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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Breakdancing)
This article is about the hip hop dance style. For the amusement park ride, see Breakdance (ride).
A boy hitting (holding) a pike
A boy hitting (holding) a pike

Breakdance (media coined phrase), also known as breaking, b-girling or b-boying, is a street dance style that evolved as part of the hip hop movement that originated among African American youths in the South Bronx of New York City during the early 1970s. It is arguably the best known of all hip hop dance styles.


Origin: From Street to Dance

Breaking was born when street corner DJ's (in legend it is DJ Kool Herc who was first) would take the breakdown sections (or "breaks") of dance records and string them together without any elements of the song per se. This provided a raw rhythmic base for improvising and further mixing, and it allowed dancers to display their skills during the break.

Popular speculations of the early 1980s suggest that breakdancing, in its organized fashion seen today, began as a method for rival gangs of the ghetto to mediate and settle territorial disputes.[1] In a turn-based showcase of dance routines, the winning side was determined by the dancer(s) who could outperform the other by displaying a set of more complicated and innovative moves.[2]

It later was through the highly energetic performances of funk legend James Brown and the rapid growth of dance teams, like the Rock Steady Crew of New York City, that the competitive ritual of gang warfare evolved into a pop-culture phenomenon receiving massive media attention. Parties, disco clubs, talent shows, and other public events became typical locations for breakdancers, including gang members for whom dancing served as a positive diversion from the threats of city life.

Though its intense popularity eventually faded in the 1980s, breakdancing persists as a mainstream phenomenon, maintaining exposure through often comical portrayals in commercials, movies, and the media. Breakdancing remains an enjoyable pastime for enthusiasts and, for a few, a serious competitive dance where annual exhibitions and competitions of all levels take place.[3]

The Dance

For more details on this topic, see List of breakdance moves.

Breakdancing is generally unstructured and highly improvisational, allowing the incorporation of many different elements. A basic routine might include toprock, a transition into downrock, and finally a climactic freeze or suicide.

Toprock refers to any string of steps performed from a standing position, relying upon a mixture of coordination, flexibility, style, and most importantly, rhythm. Almost unorthodox-looking in general, it is usually the first and foremost opening display of style, and it serves as a warm-up for transitions into more acrobatic maneuvers. Downrock includes all footwork performed on the floor, most notably the 6-step. Downrock blends into more athletic power moves like the windmill, swipe, and flare. More generally, a dancer's "footwork" refers his or her proficiency with foot speed and control. Many moves are borrowed from gymnastics and martial arts. In particular, uprock is a competitively oriented type of toprock consisting of foot shuffles, spins, turns, and creative movements that may mimic combat. It was developed from the "Jinga", a footwork pattern used in capoeira, which was taught to youth in African-American community centers as a method of developing self-esteem and character.

Freezes halt all body motion in a stylish pose, the most skillful poses requiring suspension off the floor using specific parts of the body. Whereas freezing refers to a single pose, locking[4] entails a sharp transition between each of multiple freezes, like clicks associated with door bolts. Self-destructive moves are referred to as suicides, and they see dancers landing safely (usually) in seemingly painful positions.

"Battles" refer to any level of competition in which breakdancers in an open space (typically a circle or square) participate in quick-paced, turn-based routines, whether improvised or planned. Participants vary in number, ranging from head-to-head duels to battles of opposing breakdance crews, or teams. Winners are determined by the side exhibiting the most proficient combinations of moves. "Cyphers," on the other hand, are open-forum, mock exhibitions where competition is less emphasized.

Pop Culture

Since its inception, breakdancing has provided a youth culture constructive alternative to violent urban street gangs. Today, breakdancing culture is a remarkable discipline somewhere in-between those of dancers and athletes. Since acceptance and involvement centers on dance skills, breakdancing culture is usually free of the common race, gender and age boundaries of a subculture and has been accepted worldwide.

The World Scene

Social interaction centers on practice and performance, which are occasionally intertwined because of its improvisational style. While featured at dance schools, breakdancing is very difficult, typically taught to newbies, or beginners, by more experienced breakdancers and passed on to new generations by informal word-of-mouth way. Because of this, clubs and hip-hop schools do exist, however, but are rare in number and more so in organization.

