|Inventor||N/A - Street dancers from New York City|
|Competitions|| Battle of the Year|
The Notorious IBE
Red Bull BC One
UK B-boy Championships
B-boying, often called "breakdancing", is a popular style of street dance that was created and developed as part of hip-hop culture among African Americans and Latino youths in New York City. The dance consists of four primary elements: toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes/suicides. It is danced to both hip-hop and other genres of music that are often remixed to prolong the musical breaks. The musical selection for b-boying is not restricted to hip-hop music as long as the tempo and beat pattern conditions are met. A practitioner of this dance is called a b-boy, b-girl, or breaker. These dancers often participate in battles, formal or informal dance competitions between two individuals or two crews. Although the term "breakdance" is frequently used, "b-boying" and "breaking" are the original terms used to refer to the dance. These terms are preferred by the majority of the art form’s pioneers and most notable practitioners.
Alhough widespread, the term "breakdancing" is looked down upon by those immersed in hip-hop culture. "Breakdancer" may even be used disparagingly to refer to those who learned the dance for personal gain rather than commitment to hip-hop culture. The terms 'b-boys' (or break-boy), 'b-girls', and 'breakers' are the preferred terms to use to describe the dancers. The "b-boys" and "b-girls" were the dancers to DJ Kool Herc's breaks, who were described as "breaking". The obvious connection is to the breakbeat, but Herc has noted that "breaking" was also street slang of the time meaning "getting excited", "acting energetically" or "causing a disturbance". B-boy London of New York City Breakers and filmmaker Michael Holman refer to these dancers as “breakers”. Frosty Freeze of Rock Steady Crew says, “we were known as b-boys”, and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa says, “b-boys, [are] what you call break boys… or b-girls, what you call break girls.” The term breaker is gender neutral. In addition, Santiago "Jo Jo" Torres (co-founder of Rock Steady Crew), Mr. Freeze of Rock Steady Crew and hip-hop historian Fab 5 Freddy use the term “b-boy”, as do rappers Big Daddy Kane and Tech N9ne.
The dance itself is properly called "breaking" according to rappers such as KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC in the breaking documentary The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy. Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, Michael Holman, Frosty Freeze, and Jo Jo use the original term "b-boying". Purists consider "breakdancing" an ignorant term invented by the media that connotes exploitation of the art.
Rock Steady Crew
|"When I first learned about the dance in ’77 it was called b-boying… by the time the media got a hold of it in like ’81, ’82, it became ‘break-dancing’ and I even got caught up calling it break-dancing too."|
New York City Breakers
|"You know what, that’s our fault kind of… we started dancing and going on tours and all that and people would say, oh you guys are breakdancers - we never corrected them."|
|Santiago "Jo Jo" Torres; Rock Steady Crew||"B-boy… that’s what it is, that’s why when the public changed it to ‘break-dancing’ they were just giving a professional name to it, but b-boy was the original name for it and whoever wants to keep it real would keep calling it b-boy."|
|NPR||"Breakdancing may have died, but the b-boy, one of four original elements of hip hop (also included: the MC, the DJ, and the graffiti artist) lives on. To those who knew it before it was tagged with the name breakdancing, to those still involved in the scene that they will always know as b-boying, the tradition is alive and, well, spinning."|
|The Boston Globe||"Lesson one: Don't call it breakdancing. Hip-hop's dance tradition, the kinetic counterpart to the sound scape of rap music and the visuals of graffiti art, is properly known as b-boying."|
|The Electric Boogaloos||"In the 80's when streetdancing [sic] blew up, the media often incorrectly used the term 'breakdancing' as an umbrella term for most the streetdancing [sic] styles that they saw. What many people didn't know was [that] within these styles, other sub-cultures existed, each with their own identities. Breakdancing, or b-boying as it is more appropriately known as, is known to have its roots in the east coast and was heavily influenced by break beats and hip hop."|
|Jorge "Popmaster Fabel" Pabon||"Break dancing is a term created by the media! Once hip-hop dancers gained the media’s attention, some journalists and reporters produced inaccurate terminology in an effort to present these urban dance forms to the masses. The term break dancing is a prime example of this misnomer. Most pioneers and architects of dance forms associated with hip-hop reject this term and hold fast to the original vernacular created in their places of origin. In the case of break dancing, it was initially called b-boying or b-girling.|
|Benjamin "B-Tek" Chung; JabbaWockeeZ||"When someone says break dancing, we correct them and say it’s b-boying."|
|Timothy "Popin' Pete" Solomon; Electric Boogaloos||"An important thing to clarify is that the term 'Break dancing' is wrong, I read that in many magazines but that is a media term. The correct term is 'Breakin', people who do it are B-Boys and B-Girls. The term 'Break dancing' has to be thrown out of the dance vocabulary."|
|Excerpt from the book New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone||"With the barrage of media attention [breaking] received, even terminology started changing. 'Breakdancing' became the catch-all term to describe what originally had been referred to as 'burning', 'going off', 'breaking', 'b-boying', and 'b-girling'... Even though many of hip hop's pioneers accepted the term for a while in the 1980s, they have since reclaimed the original terminology and rejected 'breakdance' as a media-fabricated word that symbolizes the bastardization and co-optation of the art form.|
The term "breakdancing" is also problematic because it has become a diluted umbrella term that incorrectly includes popping, locking, and electric boogaloo. Popping, locking, and electric boogaloo are not styles of "breakdance". They are funk styles that were developed separate from breaking in California.
