Spencer Ounaphom danced non-stop from 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday night, with the occasional water and bathroom breaks, to music played by DJ Wicked. Competing at the Portland State Breakin’ Club’s break-dancing competition Bustin’ Hoffman, Ounaphom was working to pass the first round of a competition for the first time in his three-year break-dancing career.
Spencer Ounaphom danced non-stop from 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday night, with the occasional water and bathroom breaks, to music played by DJ Wicked.
Competing at the Portland State Breakin’ Club’s break-dancing competition Bustin’ Hoffman, Ounaphom was working to pass the first round of a competition for the first time in his three-year break-dancing career. Ounaphom, a member of the break-dancing group Against All Odds, practices his break-dancing moves for four hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s my passion,” he said.
Ounaphom said that no matter what happens in the competitions and in his break-dancing career, he will be break dancing for life.
“I won’t quit,” said Ounaphom, who left Centennial High School before graduating and is pursuing his GED at Mt. Hood Community College. “I don’t want to back down.”
Held in Hoffmann Hall, normally known for math classes and high-tech electronic equipment, Bustin’ Hoffman transformed the classroom into an arena Saturday night, where 300 break dancers, their fans and a few curious passersby witnessed 32 of the Northwest’s best breaker dancers compete for cash and recognition.
“We just want to try and bring together, sort of, the break-dancing community from the Northwest,” said Breakin’ Club head coordinator Victor Sin. “Kind of give them an outlet to compete and show their skills.”
Break dancing involves a dancer moving their body rapidly and often acrobatically to music. Dancers battle using a combination of footwork and “power tricks” (including windmills, head spins and flips) to aggressively compete with their opponent. Dancers will often pretend to push their opponent and insult them, usually in jest, with words and gestures.
The aggression occasionally shown in these routines is usually kept on the dance floor, said Oskar Villalobos, a judge for the event and self-described “old man” at 26 years old.
Bustin’ Hoffman is the third event the club has held this year. The first, the Ballroom Battle, was held in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom and the Rooftop Rumble was held on the rooftop tennis courts of the Stott Center.
Sixteen teams of two competed for cash prizes of $300 for first place and $150 for second in the event’s official competition, in addition to numerous exhibition battles. Awards were also given out for best “power move” and “flavor move” shown during the night, and for best non-competition dance.
In the first few rounds, teams like the Crazy Monkeys, the Freshest Felons, and Cha Cha and Hepatitis competed on two sheets of linoleum flooring and a hardwood dance floor in simultaneous one-on-one battles.
Competitors kicked their legs in the air, bounced on their heads and performed moves that sent their bodies flying and twisting through the air. The capacity crowd cheered after each kick, headstand and flip, with competitors drinking and passing around bottles of water and energy drinks between performances.
After seven competitions in this last year, Ounaphom said he has yet to move past the first round. When it was his turn to compete, Ounaphom threw his whole body around the floor, concentrating on footwork more than power moves.
One move he performed, a front flip followed by a series of spinning air kicks, was popular with the crowd. His work paid off and he advanced to the second round for the first time in his career.
Although Ounaphom was eliminated in the second round, he said he was extremely happy about his performance. Minutes after announcing his elimination he was back on the practice floor.
Sin said that break dancing evolved from gang-affiliated street roots, where it is said to have turned into to an all-inclusive art form. People from many different cultures, from punk rock to hip-hop, show up to Portland break dancing competitions, he said.
Cha Cha and Hepatitis won the competition and the $300 grand prize. When the award was given at close to 11 p.m., half of the crowd had left.
The second-place winner of the night, Tony Orduna, from Freshest Kids, said that most people lose when they first start break dancing. The goal for break dancers like Ounaphom, Orduna said, is to keep learning and practicing and competing.
“I really appreciate the awards,” he said. “It really means a lot to me. Five years ago I lost [every competition]. Now, suddenly I get the fame.”
Ounaphom said that the name of his break-dancing group, Against All Odds, means to have a desire to never give up and improve no matter what.
“It means keep moving up…like a challenge.” Ounaphom said.