Street dancing is not just about coming up with the slickest dance moves.

It is about adapting to different music genres and environments and bringing new flavours to the dance scene. And that is the kind of dancer Astro Battleground is looking for this year.

The finalists of Astro Battleground 2013 were flown to Japan for two weeks to learn from Japan's best dance instructors.

The finalists of Astro Battleground 2013 were flown to Japan for two weeks to learn from Japan’s best dance instructors.

Already in its seventh year, Astro Battleground is an annual dance competition that acts as a platform for local dancers to showcase their talents.

“This year, we want to find a dancer that is outstanding in every aspect. The contest required participants to learn to cooperate with dancers of different backgrounds, and still be able to deliver in terms of dance,” said Astro Battleground 2013 producer Maximillian Tan.

He also explained that there are many good dancers in Malaysia, but the competition is looking for someone who has leadership skills as well.

“The journey in this (entertainment) business is very long. It is not only about the dance; it is about one’s personality as well and to win this solo competition, they have to work as a group before they battle it out solo,” said Tan, 28.

Auditions were held in Penang, Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the year and 38 finalists were selected and grouped based on their dance styles to compete in the next five stages.

At each stage, the participants had to choreograph their routines according to themes determined by the organisers and once completed, the groups were shuffled.
Tan explained that each theme was used to test the participants’ skills in a different way.

One of the most difficult themes was the “space theme”, where participants were required to incorporate use of props while performing in different locations.

“There were locations such as cafes and restrooms. They had to choreograph a routine which made full use of the limited space.

“We did this because we wanted to test their ability to adapt to any environment they find themselves in,” said Tan.

To prepare them for the finals this Sunday, the 23 finalists were flown to Japan to understand its street dance culture and pick up a few skills along the way. Last year’s finalists were sent to Korea.

“Japan’s street dancers are all-rounders, whereas the Koreans are more specialised in certain techniques,” said Tan.
Dance instructor Nikki Cheang, 29, is no stranger to Astro Battleground. Seven years ago, she led her dance crew Racken Force to victory in the competition. However, this year’s participation brings new challenges even to the experienced dancer.

“I wanted to try something new. Every stage (in this competition) is like a final stage to me because I don’t know when I would leave,” said the 29-year-old dancer.

 Alex Tan (left) and Nikki Cheang are both former Astro Battleground champions, participating in this year's solo competition format.

Alex Tan (left) and Nikki Cheang are both former Astro Battleground champions, participating in this year’s solo competition format.

Cheang added that the experience in Japan was a very refreshing one as it took the dancers back to the basics.

“The instructors there focused a lot on our foundations, and in the middle of class there would be (workout sessions) such as sit-ups – which doesn’t happen in Malaysia,” she said.

Alex Lim, 25, who is already an accomplished full-time dancer-choreographer, feels that this year’s competition is like a completely different playing field.

One of the challenges Lim faced was working with the other dancers. Although it was initially difficult, Lim and the others found ways to compromise.

“I learnt how to deal with other people. There were a lot of fights and arguments, but we reached a point where we all agreed that if there is any problem, we should just voice it out,” said Lim.

The Astro Battleground 2013 grand finals will be aired on Wah Lai Toi Astro Ch 311 / Wah Lah Toi HD Astro Ch 310 on November 24 at 8pm

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