In Case of Emergency, Break Dance

Can I Get a Soul Clap International Breakdance Battle to Go Down This Weekend

The Cyphersons crew practicing before this weekend’s international breakdance battle. Photos Brandon Johnston

Hip-hop is a culture of many layers—art in the form of graffiti, poetry in the form of rap and dance in the form of breaking it down.

This culture is alive and well in Montreal, where over a dozen breakdance crews from across the globe will battle it out for $2,000 in cash and prizes in the fourth annual Can I Get a Soul Clap this Saturday.

“You never know what’s going to happen at one of these shows,” said Alexandre Kinx Beaudin, founder of the crew CypherSons and one of the organizers of the upcoming breakdancing battle night. “There could be a little kid that just blows your mind with these insane moves […] or some huge guy that just looks so mean but has such smooth moves. They’re all there, everyone.”

In Soul Clap, dancers can sign up as five-on-five or three-on-three crews, each dancing together against an opponent chosen by the MC. When the DJ drops the beat the battle is on, with members from both crews getting a few minutes to show off their skills.

Once the round is up, the judges point at the crew they think won the battle—usually in a unanimous decision—which then moves on to the next round.

One of Beaudin’s main goals as organizer this year was to bring in a more diverse judging panel. He explained that where the judges come from usually determines the types of dance styles they prefer. In order to diversify the event and keep it fair to dancers from other areas, Beaudin managed to fly in breaker Nasty Ray from San Jose to introduce some West Coast style.

In the competition, each crew gets one round to convince the judges, then two in the semi-finals and eventually three deciding rounds in the final—all in front of cheering and jeering fellow breaking crews and the experienced judges, in true underground style.

Through underground events such as this, there exists a thriving Montreal breakdancing scene.

“I love the fact that there is always a jam or an event happening,” said Maryam Salehi, a breaker and Concordia fine arts student who will be at this year’s battle. “There was a jam last weekend and already there is another one happening in a week.”

Many battles means many practices. On busy weeks, Beaudin’s crew practices four to five times a week. He says that he wouldn’t have it any differently, though.

“I like practicing with the crew, that’s the best part,” he said. “You get to drink a beer after and it’s like a family.

“I know so many people because of break,” he continued. “If there are 200 people who break in Montreal, I know them for sure. I know them all.”

Soul Clap will be welcoming breakers from all over North America for its fourth edition. Most crews will be from Montreal, but others from Ottawa, Toronto, Boston and New York will be joining as well.

With participants from all different cities, the breakdance scene is an inclusive one in terms of cultures but also in terms of gender.

“At first when I started B-girling, maybe out of frustration, I might have thought that I lost a battle because the judges wouldn’t vote for a girl, but not anymore,” Salehi explained. “I have seen many B-girls who have won battles against B-boys.”

No Sponsors

Soul Clap is structured differently from other breakdance battles, encouraging bigger crews, which draws in breakers worldwide.

“This battle is a five-on-five, which you don’t see very often,” Beaudin said of Soul Clap’s premiere event. “Usually it’s one-on-one, two-on-two, or three-on-three. In the five-on-five, the cash prize is higher because there are more people involved. The venue is bigger, everything is bigger.”

The battle is being held at Stereo Nightclub, which has one of the best sound systems in all of North America according to Beaudin, with DJ Lean Rock from Floorlords crew pumping the jams. It will mark the first time the afterhours club will be hosting a battle.

Shows this big aren’t common because they’re expensive to put on, especially if a crew doesn’t have a sponsor, a decision that changes the game completely.

“In our case, not having a sponsor is a choice, because when you have a sponsor it’s not going to be someone who just wants to give you money—it’s going to be someone that wants you to [represent] their brand,” said Beaudin.

“It’s not even going to be your jam anymore. The company owns the whole thing and you have less control over it.”

For the dancers, it’s not so much about how big the show is but about the dancing itself.

“You always learn something new, especially about yourself,” said Salehi. “After you’ve battled, you may ask yourself why you lost, and from there you allow yourself to improve. You gain experience.”

Can I Get a Soul Clap // Nov. 23 // Stereo Nightclub (858 St. Catherine St. E.) // 7 p.m. // $20 advance, $25 door