Elements of breaking may be seen in other antecedent cultures prior to the 1980s, but it was not until the 1980s that breaking developed as a street dance style. Street corner DJs would take the rhythmic breakdown sections (or "breaks") of dance records and loop them one after the other. This provided a rhythmic base for improvising and mixing and it allowed dancers to display their skills during the break. 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 while maintaining to hit specific beats of the break.
Shortly after the Rock Steady Crew came to Japan, breaking within Japan began to thrive. Each Sunday b-boys would perform breaking in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. One of the first and most influential Japanese breakers was Crazy-A, who is now the leader of the Tokyo chapter of 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.
A separate but related dance form which influenced breaking is Uprock also called Rocking or Brooklyn Rock. Uprock is an aggressive dance that involves two dancers who mimic ways of fighting each other using mimed weaponry in rhythm with the music. Uprock as a dance style of its own never gained the same widespread popularity as breaking, except for some very specific moves adopted by breakers who use it as a variation for their toprock. When used in a b-boy battle, opponents often respond by performing similar uprock moves, supposedly creating a short uprock battle. Some dancers argue that because uprock was originally a separate dance style it should never be mixed with breaking and that the uprock moves performed by breakers today are not the original moves but poor imitations that only show a small part of the original uprock style
It has been stated that breaking replaced fighting between street gangs. On the contrary, some believe it a misconception that b-boying ever played a part in mediating gang rivalry. Both viewpoints have some truth. Uprock has its roots in Gang. Whenever there was an issue over turf, the two warlords of the feuding gangs would uprock. Whoever won this preliminary battle would decide where the real fight would be. This is where the battle mentality in breaking and hip-hop dance in general comes from. "Sometimes a dance was enough to settle the beef, sometimes the dance set off more beef."
There are four primary elements that form breaking. These include toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes/suicides. Toprock generally refers to any string of steps performed from a standing position. It is usually the first and foremost opening display of style, though dancers often transition from other aspects of breaking to toprock and back. Toprock has a variety of steps which can each be varied according to the dancer's expression (ie. aggressive, calm, excited). A great deal of freedom is allowed in the definition of toprock: as long as the dancer maintains cleanness, form and the b-boy attitude, theoretically anything can be toprock. Toprock can draw upon many other dance styles such as popping, locking, or house dance. Transitions from toprock to downrock and power moves are called drops.
Downrock (also known as "footwork" or "floorwork") is used to describe any movement on the floor with the hands supporting the dancer as much as the feet. Downrock includes moves such as the foundational 6-step, and its variants such as the 3-step or other small steps that add style. The most basic of downrock is done entirely on feet and hands but more complex variations can involve the knees when threading limbs through each other.
Power moves are acrobatic moves that require momentum, speed, endurance, strength, and control to execute. The breaker is generally supported by his upper body, while the rest of his body creates circular momentum. Notable examples are the windmill, swipe, and head spin. Some power moves are borrowed from gymnastics and martial arts. An example of a power move taken from gymnastics is the Thomas Flair which is shortened and spelled flare in b-boying.
Freezes are stylish poses, and the more difficult require the breaker to suspend himself or herself off the ground using upper body strength in poses such as the pike. They are used to emphasize strong beats in the music and often signal the end of a b-boy set. Freezes can be linked into chains or "stacks" where breakers go from freeze to freeze to the music to display musicality and physical strength.
Suicides like freezes are used to emphasize a strong beat in the music and signal the end to a routine. In contrast to freezes, suicides draw attention to the motion of falling or losing control, while freezes draw attention to a controlled final position. 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 breakers execute them in a way to minimize pain.
There are many different individual styles used in breaking. Individual styles often stem from a dancer's region of origin and influences. Although there are some generalities in the styles that exist, many dancers combine elements of different styles with their own ideas and knowledge in order to create a unique style of their own.
- Power: This style of breaking is what most members of the general public associate with the term "break-dancing". Power moves comprise full-body spins and rotations that give the illusion of defying gravity. Examples of power moves include headspins, backspins, windmills, flares, airtracks/airflares, 1990s, 2000s, jackhammers, crickets, turtles, hand glide, halos, and elbow spins. Those b-boys who use "power moves" almost exclusively in their sets are referred to as "power heads".
- Abstract: A very broad style of breaking which may include the incorporation of "threading" footwork, freestyle movement to hit beats, house dance, and "circus" styles (tricks, contortion, etc.).
