In the early 80’s breakdancing became very popular among young generations thanks to movies and tv productions that brought the phenomenon to the attention of a large audience. Breaking suddenly came out of fashion in the mid 80’s though, leaving dancers with the feeling that everything was over from one day to the other. In 1990 Thomas Hergenroether and his former crew Burning Moves organized the International Breakdance Cup in Hannover, a jam intended to function as a forum for B-Boys from Germany and Europe. They wanted to prove that Breaking was still alive as they had travelled throughout Germany and Switzerland in search of people with their same passion and they had met other dancers, including legendary B-Boys like Storm, Swiftrock and Speedy. The event was promoted only through a few phone numbers and some post mail addresses: in the end almost 500 people joined from Germany, Uk and Switzerland.
The full name "Battle of the Year" was used for the first time in 1992. Battle of the Year (formerly "International Breakdance Cup" in 1990 and "The Battle" in 1991) was probably the first battle ever organized by dancers. In those years dancers had to travel to other cities and countries in order to find people sharing their same passion. Events were promoted by word of mouth and flyers/posters were distributed via post mail. Dancers didn’t know what to expect when joining an event. At that time Battle of the Year was already different from other jams because of its “showcase” formula, which was already pushing crews to work together and present themselves as a group sharing a vision. True passion for breakdancing as well as a very popular meet-and-exchange approach are recognized as distinguishing elements of the community atmosphere in those years.
In 1994 Mode2 from the UK started designing BOTY posters in the middle of a cultural evolution. In the early days people in Europe had their own interpretation of what they thought Hip Hop was and only little reference existed. All of a sudden the rise of Mtv, rap music and videoclips created new visual references. BOTY posters in the mid 90’s were the result of such evolution: artworks were intended to be attractive both for Bboys with an "authentic attitude" as well as for an extended audience. Posters reflected a very wide demographic spectrum, ranging from B-Boys to families.
In the pre-internet era videotapes deeply contributed to turn BOTY into an international event attracting Crews from all over the World. The first BOTY VHS tape was produced in 1995, however unofficial tapes of the 1990 to 1994 editions were spread in the USA after being delivered from Europe via post mail and converted from PAL to NTSC. Official VHS tapes were then distributed in Europe and quickly reached Canada, the USA and the Far East. Many Bboys all over the world report that they started breakdancing after watching a BOTY VHS tape. Despite initial criticism the entire merchandising production of those years, including vinyls, CD’s and t-shirts contributed to support BOTY in facing expenses and making the event happen every year.
In 2000 the biggest BOTY ever - until then - took place at the Expo Hannover 2000. The international growth supported by VHS tapes and the conjunction with a large scale happening led to an event with more than 10.000 people. The event was attended not only by bboys and community members but also by a mainstream audience who was not actively involved in the culture. Such a large scale success left the BOTY team with a serious issue regarding the future though, as they all felt that the community atmosphere of the early days had gone.
Following the huge event in 2000 the BOTY team had to face the reality of a growing phenomenon which could not be reversed. That’s why the BOTY team came up with the idea of creating a side-program made of smaller events in order to preserve a more friendly and authentic atmosphere. Starting 2001 BOTY was integrated with smaller side-events (parties, dance workshops, graphic workshops and panel discussions) so that younger generations could experience a more authentic vibe and key values of the culture.
In the early 2000’s the level of breakdancing evolved significantly. Crews from the Far East, especially South Korea and Japan, started to rule the scene thanks to their technical skills and quality of their team work. Some rules were needed in order to face such evolution, provide feedback to bboys regarding choices by judges and set some standards for the future. A BOTY judging system was created by the BOTY team in order to give values to the work by Bboys and help them understanding their weaknesses and strengths as crews and dancers. The system was based on a concept by Crazy and developed by a panel including Storm, Speedy, Vartan, Thomas Hergenroether and Crazy himself.
BOTY became more and more international with Crews joining from a growing number of countries. Long plane trips, high transportation costs and visa procedures became part of the game to keep the event up and running. Such process was presented at design level in BOTY posters: architectural and cultural elements from different areas of the planet or international meeting points - like airport hubs - appeared in the BOTY designs around classic characters.
In 1998 the first BOTY qualifier was organized in Switzerland. The number of qualifiers organized by local promoters grew year by year, including countries from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Americas. In order to maximize the dialogue among so many activists and professionals an annual international partners meeting was launched in 2006: a forum to discuss ideas, issues and solutions for the future. In 2007 an asian partners meeting was also launched to help asian partners avoiding costs to travel to Europe. Since 2006 BOTY promoters have been meeting every year in the effort to grow as a network and build bridges between the scene and other fields of the contemporary society.
Even if BOTY appeared as a very solid and successful event, the economic risk related to the organization had always been a serious threat for the event itself and the people producing it. Some poor support by local institutions and sponsors was not enough to secure such an expensive event. That's why alternatives were considered at proper time. Due to positive activism by Thomas Raymond (BOTY France) and a more effective cultural funding policy in France, BOTY moved to Montpellier from 2010 to 2012. Thanks to a true cultural exchange between the german team and french team, BOTY found a new home for three years experiencing a mixed management. Such practice paved the way to considering new opportunities for the future.
In 2013 Sony Pictures released “Battle of the Year - The Movie”, a Hollywood dance movie based on the 2007 “Planet Bboy” documentary by Benson Lee. Following the success of several dance movies like You Got Served or the StepUp series, Sony Pictures decided to invest on such project as they had bought rights for a movie based on “Planet Bboy”, which was shot at BOTY. Despite initial fears the entire project was organized as a cooperation between the BOTY team and Sony Pictures. Some of the most credible B-Boys were involved in the movie to play main characters and real speaking roles. A great part of the movie was shot at BOTY 2011 in Montpellier featuring real scenes from the event and real audience in the venue.
In 2014 BOTY celebrated its 25th Anniversary in Germany with 18 Crews from all over the World. New Crews from new countries appeared on stage bringing their unique energy, flavor and hunger. Despite deep changes in the cultural and social ecosystem and the fact that B-Boys are more and more encouraged as individuals rather than as Crews, BOTY is still motivated in defending key values of the culture and support the evolution of breakdancing into our society.