Growing up in the '80s and '90s in Paradise Hills, Chris Wright— known to most as Cros One—remembers impromptu breakdance sessions in garages and on street corners on nearly every block of his neighborhood.
"In school, we would even cut class to go and battle in the bathroom," Cros laughs. "It was everywhere."
The DJ and former dancer started taking notes at the bigger, tightly produced breaking competitions that started popping up in California, Nevada and Arizona. He hit up every event he could, networking with other b-boys and girls, and, by 1997, he was ready to throw his own regional event. He expected about 300 people at the first, dubbed "Freestyle Session," but more than 800 showed up.
Cros' event quickly snowballed, moving to Los Angles and growing to include qualifier competitions around the globe. Last year, the Freestyle Session World Finals were held in Tokyo, attracting more than 300 international breakdance crews.
This year marks 15 years since the event was born in Chula Vista, so Cros decided to mark the anniversary by bringing the now internationally known breakdance battle back home.
From 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 8 and 9, some of the best breakdancers in the world will converge at the World Beat Center and the Centro Cultural de La Raza in Balboa Park for this year's Freestyle Session World Finals. For $20, spectators can get up-close views of professional dancers battling it out for more than $50,000 in cash prizes in both one-on-one and three-on-three crew competitions.
Last year's winner, Omar Delgado, or Roxrite when it comes to his long, successful breakdancing career, lives in San Diego, so as long as a recent injury doesn't keep him from competing, he'll be back to defend his title. Roxrite travels the world to compete and judge breakdance events; he says Freestyle Session is one of the best and most authentic.
"Cros has been doing a lot of big things for the community and the whole worldwide breakdance scene," he says. "The people who come to the event who don't know anything about it, they get to see the real essence of our dance, none of this washed-up stuff you see in movies."
Cros says that while Freestyle Session is focused on breakdancing, it celebrates hip-hop culture as a whole. There'll be a photography and art exhibition and big-name DJs and MCs will perform, including DJ Qbert and MC Supernatural.
But Cros says the best part of his events is the feeling people get when spontaneous dance circles start breaking out and everyone simultaneously gets into the groove.
"It's kind of a cliché thing to say, but at the end of the day, when all these b-boys and fans alike, when we're all in one place, you can feel it, you don't even have to talk— you're just vibin', you know?"
Organisms alive: Pilobolus are the rock stars of the contemporary-dance world. Their stunts, tricks and visual effects are in high demand, and they're known for pushing human physicality far beyond what most dancers attempt. They'll perform at the California Center for the Arts Escondido at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. $25-$50. artcenter.org
Engaging experimentations: Malashock Dance is known for its edgy, artistic programming. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, the local contemporary-dance company will launch The Engagement Ring, a new series that promises to engage and interact with audiences in interesting ways. Sadie Weinberg will get things going at Dance Place San Diego in Point Loma's Liberty Station. Donation requested. malashockdance.org
Hello, Vietnam: Vietnamese contemporary-dance company Arabesque will bring "The Mist" to the stage in UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. The performance tells the tale of the simple life of rice farmers through an eye-catching piece of choreography. $28-$46. artpwr.com
Back to the stage: The PGK Dance Project is known for its adventurous San Diego Dances series that brings professional performances to unexpected venues. That's why it's surprising to see the group express itself at a traditional venue for its fall performances, happening at various times on Wednesday, Oct. 8, and Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. But artistic director Peter G. Kalivas explains that his goal is to reach audiences wherever they are and provide affordable and accessible world-class dance. $15-$20. thepgkdanceproject.org
Up-close: Famed dancer Isadora Duncan's habit of small, intimate performances in patrons' in-home salons in the early 1900s is the inspiration for The Patricia Rincon Dance Collective's ongoing Salon Dances series, the next of which happens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9, at the Encinitas Library. Get an intimate view when the local dance company performs original choreography by Natalia Valerdi. Donation requested. rincondance.org