The gymnasium at Bremerton High School was dark Saturday night except a single ring of light pointing down directly on the Knight logo at mid-court. About 100 people, nearly all of them under 30 years old, surrounded the center circle but they weren’t there for a basketball game.
A disc jockey pumped music loudly across the hardwood floor, but it wasn’t prom. It was a dance of sorts, though. It was Bremerton High School’s break dance battle, or B-Boy Battle as one of the dancers said it’s called.
More than a dozen teams from around the Northwest converged on the school’s gym to compete for $300 worth of prizes. Teams of three dancers squared off throughout the night, taking each other on in head to head dance battles until only two were left to compete in a final showdown.
Each team lined up on either side of the center circle, directly facing each other. The music starts and the first dancer crosses into neutral territory. The dance that then takes place is confrontational but not hostile‚ confident but not arrogant.
Dancing face-to-face with the competition while they stand by, the dancers seem to move to simultaneously intimidate the competition and impress the audience.
While each set of teams competed, a group of judges sat by and decided the fate of every group.
Break dancing isn’t sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association, but that didn’t stop BHS students from bringing a contest to their school. An after-school club at Bremerton brings together students to practice and perform the art of break dancing.
The after-school group, Project Footwork, has been active at the school since 2009, during the senior year of founding member Axel Lovinaria. Lovinaria learned his first break dancing moves in junior high.
When he showed his friends, he said, they wanted to learn as well so they formed an unofficial group. Things kept growing from there.
“Random people we didn’t even know wanted to learn how to break dance,” Lovinaria said.
That brought about the school group. Lovinaria said the group put together advertising for the school’s morning broadcast and the numbers jumped exponentially.
“In my head I was like, ‘I want people to like what we do and have fun (with) what we do,” Lovinaria said.
Lovinaria has since graduated and is now a student at Olympic College. He isn’t as involved with the group anymore, he said, but he checks in from time to time.
“Like the forefather,” he laughed.
His younger brother, Geo, danced in a group at Saturday’s competition. His team, Radical Maneuvers, consists of himself, Joseph Barrientos and Quincy Floyd.
“We’re not really here to compete,” Geo said. “We’re just here to battle and have fun with it.”
Sophomore Tiarra La said break dancing isn’t her own forte, but she is a dancer and one of the students who led the charge to bring the battle to Bremerton. She said part of the reason she pushed for the competition was to help pull Bremerton’s break dancing community more into the spotlight.
“There’s a huge community (in Bremerton),” La said. “I feel like it gets overlooked because it’s so small and because it’s next to the Seattle area.”
When she moved to Bremerton High School from Seattle for her freshman year, she discovered Project Footwork and felt the group could have a future.
“They had so much potential but they weren’t doing anything about it,” she said. “They were going to battles but they weren’t doing anything with the club.”
Eric Crumb, another Bremerton student who helped organize and put on the event, agreed with La’s sentiment.
“My freshman year I saw Project Footwork. It was big in people, but it was small in what they did,” Crumb said. “I decided that we needed to do something with the community so I said let’s throw a B-Boy Battle, and everybody jumped on board.”
La, Crumb and the other members of Project Footwork are on their way to turning the group’s potential into results and with Saturday night’s competition, that future La spoke about is starting to become a reality.