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Rest assured there is a large population of people in Portland who can dance way better than you and wear decidedly better sneakers.

Rest assured there is a large population of people in Portland who can dance way better than you and wear decidedly better sneakers. Last Sunday, hundreds of them turned up at the Circle Science break dance event at Bossanova Ballroom for some cash prizes, but mostly for the love of it.

Circle Science was a showcase and competitive event that sought to bring together dancers from all disciplines of street dance to “get down in one unified cipher,” according to the event trailer video.

“A cipher, in essence, is an open dance circle where dancers of every discipline get down. They freestyle, they call each other out to battle, they jut exchange moves,” said Huy Pham, the event’s organizer and a major player in putting on many of Portland’s urban dance gatherings.

In late afternoon, a crowd of dancers and spectators began to snake around the building on East Burnside for the all ages event.

“Half the dance community in Portland is 18 to 20,” Pham said.

Due to the large number of young people, there were vigorous pat-downs and bag searches at the door, which held up the line quite a bit. Pham said it’s worth it, though, and he works to make every event welcome to all ages.

Pham, who has danced for most of his life, said that in the last 10 years the scene has grown immensely and is “super positive.” Pham puts up his own money to host events like this several times a year so that there is a structured and safe place for dancers to come together to do what they love.

“[School] PTAs will even put up money now to fund events,” Pham said.

Pham said 67 dance crews signed up to battle in a two-on-two format that night, but crews can contain dozens of members, so there were actually hundreds of registered dancers.

The scene is fiercely self-perpetuated; the Facebook group for the event had 408 people registered as planning to attend.

“There is so much community support. As soon as I put out a press release the community gobbles it up,” said Pham, who is a graduate of Portland State.

He works with a friend and current PSU student, Greg Fisk, to promote and organize these events. They are also in the same dance crew called Moon Patrol, which performed that night.

As the evening ramped up, nervous participants lined the walls intensely miming dance moves—it was the equivalent of Broadway hopefuls nervously running vocal scales before an audition. As people filtered in, the DJs flowed from hip-hop, to pop, to house music and impromptu ciphers began to form all over the ballroom. Dancers moved in and out, showcasing their unique routines and freestyles, sometimes challenging other dancers to battles.

One woman watching looked out of place because she was older than most of the performers and had her elementary-aged son with her. It turned out she is a dance teacher and break dance club advisor at David Douglas High School in southeast Portland, and she simply came out to support her students.

She wasn’t the only oddball in the crowd—there were other parents there and dancers who brought their children. One little boy, about four years old, wandered into the middle of a cipher and began impersonating something between krump dancing and the robot, and the crowd loved it.

The entire scene was extremely jovial and the competition was friendly and playful. Anyone was welcome to simply enjoy the show, enter the competition or just play around in the impromptu ciphers. With all the movement in there it was pretty steamy,making it a nice way to spend an otherwise cold, boring Sunday evening. ?

Check out the footage here!