Because of its functional demands on music and clothing, breaking culture has become largely separated from


As the cliched quote "break to the beat" insists, music is a staple ingredient for breakdancing. The original songs that popularized the dance form borrow significantly from progressive genres of jazz, soul, funk, electro or electro funk, disco, and R&B. (See 1970s and 1980s). The most common feature of breakdance music exists in breaks, or compilations formed from samples taken from different songs which are then looped and chained together by the DJ, where the tempo generally ranges between 110 and 135 beats-per-minute with shuffled 16th and quarter beats in the percussive pattern. History credits Kool Dj Herc for the invention of this concept, later termed breakbeat.

The musical selection is not restricted to hip-hop and as long as the tempo and beat pattern conditions are met. It can be readily adapted by varying taste (often with the aid of remixing) to any type of music. World competitions have seen the unexpected progressions and applications of heavily European electronica, and even opera.


For most breakdancers, fashion is a defining aspect of identity. Breakdancers of the 1980s typically sported flat-soled Adidas, Puma, or Fila shoes with thick, elaborately patterned laces. Some breakdancers matched their hats, shirts, and shoes to show uniformity within a breakdancing crew, and was perceived a threat to the competitor in the form of "strength in numbers." B-boys also wore nylon tracksuits which were functional as well as fashionable. The slick, low-friction surface allowed the breakdancer to slide on the floor much more readily than if he or she had been wearing a cotton shirt. Hooded nylon jackets allowed dancers to perform head spins and windmills with relative ease. Additionally, the popular image of the original breakdancer always involved a public performance on the street, accompanied by the essential boombox and an oversized sheet of cardboard serving as the dance floor.

B-boys today dress differently from b-boys in the 80s, but one constant remains, and that is dressing "fresh".[citation needed] Due to the spread of breakdancing as an artform from the inner cities out into the suburbs and to different social groups, different senses of "fresh" have arisen. Generally the rule that one's gear needs to match has remained from the 80s, along with a certain playfulness. Kangols are still worn by some, track pants and nylons still have their place combined with modern sneakers and hats. Trucker hats were reintroduced on the scene in the late 1990s, well before the mainstream pop culture began wearing them again in numbers.[citation needed]

Function is heavily intertwined with b-boy fashion. Due to the demands on the feet in b-boying, b-boys look for shoes with low weight, good grip, and durability when given pressure to the sole as well as elsewhere. Headwear can facilitate movement with the head on the ground, especially headspins. Bandannas underneath headwear can protect from the discomfort of fabric pulling on hair. And wristbands placed along the arm can lower friction at a particular place as well as provide protection. Today's breakdancing styles, which emphasize fast-paced, fluid floor moves and freezes, differ from that of two decades ago, requiring more freedom of movement in the upper body. Therefore, less baggy upperwear is more common today (though pants remain baggy).[citation needed]

There are dancers and crews that now have begun to dress in a style similar to "goth" or punk rockers in order to stand out from the more traditional toned-down b-boy look.

Certain clothing brands have been associated with breaking. Tribal is an example. Puma is also well known in the breaking community. Both brands sponsor many b-boy events.

But aside from these generalities, many b-boys choose not to try too hard to dress for breaking, because in a certain sense one would want to be able to break anytime, anywhere, whatever the circumstances.[citation needed] This is related to why many would rather learn headspins without a helmet, despite their use being able to facilitate the technique more easily.

Breakdancing as a Folk Dance

There is some academic interest in whether breaking can be considered a folk dance. In particular, street dances are living and evolving dance forms, while folk dances are to a significant degree bound by tradition. Breakdancing was in the beginning a social dance but in the later years, because of media and television, its goal has become more of a performance oriented dance.

Breakdancing as a Stage Show

Any different countries, most notably in South Korea, different stage companies and individual breakdancing crews are creating musicals and stage shows that are either based on, or focus on breakdancing. Most notable of them include A Ballerina Who Loved A B-Boy, a musical that is played by real professional breakdancers which includes Extreme Crew, Maximum Crew, and Able Crew, and tells a story of a ballerina who falls in love with a power of breakdancing. Another famous breakdancing musical is Marionette, performed, created and choreographied by a famous Korean breakdancing crew Expression. It is a 90-minutes non-verbal performance that is based on a 9-minutes show Marionette that was created by the same group, early 2006. The show has gained much recognition through self-promotion using videos and sites such as in order to gain recognition, and many countries have invited the crew to perform in their respective countries.

