R16 Korea B-Boy Competition
Have you ever agreed to do something that sounded less than appealing? Said yes to something you thought you would probably hate? Gone along with it just because everyone else was?
That’s what I did this weekend.
And what do you know? It turned out to be a fabulous decision.
Last week I was sitting around a table of burger and beers with some friends when one of them mentioned that there was a b-boy competition on Sunday. They had been last year and raved about it. I had not even the slightest clue what b-boy meant, and after finding out it meant breakdancing I was still sort of ‘meh’ about the whole thing. But I agreed to go.
During the days leading up to Sunday I did some research and found that R16, the name of this event, was far from just a b-boy competition. R16 is a celebration of hip hop culture, and especially its influence on South Korea in the past decade. I was still a little unsure about what to expect, but I was slightly more excited.
Sunday rolled around and we took the long subway ride to Olympic Park, where R16 Korea was being held. Almost as soon as we lined up for tickets I knew it would be an interesting evening. Korea is a country known for its conformity. Unlike Western counties, individuality is not something that is praised and Koreans generally tend to obsessively follow whatever is currently considered popular. The Koreans waiting for the R16 door to open were definitely not followers. Tattoos, interesting hair styles, and clothes brightly colored and loudly patterned were prevalent. As an American used to diversity of just about everything, it was a refreshing sight.
Before the actual b-boy competition started we went to look at the Wall Lords graffiti competition located near the venue. Wall Lords is held in various cities around the world honoring the role graffiti has played in hip hop culture. While not as exciting as stumbling upon a great piece on a city wall, there was a colorful array of talented work to be seen.
When the crowd began to pour into the stadium, we followed closely and took our seats. Hip hop beats filled the stadium and the crowd, a mix of Koreans and foreigners, was excited. Soon enough the MCs took the stage and the show began.
The R16 competition starts with 16 teams. On Saturday it is narrowed down to the top eight. On this, the final night, each team performs a showcase where they highlight their biggest strengths and most creative moves. After this they compete in 3 rounds of bracket style battles until the winner is crowned.
The top eight this year were: Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, the United States, Belgium, and Finland. Belgium were our early favorites with their creativity (they used one crew member’s leg as a machine gun) and crazy tricks, while Finland made us laugh with their horrible fashion sense and bad haircuts. By the end of the showcase round I was completely enthralled and impressed with breaking.
Our knowledge of b-boy skill was soon shot down as Kazakhstan defeated our favorite Belgians in the first battle round and Finland went on to eliminate Taiwan next. The US and Korea were also able to emerge as victors from the first round of battles.
The highlight of the night was when Korea and the United States battled in the semifinals. I thought Korea would win for sure, as hosts to the competition and two year reigning victors, but the United States pulled out some amazing moves and easily knocked out the Koreans and eventually beat Kazakhstan in the finals to become the 2012 R16 Korea B-Boy champions.
My voice was hoarse from screaming and cheering. My face was stuck in a permanent grin. I was elated that I had not listened to myself. Happy that I’d taken a chance on something I knew nothing about. Not only was the competition great, but I spent the next day at work Googling information about b-boys.
Has a new obsession been born? Maybe.
Have you ever taken a chance on something while traveling? Ever been completely surprised by something? Ever seen a b-boy show? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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