When I was a little, like many young girls, my mom enrolled me in dance classes. I loved them, but eventually I decided it wasn’t for me to pursue long term. However, the love for dance never left. Growing up with the internet, I discovered dance videos through YouTube. I would/could watch hours of videos from hip-hop dance classes and competitions. I never imagined that I would get to see it in person, but it has come to fruition.
I don’t remember how I saw an advertisement for the event, but I bought a ticket for around $30 to the Body Rock Dance Competition. It was in San Diego, which is about a 2 hour drive for me, but it was completely worth it. Even on a busy Saturday evening.
Once I got the ticket, like many other events, I searched the area for good food. I came up with Homestyle Hawaiian, which is a local chain of Hawaiian BBQ. I literally picked based off of the Yelp reviews and photos. There are a few locations, so I chose one that was on my way towards the competition venue (off of Mesa College Dr.). I ordered the Teri Chicken Plate for around $8. Completely worth every penny. It was so much food, I got two meals out of it. It was a generous portion of teriyaki chicken breasts with a scoop of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. All of it was delicious. I want more events in San Diego, just so I can eat there again.
Then I had about three hours to kill before the show, so I decided to go to Balboa Park. I had always heard of it, but I never new how big the park actually is. Finding parking took me about 20 minutes of driving around different parking areas. I ended up parking behind the Air and Space Museum. Luckily there are shuttles that go back and forth from parking lots to the center of the park, the Plaza de Panama, where the main buildings and museums are located.
From there, I just wandered. There were a few street performers doing a stunt. I wouldn’t call it a dance routine, but rather a giant build up to a guy leaping over a bunch of people from the audience. Literally the build up is about 20 minutes for a 3 second act. They are entertaining as far as the comedy aspect of picking people from the audience to be the ones who are jumped over. They’re so good that even at the end when they ask people for money for watching them for the past 20 minutes, you genuinely feel the need to give.
Then I walked around the grounds and took some photos, mostly of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. I strolled down Pan American Way through what seemed like a tiny international village. And ended up near the Automotive and Air and Space Museums again. I was unaware of how close the San Diego Zoo was or else I may have gone there. I was aware of the Natural History Museum and Museum of Art nearby, but I didn’t think I had enough time to really enjoy them.
From there, I continued my drive to the San Diego Civic Theater. Again, I didn’t really know where to park, even though I used my favorite parking app. I couldn’t really find where I was trying to go, so I just ended up using the Civic Theater parking. I’m glad I did because at no point was I charged for the parking even though it said $10. There was never a kiosk to take a ticket from or a person at a booth collecting money. From there I rode an elevator down to the ground floor and was among all of the dance teams practicing outside before the show. It was kind of cool getting a first hand preview.
Then I noticed a small black and white checkered mat on the ground. Some people were gathering around it, and those who were on it were doing some break dancing moves. So I decided that’s where I would hang out until the show started. As I watched, more and more people started to join me in the crowd. Eventually it was shoulder to shoulder and what’s called a cypher competition. I had never heard of it until that point, but basically it’s what you imagine when rappers have a freestyle battle, but it was dancers showing off their moves. There were legitimate rounds where people were eliminated via judges. In the end a very young girl actually won. They were saying how in the past, people who have become famous in the dance industry got their start at Body Rock cyphers.
When that was over, the doors were open around 5:30pm, and we found our seats. I sat next to these two guys, and in listening to their conversation, one guy was explaining things to the other. So I decided to ask if this was their first time. The guy explaining, he had been to a few. The other, like me, it was his first time. I wish I could remember their names, but let’s just call them Mike and Tim for the sake of distinguishing them. So Mike, the explaining guy, let me know that this was the last year Body Rock would be happening until further notice, which is why it was called Body Rock: Homecoming. The routines were to feature past famous acts that stood out in the 18 years it has been going on. Mike also let me know that Vibe was more like what you see on YouTube and that I should go in February, which is usually when it happens.
As we sat there, Mike pointed out more people in the audience who were famous. I recognized some of them from movies like Step Up and tv shows like So You Think You Can Dance. So that was pretty cool, and the dance community in Southern California seems pretty tight. In fact after watching the performances, it seemed like they were similar to famous baseball teams. People knew crews and their standout players, and they had fan bases, like being part of the popular group in high school.
Not really knowing who the crews were, I was just there to watch dance. I wasn’t rooting for anybody in particular, but I knew at the end were the Jabbawockees, from original MTV fame of America’s Best Dance Crew. As I sat there, I was amazed. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. When you watch the videos online, you see how great the dance is, but what you can’t understand unless you’re in person is they hype from the audience. It is electric. You become a part of it and you can’t even control it.
My favorite performances, and the ones that stuck with me the most, were by Geisha Crew, TwoFourSeven, and Kyle Hanagami. Geisha Crew ended up getting third place. They are a small crew of all females from Japan, where they specialize in animation. They had to honor a past performance where a set production member was taken on stage and basically given a lap dance as part of the routine. I was mostly struck by their syncopation and creativity.
Next was TwoFourSeven. They’re a group from Canada and their piece actually made me tear up. The concept was going to war and what it is like for people on both sides. There was a romantic tone to it with each side featuring couples and how it affects them during war. The best part of the entire thing was the storytelling. They not only danced well, but they acted well. I was completely sold and for a few minutes forgot I was in a theater full of people, but felt like I was there part of a movie or show.
Finally, my absolute favorite piece was an exhibition number by Kyle Hanagami. It was similar to something I had seen on SYTYCD, as far as using props that were basically floor lamps without the hood on top. The concept was centered around Kyle’s diagnosis with Leukemia and how there’s always light/hope in the dark. It was so beautiful, not only in the presence, but also in the dancing. It was a nice break from the hard hitting hip-hop of the other routines in the competition. I didn’t get a photo or video because I was so mesmerized that I didn’t want to interrupt my own viewing, but you can see the produced version of it in the link.
The final act was the Jabbawockees, and everybody was hyped at that point. The sad part is that I was completely let down by them. Only three of them performed, and it was a very melancholy piece with an oddly abrupt ending. After we realized it ended, we all were thinking ‘what the heck,’ and ‘was that it?’ It wasn’t a short piece, just lacking something.
As I walked back to my car, my heart was so full of pure joy and adrenaline. I am not a hip-hop dancer, but I felt like I could be. It was around 10:00pm when the show let out, and I didn’t plan on staying the night in San Diego, so I drove the 2 hours back home. The entire ride I called people and tried my best to explain what I just witnessed. I wish I could share that experience in-person with everyone. So if you ever want to go to Vibe with me, let me know!
*The Balboa Park pictures are sharp because I used my camera, whereas the dance ones are not because I could only take stills from video off of my iPhone.