5th Show Me STyLez brings hip-hop, B-boys to Gargoyle
Hosted by WU Cypher, the B-boy or break dance competition drew hundreds of students and alumni to watch breakers from around the country face off in the Midwest region’s highest-profile competition.
Hip-hop and funk music blasted in the lower floor of Mallinckrodt Center as competitors did floor work, inverts and freezes as well as more challenging combinations. Gravity’s airflare suicide involved balancing upside down on his hands while swinging his body 540 degrees before landing on his back.
WU Cypher moved the competition back to the Gargoyle after holding it in the 560 Music Center for two years in hopes of drawing a larger crowd from the Washington University community. In all, there were about 300 people in attendance in addition to the approximately 75 competitors.
“We tried to put it closer to students so they could attend,” junior Hassan Rahman, co-president of WU Cypher, said. “We try to showcase [for] the Wash. U. community something it’s not usually exposed to…Every year there’s new up-and-coming talent, so we hire new exhibitionists or maybe a new judge.”
Omar “RoxRite” Macias, an international B-boy champion and one of the judges, said the high level of community interest is something that really makes Show Me STyLez unique.
“This is my first time in St. Louis, the center of the country. I’ve been to Chicago, Minnesota and southern Texas. But here, it’s a little different—the vibe is different. It has more involvement with people outside of breaking, which is good to see,” Macias said.
The competition brought 26 crews—some of whom compete internationally—to St. Louis, where they competed alongside University students and took part in three hours of workshops earlier in the day. Twelve students from the University competed in four different crews.
The level of competitiveness varied, with some of the more beginner crews sticking to floor work while others performed flips and other major acrobatic stunts.
“You can see that there’s a separation between the beginners and the guys who have already gotten established here, but it’s cool. I think it’s a great thing. You’ve got to have all levels,” Macias said.
WU Cypher’s top crew made it through the opening round before falling to “ENI” (Express Not Impress). But the “Jackie Chan Adventures”—made up of sophomore Tony Xu and seniors Michael Yue and David Zheng—maintained that it was a successful finish.
“We made it to the top 16, which is something that we wanted to do since we were freshmen, so it was a big deal for us,” Zheng said.
Zheng, who’s competed in Show Me STyLez since his freshman year, first got involved with WU Cypher as a prospective student. Now he practices twice per week with the rest of the club in addition to his own crew’s practices.
“I started dancing in high school a little bit and then for Multicultural Weekend…I went to one of the WU Cypher events, and then I got hooked,” he said.
While Zheng graduates in a few weeks, he hopes to stay involved with WU Cypher. And he would be far from the only graduate to stay tied to the local breaking community.
With Show Me STyLez coinciding with Alumni Weekend this year, a number of alumni came out to support WU Cypher on Saturday.
Chris Ngo was in town for his 10-year reunion. He went to the first Show Me STyLez competition four years ago, though he has personally transitioned away from the central B-boying community into popping and funk styles. He considers these to be better ways to express himself despite the fact that they are not as popular.
“We’re underground,” Ngo said. “I find that pop style allows you to get intimate with the music and express it a lot better with all the details.”
The opportunity for self-expression is what many people say got them involved in the break dance community and the Show Me STyLez competition specifically.
“I feel 100 percent me when I’m breaking,” Michael Roach, a senior at Indiana University who competed with the Misfit Knights crew, said.
Roach practices every day in the summer and at least three times a week during the school year. He said he was somewhat disappointed to get eliminated in the round of 16, but he plans to continue competing because he considers his personal style something unique that benefits the B-boy community.
“There are a lot of guys who all do the same stuff, I guess, and I think in the way I express myself in breaking, I have a lot of different stuff to offer,” Roach said.
The competition, which narrowed from 26 crews to 16 before continuing in a typical bracket-style round-by-round elimination process, gave participants the chance to perform solo and as a group. The competition ended in a five-round faceoff between duo Saewl and Gravity and crew Smokers Only, with a sixth-round tiebreaker before the judges named Saewl and Gravity the winners.
While crowd approval clearly marked agreement with the choice, Smokers Only called out the judges to reconsider their decision, challenging them to a dance-off as spectators crowded around in a close circle. In the end, the duo Saewl and Gravity held onto their victory.
Many of the attendees have come to Show Me STyLez year after year whether or not they continue to stay involved in WU Cypher.
“I came out to support [them] and see how they put the event together for this year,” senior Angela Fang, a former WU Cypher member in attendance, said. “I was really happy to be here.”