Hit the Breaks

Austin gets first big break as host of world breakdancing championship qualifier

Austin gets big break as host of world breakdancing championship event

B-boy Romeo Navarro ahead of Austin breakdancing qualifier
B-boy Romeo Navarro is representing Austin as a co-host at the city's first-ever Red Bull BC One regional qualifier. Photo courtesy of Romeo Navarro

Although competitive breakdancing has been in Austin for decades, it’s usually not the first city on hip-hop fans’ minds. In 2022, its efforts are finally being acknowledged on a worldwide level, as championship Red Bull BC One makes its first-ever stop in the Capital City.

On August 6 and 7, weekend qualifier Cypher South USA, taking place in Austin, will select Southern dancers to compete in Los Angeles for the USA Final on September 17. Other regional qualifiers take place in Philadelphia, Orlando, Boston, and Seattle, eventually sending 16 b-boys and b-girls each to the 2022 World Final in New York City on November 12.

Austin firefighter and b-boy Romeo Navarro is co-hosting the southern cypher, tying in years of both physical and cultural work in the region. Navarro founded BBoy City in 1998, which claims the title of the “largest and longest running” breakdancing event in the South. He joins co-host Roger Davis — also an Austin firefighter — who helped Navarro found mentoring organization Hope 4 Hip Hop with additional help from Omar Davila.

“My love for the local community landed me a career as a full-time firefighter, and I've realized over time that the same love and devotion that I have for breaking and hip-hop culture is the same type of devotion and love I have for my firefighter culture,” wrote Navarro in an email. 

“Breaking and hip-hop culture saved my life so I’m trying to give back while staying in the front lines and saving lives,” he writes. “Ultimately, breaking is my personal therapy — it is a release of all the negative things that I see and experience as a first responder.”

Judges for the regional qualifier will include multi-World Champion winning b-boys RoxRite and Lilou; and Houston-native founder of pioneering organization B-Girl City, Ericka De Leon, also known as B-Girl BabyGirl. De Leon, serving as a guest judge, recently starred in a documentary short about women in hip-hop dance. Self-proclaimed “Nostalgia King” Skeme Richards will DJ.

On the first day, August 6, the qualifier includes an open-entry competition that selects the top four of each the b-boys and b-girls, who will then compete in the knockout stage at the main event. Also on August 6, the Red Bull BC One All Star Tour will offer free workshops for aspiring breakers and community panels.

Saturday’s victors will face winning dancers from other cities in the region, for a total of 16 competitors on August 7. Eventually, at the World Final, the national champions will go head-to-head with invited dancers who skip every previous stage.

“Breaking competitively looks very promising in Austin, especially since we have the longest competitive breaking event in the entire South,” writes Navarro, referring to his B-Boy City event, which is in its 28th year. I want people to know that there is a special culture in Austin, and this city has had a rich hip-hop history since the late 1970s.”

“I really want people to know about how proud I am to represent Austin,” he writes, “as an advocate for the culture of breaking, a student of the culture … and a leader who leads by example.”

City-level qualifiers start at 5 pm at 3Ten, and are free to attend as an observer without registration. Competitors can still register online. The Red Bull BC One Cypher South USA event will be held at the Moody Theater on Sunday, August 7. Doors open at 4 pm and tickets ($10) are available at redbull.com.