May 20, 2024

Styles Of Dance

Dance Styles Unite in Harmony

the rules of street dance competitions

8 min read

Street dance battles are dynamic showcases where dancers exhibit their skills within a set of rules guiding the flow and etiquette of the competition. Balancing tradition with adaptability, these guidelines provide a framework for individual expression and innovation. Let’s check out the core principles that shape street battles.

O'trip House doing a routine during the legendary exhibition battle between O'Trip House and Serial Stepperz on the day 3 of the Red Bull Bç One Camp France 2017

O’trip House doing a routine

© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

Most competitions are straight knockout battles. Some involve two individual dancers competing against each other in one-on-one battles, but you also have competitions where teams of dancers, known as crews, compete against each other. These crews can be anything from two dancers in each crew, up to eight or ten dancers, and sometimes more.

In crew battles dance routines involving anything from two members to the whole crew, are usually allowed to be performed when it is that crew’s round. The other crew do not have to do a routine in response if they don’t want to, it is completely up to each crew to decide what they do in each round unless the competition’s specific rules say otherwise.

Individuals, or crews, dance one at a time in the middle of the dance floor. There is a chosen number of times each dancer, or crew, gets to dance, called rounds.

Dancers go back and forth, doing their rounds, until they have finished and then the chosen panel of judges individually decide who they believe won the battle by pointing at their personally chosen winner, or holding up a card with their winner’s name on it.

6 min

Shigekix vs Alkolil – final battle

B-Boys Shigekix and Alkolil battle each other for the Red Bull BC One World Final 2020 title.

The winner of the battle goes on to the next round and the loser is knocked out of the competition.

This goes on until there are two dancers, or two crews, left, at which point there is a final battle and an overall winner of the event is chosen.

Logistx of the USA celebrates with her winners belts after the Red Bull BC One World Final at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland on November 6, 2021.

Logistx is the Red Bull BC One B-Girl champion of 2021

© Romina Amato / Red Bull Content Pool

02

How many competitors are in a competition?

The average number of dancers picked to battle in a competition is usually 16 individual dancers or eight to 16 crews, competing in one chosen style, or in a mixed styles battle. But there can be anything from four to 32 dancers, or crews, competing in the main battle.

To compete in the main battle the dancers must first be picked from a qualification, in which they earn the right to compete in the main event by being picked by the judges. There can be anything from 30 up to 500 dancers entering a qualification, which is usually done in five different ways:

  1. A Showcase Round. This is where the dancers are called up to perform, one by one, in front of the judges. Their performance is scored and when everyone has been seen by the judges, they then pick the dancers with the highest scores to compete in the main competition.

  2. Showcase Battles. In this dancers, or crews, compete against each other in showcase battles that usually are only one round each, or have a time limit if it’s crews. No winner is picked from the battle, the dancers are simply scored by the judges on their performance in the battle and the judges pick the highest scoring dancers, or crews, to compete in the main competition.

  3. Cypher Qualification. A Cypher is the term used when dancers gather in a circle and, one-by-one, dance inside that circle. Some competitions use this to determine who will be picked for the main competition. When this happens the DJ will usually play music for anything from 30 minutes up to an hour and a half. Dancers usually are given a sticker with a number on it and then form their cyphers and simply dance as much as they want. The judges go from circle to circle watching the dancers and writing down the numbers of the ones who impress them the most. Once the time limit is up the judges get together and find out which numbers they all wrote down and these are the ones picked to battle in the main competition.

  4. Being a winner of a previous Qualification Battle. This is when the dancers chosen to compete in the main competition are winners of another competition, in which they won the right to then compete at this later one.

  5. By Invitation. The fifth and last one is through simple Invitation. This is when a dancer has earned a well known reputation through doing well at, and winning, various competitions locally or internationally, and so are then invited by an event promoter to come and compete at their competition.

03

Who are the judges and what is their job?

Judges are usually well-known, respected dancers who have earned their place on the panel through years of competing and winning, or from being known for their historical contribution to the dance scene.

Competitions always have an odd number of judges to avoid ties, and usually are a panel of three or five individuals.

Each judge usually only has one vote in each battle and the winner of a battle is the dancer who gets the most votes.

Judges Hongten, Bboy Mounir and Intact during the Red Bull BC ONE Cypher Madrid, Spain on March 31, 2018.

