Photos by Ted Soqui

Combat Dance

Li’l Daisy can’t be more than 11 or 12, her hair in two ’fro’d-out pigtails on top of her head, sunglasses shielding her eyes as she stares down her opponent on the other side of the ring. She folds her arms across her chest, stage smoke winding around her small body, which has been amplified by an oversize hoodie and a baseball jersey airbrushed in pink with her nom de guerre, Daisy Duck. The bass starts to vibrate up through the floor, and Daisy bursts into arms-flying, chest-popping, heart-pounding krump. “Get it, Daisy!” someone hollers as the crowd melts into one fist-pumping, booty-bouncing body.

On December 9, two krump crews — Millennium Krump Time and Hall of Fame — squared off at Inglewood’s Great Western Forum for the first Battlezone dance contest since David LaChapelle’s acclaimed documentary Rize brought the frenetic and combative South L.A.–born dancing style, and this event, to national attention.

Celluloid, though, is no match for seeing dancers like Daisy getting krumped in person. The movements seem to be designed to put as much stress on the body as possible. The dancers contort themselves in slow-grind, fluid motions one second and burst into flurries of tense-muscled, hummingbird-speed abandon the next.

Tommy the Clown, the soft-spoken Inglewood hero who spawned krump by inventing kid-friendly clown dancing as part birthday-party entertainment and part conflict-resolution exercise, was the evening’s MC. Not surprisingly, the success of Rize brought some first-timers to this year’s Battle. A smattering of white bohos hung around the outer reaches of the floor, hands in pockets, looking on with rapt attention. When Tommy the Clown called for shout-outs from neighborhoods like Inglewood and Compton, one teenage black boy in an argyle sweater jokingly called back, “What about the San Fernando Valley?”

As the series of individual battles between members of Millennium Krump Time and Hall of Fame raged, Tommy the Clown, in his neon, airbrushed referee’s outfit, held up a noise meter to decide the winners. The celebrity judges included Los Angeles dance legend Debbie Allen, actress Regina King, model/actor Tyrese, and Snoop Dogg, who performed “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and did a little of his signature C-walk before taking his ringside seat.

Dancers entered like prizefighters on the shoulders of their face-painted crews while booty-bass beats by Federation and Flii Styles blared. Shirts were ripped, water bottles were flung, egos were validated and destroyed. The matches unfolded like staged fights. Getting krumped isn’t just about the moves — it’s intimidation, it’s posturing, it’s funny, it’s story line, it’s meticulous choreography — it’s like the World Wrestling of dance, only it stirs so much emotion and catharsis, it takes away your breath.

As the night drew to a close and Hall of Fame claimed the $2,500 cash prize, the crowd began to spill out into the parking lot, where impromptu battles erupted: girls doing splits on the hoods of cars, dense crowds forming around the amateur combatants as streetlamps shone on. After all, it’s still about dancing as if everybody is watching — whether that’s a crowd of thousands or kids in the parking lot.

 Black Diamond's drum corps puts the beat down.


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