Crank up the volume! Breakdancing is the latest Abu Dhabi trend
It is 11pm on a Thursday night on Abu Dhabi Corniche and the breakdancers, B-boys and dubsteppers have been battling it out for three hours solid, writes Sean O'Driscoll.
One dancer challenges another with an outstretched arm. His opponent accepts with a tip of his baseball cap. A crowd of more than 60 gathers round and the hip hop is cranked up. The challenger looks like he’s going one way but he somehow moves in the opposite direction. He spins, he is on the ground, back up again, his body contorting, his legs buckling.
Just as he looks like he’s about to collapse, his arms press down and a shockwave of energy passes up through his body, as if his arm movement has unleashed some hidden force field. He is back up dancing again, the crowd is cheering.
The judge smiles and awards him a win, his team-mates hug him and the next challenge begins. This continues until after 1am, more than five hours of dance battles.
It’s all part of the rapidly expanding Abu Dhabi breakdance and B-boy scene. The term B-boy comes from “Break Boy", the original breakdance style, and groups are divided into dance crews, with three crews fighting it out tonight.
The favourites, TBC (The Beat Controllerz), are battling WMB and Havoc Crew. The champion tonight is a TBC crew leader, Sosa, who was raised in the UAE by Egyptian and Filipino parents. Watch TBC videos on YouTube and witness his sophisticated routines on Abu Dhabi Corniche, the favoured open-air hangout for our ever-expanding dance groups.
The scene has expanded massively with the rise of YouTube. Instead of paying for lessons or begging experienced dancers to show them, dancers can find hundreds of instruction videos on YouTube and keep freeze-framing until they perfect the moves. When they want to share dance moves, they go on video-calling sites and share with friends around the world.
The competitions can be organised informally through social networks. Event planner and dancer, Mahmoud Al Ashkar, arranged for 60 people to go to last Thursday’s event simply by putting out messages on facebook and BlackBerry. There was no money for the winner, just the honour of being titled the best Abu Dhabi dancer of 2013.
The event was, Mahmoud says, running a bit late because he and a friend had to organise everything. “We did all the invites, arranged everything, so things ran a bit late. Usually when we battle, it’s just one hour, that’s all, but this went on much, much later.”
Mahmoud has a long history in breakdance and dubstep. He has won many competitions in the UAE and has performed in shows in Lebanon and in Syria, where he grew up. He first learned from dancers at a Danish circus who were performing in Damascus. He asked them how they did their moves and continued watching video clips until he started performing at “parties, stage shows, mall openings, everything”.
The groups on the Corniche are very competitive but the atmosphere is good natured despite the aggressive slang and posturing. “One of the things we do is called ‘breaking their necks’,” says Mohammed Hadidi, an 18-year-old student and member of TBC. “That’s when you show off how good you are to blow the competition away. Of course, that is only in competition. We are good friends outside of that. It’s just all about learning from each other and having fun.”
Is this just a flash in the pan or a trend that will take off in the Middle East? Tell us what you think below.