Media Exposure

In the 1980s, with the help of pop culture and MTV, breakdancing made its way from the suburbs to the rest of the world as a new cultural phenomenon. Musicians such as Michael Jackson popularized much of the breakdancing style in their music videos. Movies such as Flashdance, Wild Style, Beat Street, Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo also contributed to breakdancing's growing appeal. Today, many b-boys and former breakers are disappointed by the media hype that watered the dance down into money and overfocus on power moves. Finally though, Breaking was given its proper respect in the critically acclaimed feature documentary film; The Freshest Kids - a history of the b-boy. The film captured the true essence of the culture and also accurately traced the origin and evolution of the dance and its place within the Hip Hop movement.

Breakdancing in Fiction

The first breakdancing themed novel, Kid B, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006. The author, Linden Dalecki, was an amateur b-boy in high school and directed a short documentary film about Texas b-boy culture before writing the novel. The novel evolved from Dalecki's b-boy themed short story The B-Boys of Beaumont, which won the 2004 Austin Chronicle short story contest.

Pop-Media References to Breakdancing

  • Buffalo Gals (Malcolm McLaren music video. 1982): The first breakdancing video on MTV, that brought hip hop to the mainstream, most noticeably in Europe.
  • Wild Style! (Movie. 1982)
  • Flashdance (Movie. 1983): features an appearance by the Rock Steady Crew and a stunt breakdance stand-in for the main character.
  • Style Wars (Movie. 1983): Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's historic PBS documentary Style Wars tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the peak of its popularity, graffiti was as much a part of B-boy culture as rapping, scratching, and breaking.
  • Breakin' (Movie. 1984): The first movie all about breakdancing
  • Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (Movie. 1984).
  • Delivery Boys (Movie. 1984) Genres Comedy, Plot Synopsis: A gang of boys under the Brooklyn Bridge are united by their common interest in break dancing. Some work as pizza delivery boys, hence they call themselves the "Delivery Boys". They form a dance team and enter a local break dance contest, sponsored by a woman's panty manufacturer. A rival gang's sponsor intimidates their employer into thinking she must keep the boys working so they won't be harmed. She gives the boys some "specialized" deliveries to make them late for the contest. The antics and calamities abound as the boys wrestle with her work assignments and getting to the contest on time.
  • Beat Street (Movie. 1984)
  • It's Like That by Run DMC (Music Video. 1997): Quite possibly the dance video responsible for breakdancing's return to mainstream culture. The recording, though seemingly unrelated to the harsh themes of the song, features a comical battle between two talented respectively all-female and male crews.
  • Bust A Groove (Video game franchise. 1998): The two games series by 989 Studios which spanned comprises of a rhythm based gameplay that featured characters with distinctly unique dance styles. The fictional main character, "Heat," former F-1 racer, specializes in breakdancing, while other selectable characters, punk Gas-O and alien twins Capoiera use respectively house and (obviously) Capoiera martial arts.
  • Zoolander. (Movie. 2001): On a catwalk, model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) engage in a "walk-off," or a mock modeling exhibition which sees both them randomly performing breakdancing moves—notably the Robot, the wallflip, and a few windmills. Later in the film, Hansel uses headspins to kick his enemy's face, an absurd act to which villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) blurts, "They're breakdance fighting!"
  • Save the Last Dance (Movie. 2001)[citation needed]
  • Days Go By by Dirty Vegas (Music Video. 2002)
  • Pro-Test by Skinny Puppy (Music Video. 2004): Features B-Boys breakdancing on a sidewalk in Los Angeles, when a group of Goths show up to the B-Boys ridicule. At this point a battle breaks out between the B-Boys and the goths with the goths winning out in the end. The video also features Krumping.
  • You Got Served (Movie. 2004): The film essentially centers on street dancing, where two inner-city dancers (played by Omarion Grandberry and Marques Houston) along with their crew, compete in a tournament to regain their pride and money lost in a hasty bet. Though marred by mediocre acting and story plot, the film was praised for high-level choreography and featured world-class breakdancers from California. The movie also popularized the slang term "served."
  • South Park - You Got F'd in the A (Television series. 2004): This episode features a parody to the plot seen in You Got Served.
  • Galvanize by The Chemical Brothers (Music Video. 2005): features three young boys who sneak out of their homes late at night wearing clown makeup and then sneak into a dance club for a break dance competition focuses heavily on Krump the song mixes Hip-hop and Electronica elements.
