A football injury eight years ago sent Tristan Thomas, aka Kool Aid, aka, Killa Bee, on a quest for dance. While living in Japan, he knew he wanted to learn urban street dance, or breaking, when he was inspired by an episode of the anime show, Samurai Champloo. One of the characters performed a windmill, a continuous spinning move performed on the floor across the shoulders and torso. He attempted the move in his living room and according to Tristan, “I sucked.”
But through determination, self-teaching and friends he learned the moves and started entering “battles,” which are dance competitions where dancers compete against each other with ever increasingly difficult and innovative moves to impress the judges. He also met Joshua Perkins of the Bboy Federation in Salt Lake
The Bboy Federation is housed in a facility sponsored by the Utah Arts Alliance. According to their website, “UAA aims to foster the arts in ALL forms in order to create an aware, empowered and connected community.” The Bboy Federation has an open, inviting dance space for practice and battles. It gives an ever increasing number of dancers a home and a place to try out new moves. Tristan says, “When I first started going to battles there would be 20 people in the room with eight battling. Now there can be up to 100.”
Tristan competes as much as possible and excels at it. “I don’t care if I”m sick or hurt – it doesn’t matter. I compete.” The battles are run bracket-style. After a preliminary round where judges watch all the dancers and decide who is good enough to advance, the battle rounds begin and are whittled down until only two remain. Those two battle it out until a winner is crowned.
Tristan has tried other forms of dance such as popping and ballet. After a few hours of ballet he said he gained a huge respect for what the artists do. Besides battling Tristan now teaches, passing on what he’s learned. He also performs. He’s been in a couple of movies; High School Musical 3 and My Dear, Dumb Diary, along with some commercials, but his first love is still the thrill of dancing in a battle.
The key to winning, according to Tristan, is to stay focused. “Dance to the music versus just doing cool moves. Whoever is in the moment, dancing and looking good while they do it, will win.”
Story by Connie Lewis