Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Breakdancer Grub D is getting down to the beat

Christchurch b-boy David McCavitt tells Lydia Jenkin about having his sights set on the world champs in Brazil.

Grub D (aka David McCavitt) at a Wellington breakdance competition this year. Photo / Supplied
Grub D (aka David McCavitt) at a Wellington breakdance competition this year. Photo / Supplied

On Saturday night, Vector Arena is going to become something of a modern Colosseum. Taking turns, two guys at a time will enter the stage and whip through an improvised set of moves - like six-step, threading, spins, crickets, handglides and contortions - dancing to specially remixed breakbeats, battling it out to go through to the next stage in one almighty knock-out competition.

It's the Red Bull BC One Asia Pacific qualifying round. The winner, chosen from 16 finalists, will get to head to the world championships in Brazil.

It's the first time the competition has been held here, and it'll be quite a show with MC Rahzel (formerly of The Roots) getting the crowd hyped, graffiti art, and performances from some current b-boy legends.

This underground art form (some might even call it a sport), is being kicked into the world of mainstream entertainment.

Though b-boying (or breakdancing) originated in New York's Bronx in the 1970s and arrived in New Zealand in the 80s, only in the past decade has there been a resurgence in local interest.

Both Kiwi representatives come from Christchurch, from a crew called Common Ground, and David McCavitt (Grub D) is something of a veteran - even though he's only 27. McCavitt joined Common Ground about 10 years ago, after seeing them practise at a local youth centre.

He was a Michael Jackson lover as a kid, practising MJ moves, doing a bit of popping and lip-synching at school, so though he had the dance background, b-boying as an adult is quite a different challenge, especially when the scene in Christchurch is fairly small.

"There's not really a b-boy scene there, it's very quiet. We perform when we can, and in summer we'll jam on the beach.

"We used to go to the square [Cathedral Square], before it was no more. But we're all very passionate about it, and do it because we love it."

McCavitt is no stranger to the Red Bull BC One competition, having competed at the qualifiers in Taiwan last year, but he reckons it's still difficult to plan for the day. For a start, you have no idea what music you'll be performing to.

"I kind of have a plan, but I also like to leave room to freestyle and play with the music a bit. Battles are so unpredictable. Even if you have a plan you might forget it once all the adrenalin and nerves kick in."

Hitting the beats in the music is key for b-boys, so obviously the music plays an important role.

A growing number of DJs now specialise in mixing for breakdancers.

"I love fast music but I also love James Brown, stuff from that sort of era ... It's all about the breakbeat, but on top of the beats you might have a saxophone or other instruments. It's funkiness on top of the beat. Basically when you hear it, it makes you want to dance."

What they wear is also more important than you might imagine.

"People would think b-boys were crazy if they knew how much they think about fashion. I've got like 50 pairs of shoes. Some people are really into colour co-ordination, matching their hats and shoes, some people like wearing baggy clothes, some people like their skinny jeans, and then there's the old-school looks with little vests and leather jackets. But it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it," he laughs.

That philosophy also applies when it comes to McCavitt's dance moves. There are no rules, it's all about creativity and making an impression.

McCavitt sees style as everything.

"It's how you do what you do, in your dancing, in your character, your musicality, hitting the beats.

"I love the crazy power moves and the flips. I like everything. But my favourite, is for style to be a part of all of it. Otherwise you're just doing the moves. It's all about self-expression."

Who: Grub D (David McCavitt) one of the two b-boys representing New Zealand.
What: Red Bull BC One B-Boy Competition - Asia Pacific Qualifier with 16 competitors from the Asia-Pacific region battling for a place at the world championships, plus performances from world-leading b-boys; and Rahzel from The Roots hosting.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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