16 men and women enter, 15 get served.

When it comes to Osakan culture, people often think of food or comedy, but the city often doesn’t get enough credit for dance. Amazing dancers can often be seen practicing on the street all over the city, with the silver ball of the Osaka City Air Terminal being a particularly popular loadstone for all kinds of dancers, from b-boys to para para girls.

▼ Even in the blazing afternoon heat you can find people there practicing

So, it seems really fitting that Osaka was chosen as the venue for the national finals of the Red Bull Dance Your Style street dance contest. This is where 16 of the top dancers gather together to battle it out head to head in brackets to determine which one will go on to perform at the world finals in Germany later this year.

The top four finalists from the Kanto and Nagoya rounds will face off against six wild card entrants and two very special guests: Kaito “Umi” Nakamura and Noel Kawashima from our friends at Travis Japan!

From left to right: Tiny Twiggz, Noel, Boxer, Ibuki, Jumpei, Umi, Momopeach, Ringo Winbee, Rita, Yuya, Runa Miura, Hiyori, Aoi, Seina, Nao, and Ryu

The tournament kicked off with Ringo Winbee taking on Rita. It was pretty evenly matched, with both dancers using similar popping techniques that make themselves look like a recording that’s getting sped up and slowed down. But in a very close vote, Ringo clinched the first win of the event.

▼ Ringo Winbe

Next up were Momopeach and Yuya. Momopeach brought a house style with a lot of fluid leg moves, but it felt a bit like she was holding back. As a result, Yuya’s locking and hip-hop style won the vote in the end.

▼ Momopeach vs Yuya

The next round saw Umi from Travis Japan square off with Runa Miura. Every battle consists of two rounds, each with a different song, and for their first song, they got “Mixed Nuts” by Official Hige Dandism, which is the theme song to Spy X Family and a pretty hard song to dance to.

Umi danced first and made use of the more fluid music with some popping and locking along with some smooth leg work that had touches of Michael Jackson.

However, I don’t think Umi or anyone in the audience was prepared for what Runa Miura was about to unleash. He appeared to be double-jointed just about everywhere in his body and his dancing had elements of a contortionist act as he hurled himself around the dance floor in almost inhuman ways.

The second round was to Flo Rida’s “Right Round” which let Umi open things up a bit more with some faster moves.

But this also gave Miura a chance to double down on his own unique set of moves. It was strange but really made an impact and allowed him to win the popular vote from the crowd, knocking Umi out of the tournament.

▼ The full battle

It was an unfortunate loss, but few dancers probably would have been able to survive that match faced with the first look at Miura’s moves. After the tournament, we were able to get a statement from Umi about how he felt:

“It was so much fun to let loose with people who love to dance as much as we do. Everyone was so creative and brought so much energy to each of their performances, and combined with the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd reminded me again why we as Travis Japan keep loving what we do too. Thank you so much to Red Bull for letting us join in!”

In the next battle, Hiyori came out guns blazing and seemed fully in control, never rushing and moving perfectly in sync with the music. As a result, she handily defeated her opponent Junpei and emerged as an early favorite to go all the way.

▼ Hiyori

Ikuna went up against Aoi after that, and despite Aoi’s very impressive popping, Ibuki showed a more diverse range of styles with the impeccable timing of a real pro. This allowed her to move on to the next stage.

▼ Ibuki

Then it was Boxer’s turn to face off with Seina. I thought Seina really brought more to the table with her dances that incorporated a lot of locking and just felt like pure fun. Boxer managed some breaking ground moves which was nice, but he mostly felt repetitive to me. It would seem I was in the minority though, since he managed to win the vote and move on.

▼ At least I can still give Seina her props here

Finally, it was time for Travis Japan’s Noel to hit the floor against Nao. It was almost as if Noel had learned from Umi’s loss to a more flamboyant dancer and went all out with an array of wild house moves to SugLawd Familiar’s “Longiness Remix.” He was pulling out all the stops, from spins to Neo bullet-time backbends and much more.

Meanwhile, Nao stuck mainly to popping. That being said, he was a master at it and seemed able to control every single muscle in his body right down to his cheeks, moving everything to the rhythm. Noel came even harder in the second round with Michael Jackson’s “Heartbreaker” playing. The guy even did a backflip!

Nao also upped his game in this round, but ultimately it felt like more of the same. And yet, when it came time to vote, Nao narrowly came out ahead, much to my surprise. I mean, call me old fashioned, but when someone breaks out a backflip the battle should be over right then and there.

▼ The full battle

The last battle of the first stage was Tiny Twiggz vs Ryu. Tiny was a fireball on the dance floor and drove all his moves home with the highest intensity seen so far, but Ryu’s routine seemed to incorporate a bit of every style, all flawlessly executed. While it was a hard-fought battle, Ryu came out top.

▼ Tiny Twiggz, cleared for takeoff

The next stage saw the playing field narrowed further with Yuya knocking out Ringo Wingbee, Ikuna topping Boxer, and Ryu outperforming Nao. But perhaps the most heated battle of the whole tournament was Hiyori vs Runa Miura.

The first two rounds resulted in a vote too close to call, so an extra round was set. Since the crowd already saw what Miura could do, the shock-and-awe effect of it was diminished a bit. It was still a great performance that outdid his previous one, though.

▼ The first two rounds

▼ The extra round

But Hiyori seemed able to take advantage of the lack of surprise with her own solid performance to seize the overtime win.

This led to the semifinal, consisting of Hiyori, Yuya, Ryu, and Ibuki – all dancers who incorporated a variety of styles in their routines. Both battles were close calls, but Hiyori edged out Yuya, and Ryu slipped past Ibuki to make it to the finals.

▼ Ryu vs Ibuki

The final battle was three rounds set to “Traveling” by Hikaru Utada, “Otonablue” by Atarashii Gakko!, and “Talking Box” by WurtS. Both were evenly matched and knew to save their best stuff until the last song to leave a lasting impression on the crowd.

▼ The full batlle

But while both were comparable dancers, Ryu seemed a little better at playing to the crowd. And since they were the ones who would ultimately decide the winner, that seemed to be the deciding factor that put him just over the top. He even punctuated his routine with a drop kick at the end that seemed more like Blanka than Ryu, but it made the crowd go wild nonetheless.

And with that, Ryu will advance to the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final in Frankfurt, Germany, on 4 November. He’ll have his work cut out for him as he goes up against the top dancers from over 30 other countries.

Everyone did a great job on this day, but it’s hard to argue that Ryu wasn’t the best overall. Still, I can’t help but feel Noel got a raw deal in his battle early on…

▼ I especially liked how he stuck his hand up his shirt to make it look like an Alien was bursting out of his chest. I’m not sure if that was intentional, but I like to think it was.

It’s probably for the best anyway, since Umi, Noel, and the rest of Travis Japan already have more than enough on their plate when it comes to traveling around the world and performing.

So, let’s all give our support to Ryu when he takes on the world this November, live in Germany and on Red Bull TV.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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