The judges point at the winner

© Gianfranco Tripodo/Red Bull Content Pool

Sometimes there ends up being a tied decision, which usually happens in two ways:

  1. Judges themselves are allowed to use their individual vote as a tie if they believe the battle is drawn. This can result in the battle itself being a tie if all the judges vote a tie.

  2. If one judge votes a tie and then the other judges evenly vote separate ways.

If this happens the competing dancers, or crews, will then have to battle one more round for the judges to then vote on again. If there is another tie then the dancers do another round, and will continue to do this until the judges come to a decision that isn’t a tie.

But, if all the judges, apart from one, vote a tie, then the dancer who gets that one vote is the winner.

04

What are the judges looking for to determine the winner?

To make their decision, judges usually all have a general criteria which consists of about eight elements that they all look at. In no particular order, these are…

How well a breaker expresses their personality through their dance.

The level of dynamic movement a breaker possesses and showcases.

If a breaker showcases a way of moving that’s unique to them.

Performing moves in a clean and secure way, without messing up.

Telling a story with your round, having a beginning, middle and end that makes sense and flows.

Coming up with fresh variations on existing moves, or completely new, and creative moves, and ways of moving that the judges haven’t seen before.

When the battle is a straight one-on-one knockout competition, judges will take the whole criteria into account, with each judge deciding for themselves which elements carry more weight than others. But when a battle follows a different concept or format, certain elements of the criteria can then become more important than others and change how a judge judges a competition.

Here’s a list of four different competition formats and what criteria elements might carry more weight in the judge’s decision for each one:

  1. Qualification/Showcase/Prelim Rounds. Judges can only pick a small number of qualifying breakers in these and they have to be strict in their scoring to make their selection, and so ‘execution’ becomes one of the biggest elements in their criteria. Any mess-ups or crashes from breakers failing badly to execute their moves makes it a lot easier for a judge to narrow down their picks, and score that breaker low. Character also plays a big role here, as does ‘difficulty of movement’.

  2. Cypher king/queen competitions. Style, character, and ‘musicality’ usually are the more valued elements on a judge’s criteria, for a cypher competition, which take place in the circles that breakers form and, one-by-one, dance inside. Breakers will usually be given a sticker to wear with a number. Judges will then spend the time watching the cyphers and writing down the numbers of the breakers who impress them the most. (Sometimes the judges are unknown and could be one of the breakers in the cyphers.) Once the time limit is up the judges then get together, decide who impressed all of them the most and then that person is crowned the cypher king or queen.

  3. Crew battles. Those who are judging a crew battle are usually called upon to grade multiple numbers of rounds from each side; this could be as few as the rounds each in a three-on-three battle, or up to as many as 16 rounds per crew if it’s a full eight-on-eight crew battle with somewhere in the region of a 15-minute time limit. The unique thing about a crew battle is that it gives a chance for each side to showcase every element in a judge’s criteria by strategically sending out breakers who are strong in particular criteria elements. This means that a good crew can dedicate the order of the criteria the judges use with the strategy with which they send out their team members.

Final

Watch as crews showcase their skills at the 30th anniversary of Battle of the Year in Montpellier, France.

The exception: crowd-judged battles

Some events, like Red Bull Dance Your Style, are judged by the audience, who might not understand the technicalities of dancing but are fans who come to enjoy the competition. When crowds are judging, usually the highest things on the criteria becomes difficulty of movement and character. If a breaker can drive a crowd crazy by doing spectacular, unbelievable, high-level moves, the crowd are usually more likely to vote for that dancer. Musicality is also big here but usually has to be executed to a very high level for an audience of fans to really understand and see. A crowd isn’t usually too concerned with execution, foundation, or how a round is put together. They usually want to be wowed with moves and drawn in by a dancer’s character.
The crowd chooses the winners at Red Bull Dance Your Style in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Crowd voting at Dance Your Style

© Alex Grymanis/Red Bull Content Pool

Part of this story

Red Bull Dance Your Style

Red Bull Dance Your Style is an international mixed-style dance competition. The twist? The crowd decides who wins by voting for their favourite dancers.

Red Bull BC One

Red Bull BC One is the biggest one-on-one b-boy and b-girl competition in the world. Every year, thousands of dancers battle for a chance to represent at the World Final.

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