In late 2009, The Killers hit the big time with their non-specific single “Human”, the chorus of which went something like this “are we human or are we dancers?” Those lyrics always seemed a little stupid to me. They seemed to insinuate that being a homosapien and being a dancer were mutually exclusive. Like one could be either one or the other. That was then. Now, six Red Bull Beat Battle qualifiers later, I get it. Dancers dance. And the rest of their lives are a mere sequence of “in-betweens”.
It is the morning of the final Red Bull Beat Battle. An early morning to be precise, but it seems that Tshwane does not sleep in. It’s already sweltering. Bass-heavy beats thump out of the speakers and shake the doors of the TUT Arts Campus. Dance crews are everywhere. Stretching in sun and putting the finishing touches on their choreography, every single space is crammed with lithe, rhythmic bodies. Bodies with a cause.
Although the mood is fun, this should not be confused with frivolity. Everyone is well aware of what this means. Conscious of the critical eyes of Sello Modiga and Vouks NoJokes, Pretoria brings it’s A-game. While Joburg may have trumped Tshwane when it comes to quantity, it’s safe to say that the jury is still out (literally) when it comes to the quality. The Pretorians were tight and sleek. Dipping both into the skill, artistry and showmanship of dance; they presented a near prefect package of passion and professionalism.
Freezeframe and Relapse, both well-known crews who have been in the game many years now, set the stage ablaze. Their hip hop style is more contemporary than traditional. The five elements of hip hop represented as a backdrop for their new school moves. This seemed to be the popular trend with many of the Tshwane hip hops crews. They draw their inspiration from modern greats such as The Jabbawockeez and Tight Eyez, and so visual trickery and illusions form a large part of their performance. Where hip hop in Cape Town and PE consisted mostly of pop-locking and breaking,
Pretoria generally did little more than just pay homage to the traditional elements through suicides, freezes and some aerial work.
And it seems like the Tshwane crews had came on the “strictly hip hop” train until Tsunami Boys (actually 4 boys and two girls) and Mathatha Boys introduced us to their specialised dance style: a crazy concoction of kwaito, is’bujwa, hip hop and kwassa. And that’s the lite version. At its most intricate, glimpses Shangaan electro appear set to the insane BPM’s of their backing tracks.
Rapid-fire footwork spliced with punchy hip flicks and gyrations. Tsonga booty hops that would make Beyonce hang her head in shame, spliced with highly aerobic non-stop motion to end the mix. Towards the end of the day, a ten year old member of Soshanguve-bred C-Boys stole the show. He moved across the dancefloor like a consummate professional, his innocence betrayed by the nervous and shy glances he cast to his crew members in between routines.
It was an apt way to end the first ever Red Bull Beat Battle qualifiers in Pretoria. Pre-destined even. Pretoria inimitably stamped its own mark on the South African dance scene. As Corruption Crew from Mabopane boldly stated: “We dance to show where we come from. This is how we were groomed.”