I see a lot of dancers get really nervous before battles, or lose and get stressed out or angry over the decision. Fingers go to keyboards, statuses and comments get written, and sometimes judges get called out. We’ve all been there, we all know the feeling, I get it. You’ve put hours upon hours into training your dance. You’ve spent money you didn’t have, to travel to other cities and countries. You’ve slept on floors, in airports, on grass (been there, done that), or you’ve actually gone without sleep. You’ve done all this, and more, to improve and grow and progress in your dance, only to feel like sometimes you’ve been judged completely unfairly, overlooked, or robbed. That feeling that everything that you’ve poured your heart, blood, sweat and tears into was all just thrown away by a 3, 2, 1, point. Summed up and judged on maybe 30 seconds to a minute of dancing. Losing when we thought we won. Wanting to punch someone, scream, or sometimes even just cry.
I get it, all of it. It’s passion. It’s drive. It’s the desire to be recognised and acknowledged for baring our souls on the dance floor and giving everything we have to our art form. But, because of this very thing, I constantly remind myself of something very important; That no one forces us to dance!
No one forces us to put in all the hours of training that we choose to put in. No one forces us to sweat, pull muscles, bleed, and grind our bodies into exhaustion. No one makes us travel long distances to training spots, or forces us to get on planes, sleep in random places, go broke, eat shitty food sometimes, or train late at night, long into the early hours of the morning. When we are putting in all those hours, no one is paying us, no one is guaranteeing us invites, or prize money, or, most times, even paying any attention to us. Everything we do is of our own choice.
So why do we do it?
Why do we put ourselves through it all?
We know why. The answer is staring us right in the face every time that music plays and our bodies automatically begin to move: our head nodding, our shoulders jumping, our feet tapping and our fingers snapping. That answer is in that need to dance that takes over us.
We love that feeling of movement in our bodies, that feeling of sound and rhythm living through us, urging us to get down. We love the form and art and control of it. We love the culture, flow and energy of it. We love that feeling of butterflies fluttering in our stomachs every time the DJ spins, the track drops, and we know that it’s our time to move, to go off and just let go. We train, and sweat and sacrifice so that when that moment comes we can express everything we are in a release of energy that gives us a connection with the music so pure it’s unreal.
We love the people we meet, the friends we make, the parties we have, the travel, the adventures, the lifestyle and the stories we collect.
We love that moment when a dancer enters the floor and everyone sits in excited-anticipation, fixated by the fact that we have no idea of what crazy act of expression of the music, or unbelievable physical feet of rhythmic movement, we might become witness to in that moment.
We love, ‘that vibe.’
We also want to be more than we are. We want to grow and develop, understand ourselves, and be recognised. We want to be superheroes, spiritual beings in tune with the universe, tribal figures dancing for rain. We want to be the feeling of that dancer that we envision in our minds! And so we push our bodies. We give blood to the Gods in a ritual sacrifice of movement, to gain power. We battle to become who we know we can be. We step through fire to live this life, and we love the feeling of doing it.
So I say, forget the stress! You will win one day and lose the next. We cannot control the judge’s opinion or where they will point. If you feel cheated or robbed and want to call someone out, go for it! But realise that you will not get that win back, the decision has been made. So if you do it, do it to express what you felt was not seen! Do it to release what you still have inside of you. But, speaking from experience, try and keep your emotions in check, and still dance for the enjoyment, even if the enjoyment comes out not in a smile, but in a movement of force that looks like a reflection of fire. And when it’s over let it go, because deep down we know that there are bigger reasons behind why we dance, than competitions.
Plus, 9 times out of 10 those judges were simply doing their best to do the job they were given, and their decision was nothing personal against you. Well, 9 times out of 10… There is always that 1 time when you did get robbed, when the judges did vote for their friend, or screw you over. At this point I say stand up and say, or do, what you feel needs to be said or done, but even then, after, let it go, because after all those hours of training, after all those bumps, bruises, pulled muscles, sweat, blood and tears, always remember that most important thing- you do this because you love it, not because you’re forced to. And one of the biggest shames in life is allowing something you love to turn into something that stresses you out, or fills you with any amount of hate.
So live for that time when your moment comes, whether it be in the competition, the cypher, at the after party, in the hotel lobby, or the airport on your way home. Live for that moment when you get to express who you are to an audience, or even just to yourself to feel that aliveness in your body. Live for that moment when the music plays and everything else melts away, and it’s just you and the rhythm. Live for that moment and enjoy it! Because enjoyment is free, and win or lose the only person you owe anything to is yourself.
After everything that you put yourself through to be good at your dance, you owe it to yourself to always remember that you do this because you love it! So enjoy it!
Bboy Manny (Soul Mavericks crew)