Category Archives: Bboy

History of Breakdancing

History of Breakdancing

Breakdancing seems so different from all other kinds of dancing that the first question people ask when they see it is: “Where did these kids learn to dance like that?” To many people, this dance seems to have come out of nowhere. But like everything else, Breakdance did come from somewhere, something and someone. In the case of Breakdancing, that someone is the great superstar, James Brown, and the something is the dance, the Good Foot. In 1969, when James Brown was getting down with his big hit “Get on the Good Foot” the Hustle was the big dance style of the day. If you’ve ever seen James Brown live in concert or on TV, then you know he can really get down. And when he preformed his hit, he did the kind of dance you’d expect James Brown to do. High Energy. This almost acrobatic dance was appropriately enough known as the lot of kids around New York City.

By the time the Good Foot became the new dance style, the tradition of dance battle was well established. Dancers would gather at places like Harlem World on 116th Street in Harlem and Battle-dancewise. Battles are covered in more detail in the section on battles, challanges, and contests, but the important thing as fas as the history of Breakdancing is concerned is that Breakdancing was particularly well-suited for competition. And not only was the Good Foot well- suited for dance battles, it appealed to certain young men who were very athletic.

The Good Foot, which was soon to be called B-Boy and shortly after that Breakdancing, or Breaking, was very different from the Breaking we see today. In some ways it was simpler. There were no Headspind. No Windmill. No Handglides or Backspins. It was what is now called old-style Breaking. Old-Style Breaking consisted only of floor work, or Floor Rock, and in a way it was more complex than modern Breaking. There may be some small variations on the Headspin and a Backspin, but basically, a Headspin is a head spin and a Backspin is a back spin. But Floor Rock can involve some extremely complicated leg moves, and it is done very fast. And it did not take long before where were a lot of Breakdancing battles happening.

Among those for whom old-style Breaking was especially popular were many of the youths and street gangs that roamed the South Bronx. And it was in those streets that Breakdancing really started. Often, the best Breakers in opposing gangs would battle dance wise instead of fighting. They would battle over turf. Or because someone stepped on someone else’s shoes. They might battle prove that their gang was better than the other gang. Sometimes they would make a contract that the loser would not go around to the winner’s neighborhood anymore. Sometimes they battled just to gain each other’s respect. Unfortunately, these Breaking battles did not always stop fight. In fact, they often would cause a fight, since dancers would sometimes get physical when they couldn’t win dance wise. No one likes to lose. But today Breaking battles have, to a large extent, replaced fighting in the Bronx.

In this way Breakdancing crews-groups of dancers who practice and perform together-were formed. And soon formal crews organized, who not only practiced and preformed together, but who also developed their own dance routines. Some of these crews became very dedicated to their dancing, and since they had nothing better to do, would spend hours a day practicing, developing more and more complex moves, improving their form, and increasing their speed. And then Afrika Bambaataa came along. Bambaataa is the legendary grand master D.J. who is the individual most responsible for the successful growth of Breakdancing. He is a record producer and member of the Soul Sonic Force, who’s “Looking For The Perfect Beat” was chosen as the No.4 best single in the 1983 Jazz and pop Critics’ Poll. Afrika Bambaataa is also the leader of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx.

In 1969, Afrika Bambaataa saw Breakdancing as more than just dancing. He saw it as a way to achieve something. He saw the potential of Breakdancing, and encouraged the dancers to keep at it. To work hard, and to believe that if they stuck with it, something good would come of it. Bambaataa then started one of the first Breakdance crews, the Zulu Kings. The Zulu Kings won a lot of battles and talent shows and preformed in various clubs in New York. At the same time they won a lot of adherents for the Zulu Nation.

Old-style Breaking remained popular until about 1977, when the Freak took over, based on the hit record “Freak Out” by the Shieks. Then around 1979 and early 1980 a new Breakdance crew was organized-Rock Steady Crew. Even though Rock Steady Crew was especially talented, a lot of people put them down being old-fashioned. But Bambataa encouraged them. He told them that if they stuck with it, something good would happen. He took them on, and soon they were performing at the Mudd Club, the Ritz, and other Punk rock clubs around New York. When Rock Steady performed for Malcom McLaren and Bow Wow Wow at the Ritz people started taking them seriously. Breakdancing Was In Again.

