He dances to "keep myself and to help the next generation stay out of prison."

Favorite part of B-boying: "Being able to express myself and have an outlet."

There Can Be Only One
Photo by Sandy Carson

Zeshen Wu, aka Zeshen Zero

B-Boy City, age 22

Born in China but moved to Puerto Rico at age 5, then to Dallas at age 9. Has lived in Austin for roughly four years. Currently a busy premed student at the University of Texas.

Began B-boying 10 years ago and has attended B-Boy City since B-Boy City 11. "As a kid, I was never good at organized sports. I suppose in the Freudian sense, I could have been spun and flipped around a lot as a baby or something."

Known for his quick footwork, Wu is 70% freestyle and 30% planned in a battle. "My style incorporates the use of patterns, small motions with weird shapes and angles, animallike crawls, and stupid things that probably only I think look good. The strongest part of my style is in its originality, musicality, and unpredictability."

On being a B-boy: "It's the ability to dance itself that is most enjoyable. At its roots, B-boying is a freestyle dance, just like most other street dances. It's not about walking in with a tape and doing a routine. It's about jumping in the circle and going off."


Puteri Astran, aka B-Girl Lotuz

Jive Turkeys and Massive Monkees out of Seattle, Wash., age 27

Born in "small but overpopulated" Jakarta, Indonesia, and has lived in Austin for four years. Began B-girling as a senior in high school. "My friends were getting into trouble, and I did not want to fall into that trap. I wanted to be a part of a positive movement; that's why I started B-girling." She has been to B-Boy City 10, 12, and 15.

A rhythm and footwork specialist, her battle style is 50-50 freestyle vs. planned: "Although you have moves prepared, in the middle of your set you end up forgetting it, then you have no other choice but to freestyle. Footwork is what I love to do."

Many B-girls compete in B-Boy City battles, but they are outnumbered by B-boys overall. "Being a B-girl is tough, because you have to take that step to ask someone to teach you a move. To all the B-girls out there who are just starting or thinking about starting: Please do not depend on anyone to help you move up. You have to do it on your own. Never give up, and have fun; otherwise, you will not succeed in this dance."


Joseph Astran, aka Jay Are

Jive Turkeys, age 25

Born in Houston but moved to Austin when he was 3. Began B-boying 10 years ago.

His battle style is 90% freestyle, 10% planned. He plans moves but is never sure how they will connect: "I just let the music move me, and the rest will follow. I'm very spontaneous." He does lots of power moves (inverted up on his hands and elbows) and is known for hand hops: "I am cursed with it now. My style is more of an explosive move style. I hate it, but it's what my body does, so why change it?"

On being a B-boy: "The best part is just being able to express yourself without words. People can tell how I feel by the way I dance. I love the fact that I can inspire others without using one word. It is the universal language."


Omar Davila, aka Omar or O

Jive Turkeys and the Mighty Zulu Kingz (founded in NYC in 1973), age 23

Born in Lockhart but raised in Austin. Started dancing at age 12, "just for fun with some kids in my neighborhood." Started going to B-Boy City with B-Boy City 2 and has been every year he was in Texas, though in 2002 he had a broken ankle and could only watch. He is on the judging panel this year. One of the three dancers profiled in Marcy Garriott's documentary Inside the Circle.

Davila's level of spontaneity in a dance "depends on numerous things, on if it's a battle, cypher, exhibition, and also on the music." Known for his core strength: "Some would say my power moves. I would say I'm pretty well-rounded."

Favorite part of B-boying: "Being able to express myself and my life through breaking."

There Can Be Only One
Photo by Sandy Carson

Santos Ruíz, aka Santos

B-Boy City, age 28 (but "only 24 in B-boy years")

Longtime Austinite who started B-boying in 1996: "[Dancing] just snatched my attention and hasn't let go." He went "to B-Boy City before it was called B-Boy City but was too young to understand the business side of it. But learned fast and quickly began helping Romeo."

His power-move style in the cypher is 30% planned, 70% improvisation. An impressive battle move is a headstand slide straight across the floor. "It's about freestyle and just the art of being spontaneous."

Favorite part of B-boying: "We have family in every city, state, country, planet. You name it; we will be accepted by another dancer as family."


B-Boy City 16: The Reunion takes place April 24-26. The preliminary battles and trade show will be held Saturday, April 25, 1-9:30pm, at the South Austin Recreation Center, 1100 Cumberland. The finals will be held Sunday, April 26, 3pm-2am, at the Parish, 214 E. Sixth. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.bboycity.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

B-Boy City, Romeo Navarro, Inside the Circle, Omar Davila, Zeshen Wu, Puteri Astran, Joseph Astran, Santos Ruiz, Jesse Rodriguez

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