From the Set: Battle of the Year

If you think breakdancing was just a fad in the ’80s, think again. It’s back and in a huge way. The urban dance craze that started in the streets of NYC was quite the in-thing three decades ago, but it seemingly died out until recently.

Now b-boying (breakdancing’s original name) has captured the attention of countries around the world and director Benson Lee explores not only the resurgence of the dance movement in his 2007 documentary Planet B-Boy, but the global phenomena as well.

“I was one of those kids in the ’80s who was mesmerized by the whole breakdance trend… I broke out the cardboard and tried it. I wasn’t a real b-boy, I just tried it out and enjoyed it. The trend died out as quickly as it came in the ’80s. It was like 10 years later, I think it was after the Sundance Film Festival, I was watching Flashdance, which had a moment in the film where Jennifer Beals is walking down the street and sees these b-boys dancing. I asked myself, “What happened to those guys?” Lee said.

His curiosity led him to research where the dying trend went and much to Lee’s surprise, he found breakdancing to be bigger than ever.

“I just Googled ‘b-boy,’ and I discovered this event called The Battle of the Year. It blew me away because it showed me that b-boys were still around, and there is this event with b-boys from around the world. It went from, ‘Where did they go?’ to realizing that it had proliferated around the world and all these guys were still dancing, but they were more of a sub-culture. This event in Germany, The Battle of the Year, I followed it every year and it continued to grow,” Lee told added.

“I couldn’t believe how many more countries came in. Then YouTube became popular, and that’s how a lot of these b-boys learned how to become b-boys, by watching videos. At that point, they moved from this very small venue to this large stadium, and I was thinking, ‘Why don’t people know about this?’ They’re such phenomenal dancers. I had never made a documentary before, so I decided that this is the one I wanted to make,” he continued.

Now the documentary is being turned into a 3D feature film which is titled Battle of the Year and stars Josh Holloway and Chris Brown. Lee is directing and was on set in Whittier, CA to check out a scene from the movie.

We arrived at the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility around 10:30 a.m. and chatted with the director first before we saw the b-boys in action.

“I made a deal with Battle of the Year. I went to four different countries, and that’s where I really learned what b-boying is, from a universal point of view, because these guys all shared the same passion for the dance. My goal was to teach the world that these guys were still around, and, in the process of doing so, I learned a lot about b-boying, and the art of b-boying,” Lee said.

The Screen Gems release follows a group of boys trying to make the cut for the Dream Team, which will go to the Battle of the Year in Europe. Brown is one of the main b-boys and Holloway plays the coach of the team who reluctantly confessed to being a dancer before he made it to Hollywood.

“I used to b-boy back in the ’80s,” he laughed. “It’s so different than what’s happening now.”

Although breakdancing originated in the states, Americans have been defeated for the last 10 years at the competition, so in the movie, it’s the coach’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen again. He has to choose the best dancers to go up against the Russians, French and Koreans who have dominated b-boying.

In the scene we watched being shot, there are 32 boys all vying for a coveted spot on the team. We were in a room set up like an auditorium and Holloway, who was sporting a beanie, athletic pants and a hoodie, sat on the benches watching the guys battle it out in hopes they get picked for the team.

The dancers were divided up into two groups that faced each other. As soon as the music started, one guy would move to the middle of the group of show off his skills. Then a guy from the other group would take over the floor and show off his moves.

We excitedly watched as dancers spun on their heads, flipped their bodies in ways we didn’t think was possible and grooved to the music in true b-boy fashion – with no rules. This was one of the many chances to show the coach and their peers their strengths and what they can bring to the team.

We got a chance to talk to both Josh Holloway and director Benson Lee – you can check out those interviews using the links below!

Josh Holloway Interview

Benson Lee Interview

Battle of the Year opens in theaters on September 13.


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