Brianna Pritchard’s mornings begin at 3 a.m. on the wooden floors of her home studio in Anchorage, practicing drills, working with mentors across the U.S. and as far away as Finland, and rehearsing choreography — all before work starts at 7 a.m. Pritchard is dedicated. After all, she is the only competitive female breakdancer in Alaska.
Pritchard, also known as Snap1, is competing in the prestigious Red Bull BC One E-Battle, an online breaking contest that pits dancers from across the globe against the world’s most talented B-boys and B-girls.
“I grew up surrounded by B-boys and men, and that’s fine — that has actually really developed my style of breaking,” Snap1 said. “I don’t dance like most B-girls because I was around a masculine type of style. I had worked really hard to be as strong as them, as explosive as them, have as much endurance as them and had to come up with moves and things to compete on their level.”
She spends her days working 10-hour shifts as a helicopter mechanic for the National Guard, where she’s the only woman in the Alaska Guard to have gone through the instructor course, passing with honors in 2017.
Snap1 said working in a male-dominated field has helped her become a stronger competitor.
“That in itself has really taught me how to handle myself, physically, mentally and emotionally,” Snap1 said. “I am surrounded by only males, pretty much.”
Snap1 said that when she first started, there were a handful of B-girls in the state, but they either stopped dancing or moved away. There is a lot of discussion about why the ratio of men to women is so skewed in breaking, she said.
“To be perfectly frank, a lot of the B-boys started dancing to impress the girls,” Snap1 said. “That’s really what it was. They were going to parties and wanted to get the females' attention. Over time, more females started dancing. With me, I didn’t start having a whole lot of interaction with other B-girls until maybe five years into my breaking — until I started traveling.”
More than 800 dancers entered this year’s Red Bull BC One battle, and Snap1 made the top 16 on Monday. She is the only woman from the United States to advance. Snap1 said she made the top 16 in 2018 and the top 8 the following year.
This year, she said, the top 16 will compete in live online battles — a switch from years past due to COVID-19. It’s a format that comes with some challenges.
“My particular style of dancing really thrives on the energy of the competition, so it’s kind of hard to replicate online,” Snap1 said.
Snap1 has some company from Alaska in the top 16.
Jeremy Ives Viray, known to many as Icey Ives, also advanced. Plus, he already has a Red Bull victory under his belt — in 2019 he won the Red Bull BC One U.S. National Finals.
“I’m just happy that I can participate in any way ... It’s not really my forte in terms of battling, because I prefer an actual crowd, and actually somebody that I’m battling in front of,” Icey Ives said. “The energy is definitely different. To tap into that environment online and livestream is definitely different.”
‘More than breaking’
Both Snap1 and Icey Ives were born and raised in Anchorage, where they still live today. Snap1 was first introduced to breaking while attending South Anchorage High School 13 years ago. She said she liked music but didn’t always have the rhythm to match.
“I never really had a natural groove, but I always did have a lot of physical strength and capability because I’ve been an athlete for pretty much my whole life,” Snap1 said. “I knew I could do it physically.”
Icey Ives started out in the scene a bit earlier than Snap1, after watching some older kids dancing at the Spenard Community Recreation Center when he was 10. He graduated from West High School in 2014, and since 2015 he has been traveling nationally and internationally for competitions.
Both dancers were at one point part of the same Anchorage-based dance crew, Express Original Rhythm, but have since joined other forces. Snap1 now represents Flooristas; Icey Ives is part of the world-renowned Rock Force Crew and represents local group Frozen Flow.
“Ever since I got down with (Rock Force Crew), that’s really when all the opportunities hit me,” Icey Ives said. “Frozen Flow — we’re more than breaking, we’re considered an all-style group, meaning that we dance all sorts of genres.”
COVID-19 has put a halt to Icey Ives' travel plans for now, but he still keeps busy. Icey Ives is enrolled in Alaska Career College’s therapeutic massage program and practices two to three times a week.
“As somebody that has been going through aches, pains, injuries throughout the span of ... the years I’ve been dancing, I’ve definitely wanted to get an education that would go hand in hand with dance,” Icey Ives said. “I thought therapeutic massage would be perfect because I can learn the ins and outs of the body and eventually help the people closest around me.”
Whether he makes it to the next qualifying round or not, Icey Ives said he is focused on keeping his mind sharp.
“There are times in my career where I learned that I just need to chill and have fun because I’m taking dance too seriously,” Icey Ives said. “My approach for this is just to treat it like a different day. I learned that if I take something too serious, I kind of lose my mind and lose focus of why I do this for myself.”
Snap1 said she hopes to see more women in Alaska break into the scene.
“It doesn’t matter how isolated you may be or as far away from the mainstream of things, you can still make noise, and you can still put yourself out there,” Snap1 said.