China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



August 6, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright August 6, 2010 George Zhi Zhao. Used by permission.


R16 at the Shanghai World Expo

June 19, 2010 I hear the voice of the late James Brown shouting over the booming speakers, and I watch a crowd of dancers move and contort to every minute rhythm and sound that is being controlled and manipulated by the DJ. The energy in the air is tense, as different b-boys (breakdancers) take turns stepping inside a circle of bodies, all asserting themselves in back-to-back solo performances of gravity-defying sequences of dance movements. The competitive performance of breakdancing happens all over the world, in metropolises ranging from New York City to Tokyo, from Moscow to São Paulo. Today, it’s happening in Shanghai, China at the Korean National Pavilion of the 2010 World Expo, with seven of China’s best crews competing for a chance to represent China at the R16 World B-Boy Master Championships in Seoul, South Korea on the fourth of July.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to compete at the event as the organizer of one of these seven crews. Being a Chinese-American b-boy who came out of the Boston and Washington, DC dance scenes, I have been blessed with the opportunity to live and study at Shanghai’s Fudan University over the course of the past year, all the while being immersed in the street dance community in Shanghai and meeting dancers from around the world. My crew, the Art of War (named after Sun Tzu’s book on military strategy), consisted of a mixture of foreigners and native Chinese, with Bureheine from Ukraine, RW from the Netherlands, Jingyu from Shanghai, as well as four members from Beijing’s Forbidden City Rockers. I had met Bureheine and RW at practices at Caster Dance Studio in Shanghai, and the Forbidden City Rockers on a previous trip to Beijing. The Forbidden City Rockers had been trained in part by another Chinese-American b-boy named Ticky from an internationally renowned Boston crew named the Floorlords; the four of them joined our crew at the last minute, only meeting the other three members of our crew on the morning of the competition. Lastly, Jingyu, a slightly overweight b-boy that I had met during my first weeks in the Shanghai scene, had been featured under the name Kung Fu Panda (功夫熊猫) on the nationally televised song and dance competition 全家都来赛 (Quan Jia Dou Lai Sai), and will be featured on this season of Shanghai Television’s 中国达人 (Zhong Guo Da Ren). A language barrier did exist, and I found myself constantly translating so that my crewmembers could communicate with one another.