But the new-style Breaking was different from the old. Rock Steady added a lot of acrobatic moves. Breaking now included not only Floor Rock but Headspins, Backspins, Handglides, and Windmills. In 1981, Charles Ahearn made his Hip-Hop movie, Wild Style, a raw vision of rap singing, graffiti, scratching, and Breakdancing in the Bronx. Ahearn called on Rock Steady to do the Breaking and Rock Steady became the preeminent Breakdance crew and new-style Breaking became even more popular. When the spring of 1982 rolled around the Roxy was a well-established New York roller-skating rink. But the popularity of roller skating quickly began to fade, and in June of ’82, Pat Fuji turned the Roxy into a dance club on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. The Roxy quickly became the Hip Hop center. It was here that rappers, D.J.’s, and Breakdancers would perform and hang out.

If you wanted to discover a Breakdancer for your show or video, you would come to the Roxy. Or if you just wanted to watch or learn some new moves, you would come to the Roxy. And the Roxy started to sponsor Breakdance contests, which would help the winners get more recognition. In June, 1983, Pat Fuji hired professional Jazz dancer Rosanne Hoare to run the Street Arts Consortium, whish was a house Breakdancing, rapping, and graffiti art. Rosy was going to officially establish a home for Hip Hop Culture. While the Street Art Consorium never really happened as envisioned, Rosy did provide a home for Breakdancers. She not only provided a place where they could feel at home, but she worked with them as a choreographer, helping to extend their dance possibilities. She also helped many dancer find commercial and performing dance work. Most importantly, Rosy was-and is-always there as a friend whom they can count on. She herself has taken up Breakdancing.


Source: “Breakdancing with Mr.Fresh & The Supreme Rockers”

B-Boys Are Back

B-Boys Are Back

B-Boys Are Back; in the ’80s, There Was Breakdancing. But First There Was B-Boying.

Remember, if you will, 1984.

“Miami Vice.” Jelly shoes. Acid-washed jeans. Remember Michael Jackson in his red leather jacket with one gloved hand, gliding across the stage in his patented moon walk.

And remember the soda ads and MTV videos that featured punks in parachute pants spinning on their heads as a boombox pumped a beat in the background.

They called it breakdancing.

It spawned its own clothing lines, movies and lingo. It was the coolest, newest invention of the ’80s.

But it really wasn’t. Breakdancing had a history and depth that was lost in the media blitz that surrounded it.

Now, it’s time for a little history lesson.

Almost 20 years before breakdancing appeared, there was something called b-boying.

It was a new, but underground, dance/art form that filled the clubs in New York City.

Not much has changed.

B-boys say theirs is a form of expression that was born underground and has returned there, but only after it was twisted and turned by a mainstream audience.

“The media almost raped it from its true essence,” says B-Boy WiTeBoi, otherwise known as Josh Glawson, 20. “They wanted all the flashy moves and to be wowed.”

B-boying is more than blowing out moves on the sidewalk that make people ask, “Did that hurt?”

And it didn’t disappear at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1989, like other fads of the decade.

It simply stayed true to its roots while the masses moved on to the next hot ticket.

For true b-boys, this is a way of life, almost a religion that begins – and ends – with The Dance.

“A b-boy is what I am,” says B-Boy N-Er-G, known at birth but rarely since then as Sebastian Alexis, 22. “Every culture has a storyteller, a warrior, musicians and artists. (In hip-hop), the DJ is the music player, the MC is the storyteller, graffiti is the art and the b-boy is the warrior.

“We get ready to battle.”

It’s Friday night at Greene Street in downtown Greensboro. The club’s daytime lights still glow bright as the first b-boys – and b- girls – trickle in.

Preteens, high schoolers and college-age kids gather in small groups on the floor.

They’re wearing shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, even dress pants. Their knees and elbows are wrapped in padding.

Their hair is long, short, spiked, braided and buzzed.

They stretch their legs and arms. They chug gallons of water. Just water.

Alcohol is shunned. Like athletes, they say, they need to stay focused.

The crowd thickens. They wait for the preliminary competition to begin, but there’s no time wasted. The b-boy crews, usually three to four dancers who perform together, practice their moves.

Around them, other crews sit on the floor, their legs wrapped underneath them, like schoolchildren watching a performance. They clap, nod their heads in approval and politely wait their turn.

