Nori represents Japan at BC One breakdancing competition

by James Mallion

Special To The Japan Times

This past weekend’s Red Bull BC One breakdancing event in Seoul was something of a battle of titans.

In the world of breakdancing, BC One is one of four major international competitions in the year — Battle of the Year, UK B-Boy Championships and R-16 Korea being the others. Only BC One, though, focuses exclusively on one-on-one battles. Organizers upped the ante this time round for the event’s 10th anniversary, by allowing only eight qualifiers — and bringing back eight former champions.

One of the elite 16 was Ibaraki Prefecture’s Noritoshi Kikuchi, who dances under the moniker Nori. The Japan Times spoke to Kikuchi ahead of the competition, which ultimately saw him knocked out by South Korean B-Boy (and 2008 champion) Wing.

“Japan has always been fairly successful in international breakdance competitions,” Kikuchi said. “However, b-boy culture here — along with the acceptance and love for being a b-boy — still has room to grow.”

Kikuchi dished out a lot of praise for countries that have embraced breakdancing and urban culture, including the United States and South Korea. When it comes to the scene here, though, he thinks some changes need to be made to help it grow.

“There’s a lack of resources available for people wanting to get into hip-hop and breakdancing culture these days,” he said. “There’s no real coverage on TV, no major radio station … the Japanese hip-hop and dance communities have to work more in sync to spread both the music, the culture and the dance.”

Children are given mixed signals when it comes to dancing these days. On one hand, dance classes are a part of school curriculum and the choreographed performances of TV pop stars are very popular. But the kind of dancing that is done in clubs is subject to restrictions under the entertainment business control law, better known as fueihō.

While Kikuchi said he doesn’t get involved with politics, he did agree that now is “a good time to bring the spotlight back on dance in a positive way” and that b-boys and b-girls “will always find a place to dance, be it the streets, a park, a dance studio or a club.”

He mentioned that belonging to a dance club in high school helped nurture his own talents, so did seeing urban culture on TV.

“When I was 15 years old, I saw Takashi Okamura (a famous Japanese celebrity who started out as a b-boy) on TV and that really inspired me to take it up,” Kikuchi said. “It was a dance battle that he was taking part in and I fell in love with the moves and flow.”

Red Bull BC One organizers have put videos of all this past weekend’s battles up online. Another Japanese dancer, Taisuke, went up against France’s Lilou in what was reportedly the most talked about competition of the night.

In the end, though, it was South Korean B-boy Hong 10 who ended up victorious. He bested France’s Mounir after three exciting rounds.

While breakdancing battles are not a regular part of TV programming nowadays, Kikuchi should take heart in the fact that a 15-year-old stumbling across a video of him breakdancing online might be the spark that motivates the next generation of b-boys and b-girls.

For videos and more information on Red Bull BC One, visit www.redbullbcone.com.