  • B-boy (videogame) (2006): an upcoming console game which aims at an unadulterated depiction of breakdancing[5]
  • Break (Mini Series 2006) The Korean mini series featured well known singers and dancers including Poppin' Nam Hyun Joon that brings people of all backgrounds into a breakdancing competition.
  • Over the Rainbow (Drama series 2006) centers on a different characters who are brought together by breakdancing as they all try to aim for fame. This series includes many popular Korean stars including Fany of Fly to the Sky and also guest stars many Korean bboys including the 2005 BOTY champions, Last for One's Zero-nine.
  • Energy Drink Energzen Commercial (2006) A Korean commercial featuring Bboy Bruce Lee from the 2004 BOTY champions Gambler.
  • Canon in D Korean video clip (2006) features a famous DJ, beatboxer, and three members of the 2005 BOTY champions, Last for One in two different versions.
  • South Korea vs North Korea Breakdancing video clip (2005) depicts the separation of these two nations and the will for reunification through bboying. Ths video clip includes world famous breakdancers Bboy Ducky (Drifterz). Bboy Trickx (Drifterz), Bboy Phyicx (Rivers), and Hong 10 (Drifterz).
  • World famous Korean crews including Gambler Crew, Rivers Crew, Extreme (Obowang) Crew, Drifterz Crew and more have participated in creating breakdancing tutorial clips shown on television and online to help instruct the new generation of aspiring bboys.
  • In addition, members of the boy band Shinhwa including Minwoo and Junjin have participated in teaching their own breakdancing skills to their fans.
  • The 2002 BOTY champions, Expression Crew, the 2004 BOTY champions, Gambler Crew, and the 2005 BOTY champions, Last for One along with many other well known crews have created schools for aspiring breakdancers and advertisement in Korea has been profound as they have recruited hundreds of students from around their country.
  • Korean cell phone commercial features Poppin' Nam Hyun Joon dancing through the city with his cell phone.
  • KIA commercial features Poppin' Nam Hyun Joon dancing in the city along with other random people off the street.
  • Korean singers have been known for incorporating breakdancing moves into their choreography. This includes:
    • Pan Asian star Se7en (singer) in his music videos and performances including "Passion", "Crazy", "Once More, One More Time (Han bon, Han bon do)", "I Know", and more.
    • Pan Asian star BoA in her 2005 "Girls on Top" performance at the M.Net 2005 Music Awards.
    • Pan Asian star Rain (singer) in his music videos and performances "It's Raining", "Bad Guy", "I'm Coming", and more.
    • Group Big Bang (group) in their music videos and performances "V.I.P", "We Belong Together", "My Girl", and more.
    • YG Family in their 2003 music video "Get Ready."
    • Group 1TYM in ther music videos and performances including "1TYM", "Ready or Not", "Nasty", "Hot 뜨거", "어쩔겁니까",and more.
    • Group Jinusean in their music videos and performances "Gasoline"m "A-Yo", and more.
    • Boy band Battle in their 2006 debut music video "Crash."
    • Korean popstar, Hyori's famous 2003 music video "Anymotion" featuring Eric of Shinhwa shows scenes of breakdancing as Eric tries to help Hyori and her dance crew aspire to win the dance auditions.
    • Boy Band Shinhwa in their music videos and performances including "Yo!", "Only One", "Problem Solver", "All Your Dreams", "Wild Eyes", "Brand New", and more.
    • Jang Woo Hyuk in his music videos "Flip Reverse", "The Sun That Never Sets", "Pump Flow" and more.
    • Boy band TVXQ in their music videos and performances including "Rising Sun" and "O."
    • Minwoo in his music videos and performances including "Bump!!" as both a soloist and a member of Shinhwa.
    • Dancer turned singer, Poppin' Nam Hyun Joon has been well received for incorporating difficult moves into his dance routines.
  • Pump It Up is a Korean game that requires physical movement of the feet. The game is open for breakdancing and many people have accomplished this feat by memorizing the steps and creating dance moves to hit the arrows on time. See World Pump Freestyle (WPF) videos.
  • In 2005, the widow of Gene gave permission to Volkswagen as part of their Volkswagen Golf GTi promotion, to use Gene Kelly's likeness. However, despite Mrs. Kelly's urging, the German auto maker refused to show the commercial in the U.S.. The television clip featured a partly CGI version of Kelly breakdancing to a new version of "Singin' in the Rain", remixed by Mint Royale. The tagline was, "The original, updated."
  • 2006, outside of the large shopping mall at Dongdaemun in Seoul, South Korea, a number of bboys gathered to promote a new mp3 product during the peak of shopping hours successfully gathering lots of attention.
  • In later installments of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series, Sonic is known to breakdance as a form of celebration, or even as attack moves in some situations.
  • In the game Super Smash Bros. Melee for Nintendo GameCube, some characters use breakdancing moves for their downward smash attack.
  • In the novel Kid B by Linden Dalecki, published on Houghton Mifflin (2006). The first, and currently only, novel set in the world of b-boying.


