Red Bull BC One is the event where the world’s best B-Boys come to vie for the accolade of ‘numero uno’. And with so much at stake, it’s all about the winning…
The spotlights come to life. Red and blue beams scythe through the arena. The DJ drops the needle on the record. Boom! Cheers explode from the audience. Pimply youths in baseball caps leap from their seats and throw their arms in the air. A guy with dreadlocks steps onto the stage and roars into the microphone, his voice barely audible over the roar of the fans. “Moscow, are you ready?!”
They’re ready all right. Many queued for hours in snow at Moscow’s Circus Arena to buy tickets. They’ve travelled from the farthest corners of Russia to be among the 3,500 here at Red Bull BC One. Because this is their World Cup. The world’s 16 best B-Boys against each other in an instant knock-out format. “I’m on the road all year, watching the most important competitions,” says German B-Boy and promoter Thomas Hergenröther. For the past 30 years he’s been organising the biggest battles in the scene. Eight years ago he established Red Bull BC One and is constantly looking for new talent. “I’m looking for B-Boys with personality who can entertain on the stage, because at Red Bull BC One you not only have to be a perfect dancer, you also have to perform with the crowd as well as your opponent.” Hergenröther has recruited 10 dancers who fulfil these criteria. Five further competitors have qualified through national elimination competitions on four continents. The only certain starter: last year’s winner, Neguin from Brazil. That’s 16 B-Boys from 10 countries. But only one can take the championship belt home.
Five minutes before the first battle, the B-Boys are in the training room behind the stage. As the crowd howls outside and camera crews and security staff rush past the back entrance, all is quiet in the lounge. Roxrite from the USA warms up on the small dancefloor. Neguin, eyes closed, chills out on a bean bag. One false step can send you out of the contest – all the participants here know that. El Niño certainly does. The US B-Boy with Venezuelan roots is here for the first time. He stares straight ahead, as if dance scenes are playing in his mind’s eye. His gaze then wanders over to his opponent, who is doing stretches a few metres away. For a moment they make eye contact. A quick, respectful nod. Then, “ding!” The bell chimes, someone calls out his name. El Niño jumps up. He twirls his head, hops like a boxer from foot to foot as if he were trying to shake off the trance of the last few minutes. The gate to the ring swings open, El Niño takes one last deep breath and steps into the spotlight.
At 21, he’s the youngest Red Bull BC One participant and outside the ring, he’s a bit of a joker. His real name is Alex Diaz, but here he’s El Niño (‘the kid’ in Spanish). At first glance the name fits, and not just because of his size. His brown eyes sparkle, his moustache is downy. He comes across like the guy in school everyone likes: funny, but still cool. “This is like a family reunion,” he says. “It only gets serious when we meet as opponents on the dancefloor.”
Read the full story in January's issue of The Red Bulletin.