The Rock Steady Crew 32nd Anniversary (July 22 - 26) has come and gone yet again and with it, the usual string of events in and around Manhattan: dance workshops, "Frenemies" (solo battles), "For The Funk Of It" funk styles party, crew battles, the "Rock Steady For Life" free outdoor concert and food drive and, of course, the official afterparty. This year something very significant surfaced—a new generation of dancers officially arrived. And I'm not talking about kids who just look cute dancing (although, admittedly, they sure do...awe). I'm talking bona fide, can-hold-their-own-with-the-big-guys Bboys and Bgirls ages 12 and younger. There has always been a slew of kids who come to the Anniversary and do their thing, but I can't remember them being as true-school as this. Very exciting stuff.
A very special thank you to photographer Joe Conzo who so graciously let me use his photos (some things you just gotta leave to the pros). Thanks, Joe!
I arrived a little late for this event, but made it in time to catch the kids. One lil' guy in particular stole the show. His Bboy name is Bail-rok and he's 8-yrs-old. His mother calls him the "miracle baby" (for other reasons than his incredible skills...), but he is a phenomenon, indeed! I predict he'll soon become the youngest member of RSC (really).
Next Wave: the new generation of Boogie Brats Crew
There's even better video of the lil' guy dancing on stage at the "Rock Steady For Life" concert (coverage on that below...), but here he is battling another kid from the Boogie Brats Crew.
Crazy Legs points out the 'back freeze' tattoo on his leg (an actual image of himself and the Rock Steady logo), while Bail-rok executes the move effortlessly.
Even the big guys were impressed...New School: Bgirl Feenx (in blue), currently the youngest member of RSC, with members of Boogie Brats Crew'B' is for Beautiful: RSC Bgirls Jeskilz and Renegade
Hands down one of my favorite events, where crews from around the world battle it out on the dance floor. Before the battle began, Bboy Artson, a member of RSC, blessed the crowd with his Native American flute. The sound and song was mystifying—something you'd hear for a spiritual ritual or healing. It was the perfect opening.
RSC's Tony Ynot and Artson
Let the battles begin...
A human jump rope—this was amazing! They spun one guy around in the air like a jump rope while another back-flipped over him (what!?). All the while moving and dancing to the beat. Incredible.
Every year, Rock Steady Crew presents the "Spy Award", a special award that recognizes Bboys/girls for their contribution to elevating the dance. This year's honorees: Bboy Crumbs (left) and El Nino.Tony Ynot
RSC's Servin' Ervin and Mega
Outside...Crews getting interviewed
Kids of Boogie Brats Crew practice their movesSome Bboy steez
"Rock Steady For Life" Free Outdoor Concert and Food Drive
The finale of the Rock Steady Crew Anniversay: the free outdoor concert, which, as of this year, is now a food drive as well (hence the new name). Admission, as always, was free but guests were asked to donate canned or non-perishable food. Always giving back...that's what separates Rock Steady. The lineup up of performers included Biz Markie, Grand Puba (Brand Nubian), U-God (Wu-Tang), Roxanne Shanté, DJ Premier & Blaq Poet, Masta Ace & Edo...and tons more.
Taking the Stage: Lil' Bboy Bail-rok—a born entertainer—works the crowd with his magic. If you have time to watch the whole video you'll catch other kids rockin' the dance floor, too.
Godfathers of Hip-Hip: Afrika Bambaata and Crazy Legs
Rock Steady Crew: (from left) T-Rock, Jeskilz, Tony Top Rock, Renegade, Bret, Smerk, Mari, Maynard, Masami, Charlie RockGrand Master Caz, Ritchie Sypher Colón-Peri (the real RSC) and Crazy LegsPhotographer Joe Conzo and longtime RSC member (in from Japan) MasamiRSC Bgirl Mari Koda with Boogie Brats Crew's new genJapan in the House (I dig that vest)Queen of the Spoken Word: RSC's Mayda del Valle
Photographer Ernie Paniccioli
Grand Master Caz and the Nuvo sparkling vodka girlsAfrika Bambaata and RSC's Fever One and Pop Master FabelCraig G and RSC's Lea Maxwell
DJ Premier and Grand Wizzard TheodoreCheck out their matching Michael Jackson tees (love!)RSC's Bonita and Pop Master FabelThe Big Squeeze: Crazy Legs gives Grand Master Caz a big Hip-Hop hug on stageThe Real Roxanne: Roxanne Shanté performs
Shortly after Roxanne finished her set, there was a sudden change in the weather. In a span of about 3 minutes, the sky filled with clouds and went completely dark. No big deal, we thought, considering it'd been raining on-and-off for the last 2 weeks, and like every other day, today's forecast called for "isolated thunderstorms." No one, however, was prepared for what was about to hit...
Rain, Rain Go Away: Even as the downpour of rain ensued, it wasn't enough to spoil the party...
Rain, Rain (...It Just Wouldn't Go Away):
The downpour continued to worsen, getting heavier and heavier by the minute. The wind gusts were getting extremely strong, too (it even started to hail less than mile away). But fans refused to let the severe conditions rain on their parade (pun intended). For safety precautions, authorities insisted that the electricity and generators be shut down (hey, it's all fun and games until someone gets electrocuted). Still, fans endured. They even started to chant, "hell no we won't go!"
Keeping it Real: Rather than take cover, Crazy Legs stepped down from the stage to brave the rain with fans—the concert now at a complete halt...
Unfortunately, the storm didn't let up and with every passing minute it was getting more and more out of control. Isolated thunderstorms? Try typhoon—no joke. The loads of equipment (tarped and all) were drenched. Even the protected area of the stage became a hazardous zone after the wind suddenly shifted, bringing the water directly in. It got scary. I tried as long as I could to stay outside and take pictures, but sometimes you just can't mess with Mother Nature (that, and I was seriously afraid I might get struck by a bolt of lightening). I had to take cover and put my camera away so it wouldn't get ruined. Thank goodness no one got hurt, but after lightening struck a branch off a tree near the stage, it was time to offically call it quits. The authorities shut the concert down.
The Aftermath: All this in a matter of about one and half hours
Die Hards: Typhoon? No biggie. No amount of life-threatening weather was going to ruin these devoted fans' day. Hat's off to them. "Rock Steady For Life"—absolutely!
My report on the Official Rock Steady Crew Afterparty coming up next...