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‘B-Boy’ follows Vegas dance crew

Planet Vegas is home to all kinds of dancers — including the Vegas crew Knucklehead Zoo, whose quest for international B-boy glory is chronicled in the new documentary “Planet B-Boy.”

Filmed in 2005, it follows Knucklehead Zoo to Germany as they represent the United States in an international competition, the Battle of the Year.

They’re “one of the most famous crews in the U.S.,” according to director Benson Lee. “They’re really well-known — and amazing performers.”

In addition to following the Knucklehead Zoo, “Planet B-Boy” also focuses on crews from France, Japan and Korea.

Lee first saw Knucklehead Zoo in action in Los Angeles, but notes that Las Vegas has become “a major B-boy center,” in part because of the city’s showbiz traditions.

“A lot worked the circuit as dancers,” as far back as the ’80s, when “Splash” creator Jeff Kutash became “one of the first people to employ B-boys in Vegas,” Lee explains in a telephone interview from New York. “Because of show opportunities, some of the greatest B-boys have lived in Vegas.”

And “a whole new generation” has discovered the style of dance the media dubbed “breakdancing” when it first surfaced in the ’80s.

The dancers prefer to call themselves “B-boys” and “B-girls,” Lee explains, noting that “breakdancing” has “a negative connotation because it was a fad from the ’80s.”

That’s when the director discovered it by watching such movies as “Breakin’ ” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” both released in 1984.

“I was totally mesmerized by it,” he says of the dancers’ acrobatic moves. More than a decade later, while watching “Flashdance,” Lee “wondered what happened to these guys.”

He discovered that style’s popularity had gone global, and that the dancing had surpassed the old ’80s standard.

Current dancers “were like bionic B-boys,” Lee says, performing “mind-boggling” moves that went “beyond acrobatics. It became a kind of extreme dance.”

Reasoning that “if I didn’t know about this, probably nobody else did either,” Lee decided to make “Planet B-Boy,” which debuted last year at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. He’s now working on a fictionalized feature version.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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