Breakin’ Brass is a club night, alternating funked-up brass band playing and a breakdancing showdown. It’s an unexpected mix, but a jubilant one. Energy levels are high, with some terrific dancing.
Held at East London arts centre Rich Mix, the series has grown out of the brass festival set up by the band Brassroots. Playing a live set between rounds of the dance contest, Brassroots have a bright, warm sound, with soulful melodic playing and fast, chugging rhythms.
The breakdance contest kicks off with open heats, with the winners going on to face eight invited dancers from all over the UK. The standard is high: even at the qualifying rounds, there were some closely fought battles.
This is a macho format: Linda, an Italian dancer with a loose-limbed, mooching style was the only woman who entered. Bouts start with a lot of testosterone-heavy glaring, performers staring each other down before starting to move. (“If one of you doesn’t start dancing, I’m going to call you a taxi”, complained the MC when one staring contest stretched on.) It’s good-humoured, and always feels dance-driven. Between rounds, the dancers who didn’t make it through were back on the floor, pushing themselves harder.
The final winner was Lee Roc, a compact dancer with a springy, explosive quality. When dancing, he has an air of holding himself in, with tight, taut moves. Then he suddenly expands, going to full stretch in the middle of a phrase. Spin, who faced him in the final, is a nervy dancer, very light on his feet: in fast footwork, his steps have the stabbing quality of aggressive pointework.
This was a strong lineup. There were plenty of dashing acrobatics – somersaults, headspins, handstands of all kinds. The best dancers make an immediate impact; if the footwork is good, it’s likely to be followed up with fireworks.
Vanilla Killa, one of the quarter-finalists, has a gorgeous backwards slide, slowing to a smooth stop. There’s great control in his spaced out steps, especially in a crab-like walk on his hands. The Phasion, a semi-finalist, has a silky flow of movement, while quarter-finalist Mouse can link a whole series of flips and acrobatics into a single smooth phrase.
The crowd is eager and demonstrative, hollering for favourites and howling when they disagreed with the verdicts. More Breakin’ Brass events are being planned: it’s a good night out.