Though recreational, the dance is not without its heated debates.

In The Name

Some practitioners contest the usage of label "breaker" or "breakdancer" to describe "one who breakdances," preferring to be called b-boys or b-girls. These dancers claimed that the term "breakdance" was overused or had been created by the media as a marketing device.[citation needed]

Style vs. Technique

Multiple stereotypes have emerged in the breakdancing community over the give-and-take relationship between technical footwork and physical prowess. Those who focus on dance steps and fundamental sharpness—but lack upper-body brawn, form, discipline, etc.—are labeled as "style-heads" and specialists of more gymnastics-oriented technique and form—at the cost of charisma and coordinated footwork—are known as "power-heads." Such terms are used colloquially often to classify one's skill, however, the subject has been known to disrupt competitive events where judges tend to favor a certain array of techniques.

Gang association

It has often been stated that breakdancing replaced fighting between street gangs, though some believe it a misconception that b-boying ever played a part in mediating gang rivalry. These gang roots made breakdancing itself seem controversial in its early history.

Internet e-boys

In contrast to subcultural forums, there are Internet b-boys, also known as wannabE-boys, e-boys' or Otaku b-boys in Japan. These individuals are particularly self-taught, learning moves seen in video clips, read in instructional text or otherwise acquired from online sources. Some argue against this antisocial behavior, while others defend self-tutoring for the lack of instructors or social circles that can provide the necessary directions needed for learning. Certain e-boys are also known to spend too much time on the Internet criticizing other dancers and video clips instead of practicing or attending events. B-boys and B-girls are a minority in many countries so, many e-boys would participate but find it hard to find other similary minded people. With the increasing popularity of breakdancing a growing number of e-boys will probably become b-boys.

Breakdancers of some groups look down upon e-boys as "not having their heart in hip-hop," a subculture based around much social bonding and skill development.[citation needed]

Injury risks

Often the danger inherent in breakdancing is overemphasized. As with any other strenuous activity, a measured risk of physical injury exists. Breakdancers should practice using professional supervision to decrease the chances of personal injuries.



  1. ^ NPR Present at the Creation Breakdancing
  2. ^ The precise origins are unclear. The general consensus among actual survivors of the gang scene is that while the dance may have had the effect of mediation, peaceful interventions were not always the intent nor the outcome of these confrontations. Often, violence was incited as a result of such friendly duels, otherwise known as "battles."
  3. ^ Such world competitions include Battle of the Year and Red Bull BC One.
  4. ^ Though commonly associated with popping and locking (dance) (two elements of the funk styles that evolved independently in California during the late 1960s) breakdance is distinct from popping and locking in that moves require a greater sense of athleticism as opposed to the contortion of limbs seen in pop-and-lock. Dancers who wish to widen their expressive range, however, may typically dabble in all types of hip hop dance.
  5. ^ B-boy article at


  • David Toop (1991). Rap Attack 2: African Rap To Global Hip Hop, p.113-115. New York. New York: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 1-85242-243-2.

External links

  • How to Breakdance Tutorials for breakdancing
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