The beats were pumping and the crowd was jumping at a Nanaimo dance studio last weekend during a freestyle competition.
Vibrant Dance Studio was at full capacity and saw several dozens of competitors during its 11th edition of BattleZone from Feb. 17-19.
Studio owner and director, Serra Stewart, said the event hadn’t seen that type of attendance since before the pandemic, so much so that preliminary rounds went until 2 a.m. Sunday morning, having started at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s always really exciting because you get young dancers and up-and-comers that are, some of them, as young as seven to 18 that dance either in my studio or other studios. And it’s really cool to see them jump out and find their style and their look,” Stewart said. “There’s just always so much cheering, too. It’s such a positive environment, it doesn’t matter if you do the crazy tricks or anything – you’re applauded just for going out there and doing it.”
The competition welcomed everyone and was open to both youths and adults, bringing in dancers from Montreal, Vancouver, and all over the Island.
During BattleZone, each dancer was allowed approximately 30 seconds to showcase their skills, followed by their opponent’s response, and were judged on who performed better depending on the category – hip hop, popping or open styles. Dancers in the open category tended to showcase a variation of hip hop; however, in past years, Stewart has seen “kids throw on tap shoes and start tapping.”
Amidst the two-day battling, Stewart said BattleZone also featured special performances including Vancouver Island’s own Carlow Rush and Jacksun Fryer of Funkanometry.
Stewart said the competition originated as a passion project about 12 years ago when her studio’s dance instructor A.J. (Megaman) Kambere proposed the idea. Since then, Kambere has been the driving force behind the annual event.
“His connections in the freestyle world are pretty incredible. He’s pretty much flown around the world as a freestyle dancer or judge or guest,” Stewart said.
This year’s battle was particularly special since it was Kambere’s last before he leaves to pursue education in the medical field, although Stewart noted that Vibe intends to continue hosting BattleZone competitions.
In a social media post, David Castro, one of the judges and a professional dance instructor from New York City, thanked Kambere for everything he’s done.
“I want you guys to think about the work it takes over 12 years to build a community. Organize, nourish and uplift students. Create safe spaces for the parents and their children,” Castro said.
More information on this year’s event can be found on Instagram under the @battlezone___ user handle.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter