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Breakdance

Breakdance, breaking, b-boying or b-girling is a street dance style that evolved as part of the hip hop movement among African American and Puerto Rican youths in Manhattan and the South Bronx of New York City during the early 1970s. It is normally danced to pop, funk or hip hop music, often remixed to prolong the breaks, and is a well-known hip hop dance style. A breakdancer, breaker, b-boy or b-girl refers to a person who practices breakdancing.

Breakdancing may have begun as a constructive youth culture alternative to the violence of urban street gangs. Today, breakdancing culture is a remarkable discipline somewhere between those of dancers and athletes. Since acceptance and involvement centers on dance skills, breakdancing culture is often free of the common race, gender and age boundaries of a subculture and has been accepted worldwide.

Origins: From street to dance

Breaking became popular in the Western world when street corner disc jockeys would take the rhythmic breakdown sections (or "breaks") of dance records and string them together without any elements of the melody. This provided a raw rhythmic base for improvising and further mixing, and it allowed dancers to display their skills during the break.

Breakdancing, in its organized fashion seen today, may have begun as a method for rival gangs of the ghetto to mediate and settle territorial disputes. 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.

Michael Jackson's televised performance of the robot dance in 1974 displayed elements of the breakdance subculture to a wide audience and helped spark its popularity. Meanwhile, dance teams such as the Rock Steady Crew of New York City changed the dance into a pop-culture phenomenon receiving a large amount of media attention. In the 1980s, parties, disco clubs, talent shows, and other public events became typical locations for breakdancers. Though its intense popularity eventually faded in the mid-1980s, in the following decades breakdancing became an accepted dance style portrayed in commercials, movies, and the media. Instruction in breakdancing techniques is even available at dance studios where hip-hop dancing is taught. Some large annual breakdancing competitions of the 2000s include the Battle of the Year or the Red Bull BC One.

Shortly after groups such as the Rock Steady Crew came to Japan, breakdancing within Japan began to flourish. Each Sunday performers would breakdance in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. One of the first and most influential Japanese breakdancers was Crazy-A, who is now the leader of the Tokyo Rock Steady Crew. He also organizes the yearly B-Boy Park which draws upwards of 10,000 fans a year and attempts to expose a wider audience to the culture.

Dance techniques

There are four basic elements that form the foundation of breakdance. These are toprock, downrock (also known as footwork), power moves, and freezes.

Toprock refers to any string of steps performed from a standing position, relying upon a mixture of coordination, flexibility, style, and rhythm. It is usually the first and foremost opening display of style, and it serves as a warm-up for transitions into more acrobatic maneuvers. Perhaps the most basic toprock is the Indian Step, but toprock is very ecletic and can draw upon many other dance styles.

In contrast, downrock includes all footwork performed on the floor as in the 6-step. Downrock is normally performed with the hands and feet on the floor. In downrock, the breakdancer displays his or her proficiency with foot speed and control by performing footwork combinations. These combinations usually transition into more athletic moves known as power moves.

Power moves are actions that require momentum and physical power to execute. In power moves, the breakdancer relies more on upper body strength to dance, using his or her hands to do moves. Power moves include the windmill, swipe, and flare. Because power moves are physically demanding, breakdancers use them as a display of upper body strength and stamina. Many moves are borrowed from gymnastics, such as the flare, and martial arts, with impressive acrobatics such as the butterfly kick.

Breakdance sets usually end with freezes that halt all motion in a stylish pose. The more difficult freezes require the breakdancer to suspend himself or herself off the ground using upper body strength, in poses such as the handstand or pike. Alternatively, suicides can also signal the end to a routine. Breakers will make it appear that they have lost control and fall onto their backs, stomachs, etc. The more painful the suicide appears, the more impressive it is, but breakdancers execute them in a way to minimize pain. In contrast to freezes, suicides draw attention to the motion of falling or losing control, while freezes draw attention to the final position.

Music

As the clichéd quote "break to the beat" points out, rhythmic music is an essential ingredient for breakdancing. The original songs that popularized the dance form borrow significantly from progressive genres of jazz, soul, funk, electro, disco, and R&B. 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. The tempo generally ranges between 110 and 135 beats per minute with shuffled sixteenth 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 as long as the tempo and beat pattern conditions are met. It can be readily adapted to different music genres (often with the aid of remixing). World competitions have seen the unexpected progressions and applications of heavily European electronica, and even opera. Some b-boys, such as Pierre, even extend it to rock music.

Fashion

For most breakdancers, fashion is a defining aspect of identity. The breakdancers of the 1980s typically sported flat-soled Adidas, Puma, or Fila shoes with thick, elaborately patterned laces. Some breakdancing crews matched their hats, shirts, and shoes to show uniformity, and were perceived as a threat to the competitor by their apparent strength in numbers. B-boys also wore nylon tracksuits which were functional as well as fashionable. The slick, low-friction material allowed the breakdancer to slide on the floor much more readily than with cotton or most other materials.

Hooded nylon jackets allowed dancers to perform head spins and windmills with greater ease. Additionally, the popular image of the original breakdancer always involved a public performance on the street, accompanied by the essential boombox and oversized sheet of cardboard, which serves as a dance floor.

The b-boys today dress differently from the b-boys in the 80s, but one constant remains: dressing "fresh". Due to the spread of breakdancing from the inner cities into the suburbs and other social groups, different perceptions 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, and track pants and nylon clothes still have their place combined with modern sneakers and hats. Trucker hats were reintroduced to the scene in the late 1990s, well before the mainstream pop culture began wearing them again in numbers.

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 in the sole as well as elsewhere. Headwear can facilitate the movement of the head on the ground, especially in headspins. Bandannas underneath headwear can protect against the discomfort of fabric pulling on hair. Wristbands placed along the arm can also lower friction in particular places, as well as provide some 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).

Some dancers and crews 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 appearance. Certain clothing brands have been associated with breaking, for instance, Tribal. 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 one would want to be able to break anytime, anywhere, whatever the circumstances. This is part of the reason why many breakdancers would rather learn headspins without a helmet even though helmets allow them to learn the technique more easily.

Stage shows

In many different countries, most notably South Korea, different stage companies and individual breakdancing crews are creating musicals and stage shows that are either based on, or focus on breakdancing. Among the most notable is A Ballerina Who Loved A B-Boy, a musical telling the story of a ballerina who falls in love with the power of breakdancing.

It is played by professional breakdance crews, including Extreme Crew, Maximum Crew, and Able Crew. Another breakdancing musical is Marionette, performed, created and choreographed by Korean breakdancing crew Expression. Many entertainers have incorporated breakdance moves into their stage performance, ranging from professional wrestler Booker T to Korean singer Se7en.

Media exposure

In the 1980s, with the help of pop culture and MTV, breakdancing made its way from America to the rest of the world as a new cultural phenomenon. Musicians such as Michael Jackson popularized some of the breakdancing styles in music videos, and movies such as Flashdance, Wild Style, Beat Street, Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo also contributed to the growing appeal of breakdancing. Today, many b-boys and former breakers are disappointed by the media hype that has changed the focus of breakdancing to money and overuse of power moves.

Breaking was given proper respect in the critically-acclaimed, feature documentary film: The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy. The film captured the essence of the culture and accurately traced the origin, evolution, and position of the dance within the Hip Hop movement.

Gender Inequalities

Like its musical counterpart, rap music, the world of break-dancing and hip-hop has remained a bastion of male domination since its origins thirty years ago. Like most aspects of hip hop, including the three other major components graffiti, emceeing and turntabalism, women are overall seen as having less influence than men. Relatively speaking the women are seen as outsiders to the groups. It is interesting to note that if there is a group with a majority of males and a minority of females, the crew will still be referred to as bboys. However, if there is a majority of females and a minority of males, the group will normally not be known as a crew of bgirls. This simple concept of naming certain groups is proof of the gender inequalities within the break dancing world. However, it is unfair to make a sweeping generalization about these inequalities because women have begun to infiltrate the style.

Battles

Battles are an integral part of the b-boying culture. They can take the form of a cypher battle and an organized battle. Both types of battles are head to head confrontations between individuals or groups of dancers who try to out-dance each other.

The cypher (or the circle) is the name given to a circle of b-boys and/or b-girls who take turns dancing in the center. There are no judges (other than the participants of the cypher itself), concrete rules or restrictions in the cypher, only unsaid traditions. Although people aren't always battling each other in the cypher, there are many times when battles do take place. B-boying began in the cypher and only later did organized competition develop. This type of battle is how b-boying was originally and it is often more confrontational and more personal. The battle goes on until it ends for one of many possible reasons, such as one dancer admitting defeat. Cypher culture is more present in communities with a stronger emphasis and understanding of original, true hip hop culture. Battling in the cypher is also a common way for dancers to settle issues between each other whether it be individuals or crews.

Organized battles, however, set a format for the battle, such as a time limit, or specify a limit for the number of dancers that can represent each side. Organized battles also have judges, who are usually chosen based on years of experience, level of deeper cultural knowledge, contribution to the scene and general ability to judge in an unbiased manner. There are however, times when non b-boys or non b-girls are chosen to judge by some organizers, and these type of events (jams) are often looked down upon by the b-boying community. Organized battles are far more publicized and known to the mainstream community, and include famous international-level competitions such as Battle of the Year, UK B-Boy Championships Redbull BC One, Freestyle Session and R16 Korea. It should be noted however that a view exists that a trend in recent years has been to place an over-emphasis on organized battles, which takes away from a more originality-based aspect of the culture that is often more emphasized in cypher culture.