On the wall above the dance floor dangles a giant plastic sign, evidence of the sacrifices b-boys have made to please the masses.

It announces tonight’s battle as a “breakdancing competition.”

If the sign actually – but more correctly – read “b-boying competition,” people might not come.

“If we do foundation (moves) for the media, they won’t even use it,” N-Er-G says. “We know what kind of crowd we’re trying to please, so we say, ‘OK, we have to breakdance at this show.’

“Folks need to know there are other things to this dance.”

The foundation of b-boying was laid in the late 1960s with something called “good foot,” the first freestyle dance that had performers dropping to the floor and spinning in circles.

As the dance evolved, moving or breaking on the beat became the cornerstone of b-boying – not spinning, dropping or kicking feet into the air.

Dancers with precision and rhythm, who did more than just swap moves with those performing around them, became the hottest b-boys around.

“The very first b-boys didn’t do anything on the ground – no spinning,” N-Er-G says. “You have to build a foundation of moves. To really dance, to express yourself, that is the real true art.”

N-Er-G, who performs with his crew, Phat Gravity, was introduced to b-boying at the tender age of 3, when he watched the movie “Beat Street.”

“That was like a lasting impression,” he says.

By 11th grade, he was practicing the moves and “started chilling with other cats,” he says.

Now 22, N-Er-G juggles jobs at Time Warner Cable and Pizza Hut. He’s been a student at N.C. A&T, studying German and fashion, and at GTCC, where he studied graphic design.

But be certain, he knows who he is.

“I don’t find time for b-boying,” he says. “I find time for everything else.”

The battle begins shortly after 11 p.m.

The music is pumping so loudly that a bottle of water bounces off the edge of a subwoofer.

The crowd melts into one giant mass and encircles the dance floor.

As the b-boy crews take their turns in the center of the crowd, other b-boys around them cheer and playfully jeer moves gone awry as elbows, knees, even heads smack the floor.

When b-boys battle, the one with the most distinctive style wins. There are basic moves, but imagination is rewarded.

“If someone does nice footwork and a nice freeze, you want to make sure yours has better style, greater flavor, and demolish the opponent,” WiTeBoi says.

Want to humiliate an opponent? You don’t need to trash talk – just dance. Sexually.

The b-boys use gestures to poke fun at each others’, ahem, size.

“Sex is a great way to dis each other,” says WiTeBoi, who helped organize tonight’s battle. “It’s easy to offend them and make them mess up. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to do this and shut it out. Almost businesslike.”

When he was in elementary school in Charlotte, WiTeBoi says he was the “fat kid” who was sometimes teased. In high school, he dropped the weight and became president of the chess club. “I wasn’t the coolest person,” he admits.

But he wasn’t always keeping his eyes on the chessboard. WiTeBoi watched other kids breaking, and he knew then he wanted to dance.

“It’s human nature to want to dance, but we’re so afraid of what people will think,” he says.

While doing research on the Internet, he came across a Christian group that used breaking as a means of worship.

“I could be a b-boy and a Christian at the same time,” he says. “I can express myself and worship God through dancing.”

He pushed himself to work on the moves.

Now, a few years out of high school and his teenage persona, he has become WiTeBoi.

“I have the confidence to do some stupid move, and people will say, ‘He’s just b-boying,’ ” says WiTeBoi, adding that he wants to work on moves that mix b-boying with traditional swing dancing. “Breaking pushes you a little farther, and you start thinking of different moves. This gives you the feeling to be able to express yourself in dance.”

As the battle wages on, WiTe-Boi is working the crowd.

In the center of the dance floor, bodies are sweaty, the air becomes hot, and looks are shot across the room.

Egos are at stake.

But what happens on the floor, WiTeBoi says, stays there – in most cases. After each battle, the dancers hug, high five or pat each other on the shoulder.

A triumvirate of judges rates each dancer’s style, the moves that take real athletic ability and how clean the routine was.

After winners are announced, there’s grumbling in the audience – even words exchanged – by some b-boys fans.

Just like in sports, there’s a devoted following who never wants to see their favorite lose.

But as long as they can keep b-boying, that’s all that matters.

“(When you dance), you feel like you have to let your soul come out,” WiTeBoi says. “You can get lost in the music.”

N-Er-G adds, “Even if the song is whack.”

Source: Greensboro News Record