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B-boys competition promises top breakdancing

Alfred “Floor Rock” Ruiz remembers a time when b-boys battled just for the love of it. Now, 22 years into his dance career, the 34-year-old is judging a corporate-sponsored b-boy competition that will lead to a National Final in Houston that will lead to a World Final in South Korea.

The Red Bull BC One Las Vegas Cypher takes place Saturday at the Fremont Street Experience. Aside from demonstrating how the hip-hop element has evolved over the years, it will also showcase the talent of 16 b-boys from the West.

Ruiz is one of three judges who will determine their fate. The seasoned local b-boy says he judges each round like a boxing match. He looks for moves that are executed properly and dancers who don’t fall out of poses. The cleanest dancer, on Ruiz’s judging card, gets the highest marks.

But, it’s also about originality, which gets harder and harder to pull off.

“It takes a lot for me to even get impressed,” he says. “Everybody’s good now. Even, like, little kids that are super rich. Before, it was just us poor kids.”

Ruiz was in a gang before he discovered b-boying, which he credits for saving his life. He started honing his talent and joined a b-boy crew, Rock Skittles. (He’s now a member of Rock Steady Crew.)

It wasn’t uncommon, when he started dancing, for b-boys to be from rough neighborhoods. That’s where hip-hop music, which birthed breakdancing, was most popular at the time.

These days, b-boys come from all backgrounds. For that, Ruiz credits a surge of dance studios specializing in hip-hop dance and, of course, YouTube.

“I don’t want to sound bitter, but I don’t like that b-boys need money and a competition to go to these things,” Ruiz says. “Now, they stretch the whole time before they compete. It’s like a sport now and it made it kind of dry.”

Miguel Olague, 26, won the BC One Las Vegas Cypher last year, but didn’t advance at finals. This year he plans to take it all the way. Here’s how he’s preparing.

“I do a lot of cardio, since b-boying is taken as more of an athletic sport more than dance,” he says. “I’m trying to eat a lot better. I’m taking the moves I have and working on them … to use them as weapons.”

The key, he says, is to always keep your opponent guessing. The best b-boys are the least predictable b-boys.

That’s why Olague checks out his competition on YouTube before going into a cypher. He doesn’t want any surprises.

It can be as much a mental competition as it is physical. Different “freezes” and moves are almost interpreted as punches or exclamation points at the end of a sentence. B-boys can’t let someone else’s round get in their head or it will alter their performance.

One factor Olague is expecting to act as a bit of a distraction is the crowd Saturday. Since it’s on Fremont Street, there will be a lot of tourists, who don’t necessarily understand the way b-boying is judged. They’ll be cheering for the most acrobatic moves and not much else.

“I’ll give a little of that, to prove I still have those moves,” Olague says, “but this isn’t a flare or windmill competition.”

He hopes one day it’s not considered a dance competition at all. He’d like to see it as an official X Games sporting event.

Right now, Olague’s mainly involved in b-boy competitions for recognition and props. Red Bull wouldn’t disclose the amount of the cash prize that the winner of the worlds gets, but Olague says it isn’t significant. It’s more about Red Bull using the winner’s performance footage commercially, which means greater exposure. There’s also a championship belt awarded.

“At the end of the day, I’ve been doing this since I was 13,” Olague says. “This dance is something I’ll carry on for the rest of my life. It’s what I love to do. I want to find a way to take it to another level one day, to make it into a career.”

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

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