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Breakdancing finals are set for 7 p.m. at the former Old Navy in the Shops Of Grand Avenue.

Breakdance competition activates former Old Navy space

A breakdancing workshop and competition called "The Wisconsin Wars" takes place on Saturday, Aug. 24 at The Shops of Grand Avenue, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

A workshop begins at 12:30 p.m. and the battles kick off at 3 p.m. The final show starts at 7 p.m. in the former Old Navy space on the second floor of the Plankinton Arcade.

"I'm always looking to activate the former Old Navy space with special events. The space has great bones, with a fantastic warehouse look," says Tracy Korpela, assistant general manager for The Shops of Grand Avenue. "Events in this space create consistent positive awareness of The Shops of Grand Avenue and provide opportunity to community members."

Yosha Antipov is the organizer of the second annual event. Antipov, who is originally from Russia, is a professional breakdancer and the leader of a professional breakdance crew called Gravity Benders. The group, celebrating its seventh anniversary this year, has performed during Bucks games.

Like most breakers, Antipov is self taught. He is considered to be among the top 16 breakdancers in the Midwest and hopes to someday rank internationally.

To qualify for Saturday's final event at 7 p.m., numerous Wisconsin cities held competitions and sent the winners to the recent semifinals in Madison. Four cities advanced to the finals: Milwaukee, Madison, Wausau and Eau Claire.

"These are the best breakdancers from Wisconsin and the Midwest," says Antipov.

Wisconsin Wars will include dance competitions between the four cities in a "City Vs. City Battle," along with other breakdancing and hip-hop performances. The event will also feature "side battles" with dancers who did not qualify but are committed to the local breakdancing community.

"B-Boys from all over the Midwest come to compete at the side battles and support me and the Milwaukee Scene," says Antipov.

Breakdancing – also called "b-boying" or "breaking" – was popularized in the '80s, but it originated in the '70s in New York City by African American and Puerto Rican teens. (Some actually find the term "breakdancing" an uniformed term coined by the media.)

Although the dance form consists primarily of four kinds of movement – toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes – participants strive for original moves based on these foundations.

Popping, locking and electric boogaloo are funk styles that are often lumped into the "breakdance" category but are technically not the same.

Although originally an almost entirely male-practiced dance form, more and more women – "b-girls" – have joined the scene in more recent years.

Breakdancing was popularized in the mainstream through video games, commercials and movies. In the '80s, films such as "Flashdance," "Breakin'," "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" and "Beat Street" introduced the genre on the big screen.

In recent years, television shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew" have helped a resurgence in the popularity of street culture among mainstream viewers.

Romke de Haan, co-owner of Spreenkler, the creative mobile app agency in the mall, supports the event wholeheartedly.

"Milwaukee has some of the country's best dancers entering in competitions all over the United States. In fact, a Milwaukeean just won Red Bull One battle and flew to Amsterdam for a global competition," he says. "The Grand Avenue Mall is a unique place to see the youth compete and participate in such a positive event."


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