Crews

A crew is a group of two or more b-boys or b-girls who choose to dance together for whatever purpose, either simultaneously or separately. Crew vs Crew battles are common in breakdancing. Many B-boys and B-Girls are part of a crew, which makes many feel more dedicated to breakdancing. A few of the most well known crews are Last For One, the New York City Breakers, Flying Steps and Shebang!.

Many b-girl crews often find themselves competing or trying to prove their legitimacy and passion for this specific type of dancing. Anonamiss is a all female b-girl crew, based in Christchurch, New Zealand, known for incorporating b-girling moves with Samoa siva dance inspired moves. .

Controversy

Though recreational, the dance is not without its heated debates. Some practitioners state the original terms b-boying or breaking are better names for the dance as breakdance was supposedly created by the media as a marketing device. As such, the term breakdance is said to lack the depth and history of the older terms and are today looked down by some who consider its use as an evidence of ignorance and disrespect to the history of the dance style itself.

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. 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.

Uprocking as a dance style of its own never gained the same wide-spread popularity as breakdance, except for some very specific moves adopted by breakers who use it as a variation for their toprock. When used in a breakdance battle, opponents often respond by performing similar uprock moves, supposedly creating a short uprock battle. Some dancers argue that because uprocking was originally a separate dance style it should never be mixed with breakdancing, and that the uprock moves performed by breakers today are not the original moves but poor imitations that only shows a small part of the original uprock style.

Pop-culture references

Music videos

Buffalo Gals (Malcolm McLaren music video. 1982): The first breakdancing video on MTV, that brought hip hop to the mainstream, most noticeably in Europe. It's like That by Run DMC (Music Video. 1997): Quite possibly the dance video responsible for the return of breakdancing 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.

Canon in D Korean video clip (2006) features a famous DJ (DJ Chang Eue), beatboxer (Eun Jun), 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 Physicx (Rivers), and Hong10 (Drifterz). 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.

Korean singers have been known for incorporating breakdancing moves into their choreographies, music videos and performances, including Se7en (singer), BoA, Rain, and Minwoo. In 2004, the Pro-Test video by Skinny Puppy depicted B-Boys breakdancing on a sidewalk in Los Angeles, who ridicule a group of goths, which leads to a dispute. The video also depicts krumping, a street dance which originated in LA, which is characterized by free, expressive, and highly energetic moves.

Films and television shows

In the early 1980s, several films depicted breakdancers, including Wild Style! (1982) and Flashdance (1983), which showed the Rock Steady Crew. The 1983 PBS documentary Style Wars by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant 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. Several 1984 movies focused on the dance, including Breakin'; Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo;Delivery Boys , a comedy about a gang of boys under the Brooklyn Bridge who are united by their common interest in breakdancing; and Beat Street. In the 1994 Australian documentary Sprayed Conflict, by Robert Moller, Australian graffiti artist and future Melbourne Extreme Games breakdance winner Duel performed breakdancing. lives.

The 2001 comedy film Zoolander depicts (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) performing breakdancing moves on a catwalk. he acclaimed documentary film The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy (2002) provides a comprehensive history of b-boying, its evolution and its place within hip-hop culture and beyond. Break is a 2006 mini series from Korea about a breakdancing competition. Over the Rainbow (Drama series 2006) centers on a different characters who are brought together by breakdancing. The character Mugen on the anime TV series Samurai Champloo uses a fighting style that is based on breakdancing. The 2007 film Transformers includes a robot character named Jazz who performs a "1990" (breakdance move) as it transform into its robotic form. Planet B-Boy (2007) brings contemporary b-boying alive as it follows crews from around the world in their quest for a world championship at Battle of the Year 2005. The award-winning documentary Inside the Circle (2007) goes deep into the personal stories of three talented b-boys (Omar Davila, Josh "Milky" Ayers and Romeo Navarro) and their struggle to keep dance at the center of their lives.

Video games

Bust A Groove (Video game franchise. 1998): The two games series by 989 Studios which spanned comprises 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 Capoeira use respectively house and (obviously) Capoeira martial arts.

B-boy (videogame) (2006) is a console game which aims at an unadulterated depiction of breakdancing. 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.

Some characters in the Tekken series, notably Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro, specialize in capoeira, resulting in a fighting style similar to breakdancing. In the game Super Smash Bros. Melee for Nintendo GameCube, some characters use breakdancing moves for their downward smash attack. Sonic is known to breakdance, and one of his taunts in brawl is breakdancing

Other media

In 1997, Korea, Kim Soo Yong began serialization of the first breakdancing themed comic, Hip Hop. The comic sold over 1.5 million books and it helped to introduce hiphop and breakdancing culture to Korean youth. 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.

In 2005, a Volkswagen Golf GTi commercial 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."

Notes

References

  • 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.
  • The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy (DVD) 2002 by Image Entertainment.

External links

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