- Blowup: A style of breaking which focuses on the "wow factor" of certain power moves, freezes, and circus styles. Blowup-style consists of performing a sequence of as many difficult trick combinations in as quick succession as possible in order to "smack" or exceed the virtuosity of the other b-boy's performance. This is usually attempted only after becoming proficient in other styles due to the degree of control and practice required in this type of dancing. The names of some of the moves are: airbaby, airchair, hollow backs, solar eclipse, reverse airbaby, among others. The main goal in blowup-style is the rapid transition through a sequence of power moves.
- Flavor: A style that is based more on elaborate toprock, downrock, and/or freezes. This style is focused more on the beat of the song than having to rely on "power" moves only. B-boys who base their dance on "flavor" or style are known as "style heads".
- Flexible: A style that is noted mainly from its requirement of being flexible. More complicated threading and moves with "flavor" are also accompanied with power moves and freezes that also require flexibility.
Power versus styleEdit
Multiple stereotypes have emerged in the breaking community over the give-and-take relationship between technical footwork and physical power. Those who focus on dance steps and fundamental sharpness are labeled as "style-heads." 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 technique over the other.
This debate however is somewhat of a misnomer. The classification of dancing as "style" in b-boying is inaccurate because every b-boy or b-girl has their own unique style developed both consciously and subconsciously. Each b-boy or b-girl's style is the certain attitude or method in which they execute their movements. A breaker's unique style does not strictly refer to just toprock or downrock. It is a concept which encompasses how a move is executed rather than what move is done.
The musical selection for breaking is not restricted to hip-hop music as long as the tempo and beat pattern conditions are met. Breaking can be readily adapted to different music genres with the aid of remixing. The original songs that popularized the dance form borrow significantly from progressive genres of jazz, soul, funk, electro, and disco. The most common feature of b-boy music exists in musical 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 DJ Kool Herc for the invention of this concept later termed the break beat.
Like the other aspects of hip-hop culture, graffiti writing, MCing, and DJing, males are generally the predominant gender within breaking. However, this is being challenged by the rapidly increasing number of b-girls. Critics argue that it is unfair to make a sweeping generalization about these inequalities because women have begun to play a larger role in the breaking scene.
Despite the increasing number of female breakers, another possible barrier is lack of promotion. As Firefly, a full-time b-girl, says "It's getting more popular. There are a lot more girls involved. The problem is that promoters are not putting on enough female-only battles." More people are seeking to change the traditional image of females in hip-hop culture (and by extension, b-boy culture) to a more positive, empowered role in the modern hip-hop scene. The lower exposure of female dancers is probably caused not by any conscious discrimination, but simply by the fewer number of female breakers compared to the number of male breakers. However, both males and females do practice this art form equally together and are competitively judged only by skill and personal expression, not gender.
Film and televisionEdit
In the early 1980s several films depicted b-boying including Wild Style, Flashdance, Breakin', Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, Delivery Boys, Krush Groove, and Beat Street. The 1983 PBS documentary Style Wars chronicled New York graffiti artists, but also includes elements of breaking. "BreakBoy" (1985) is a view of the determination of one individual to become one of the best. The documentary film The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy (2002) provides a comprehensive history of b-boying including its evolution and its place within hip-hop culture. The 2001 comedy film Zoolander depicts Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) performing b-boy moves on a catwalk. Planet B-Boy (2007) follows crews from around the world in their quest for a world championship at Battle of the Year 2005.
Break is a 2006 mini series from Korea about a breaking competition. Over the Rainbow (Drama series 2006) centers on different characters who are brought together by b-boying. The award-winning (SXSW Film Festival audience award) documentary "Inside the Circle" (2007) goes into the personal stories of three b-boys (Omar Davila, Josh "Milky" Ayers and Romeo Navarro) and their struggle to keep dance at the center of their lives. The character Mugen on the anime TV series Samurai Champloo uses a fighting style based on breaking. The German documentary Neukölln Unlimited (2010) depicts the life of two b-boying brothers in Berlin, who try to use their dancing talents to secure a livelihood. Most recently Step Up 3D, a 2010 hip hop dance movie, features breaking as the main type of dance performed.
B-boying is widely referenced in TV advertising, titling and program-linking, as well as news, travelogue and documentary segments, as an indicator of youth/street culture. From a production point of view the style is visually arresting, instantly recognizable and adducible to fast-editing, while the ethos is multi-ethnic, energetic and edgy, but free from the gangster-laden overtones of much rap-culture imagery. Its usability as a visual cliché benefits sponsorship, despite the relatively small following of the genre itself beyond the circle of its practitioners.
- Break Dance was an 8-bit computer game by Epyx released in 1984, at the height of breaking's popularity.
- B-boy is a 2006 console game which aims at an unadulterated depiction of breaking.[
- Bust A Groove is a video game franchise whose character "Heat" specializes in breaking.
- Pump It Up is a Korean game that requires physical movement of the feet. The game involves breaking and many people have accomplished this feat by memorizing the steps and creating dance moves to hit the arrows on time.
- In 1997, Kim Soo Yong began serialization of the first breaking themed comic,Hip Hop. The comic sold over 1.5 million books and it helped to introduce breaking and hip-hop culture to Korean youth.
- The first breaking 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 was inspired by 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 Gene Kelly breaking to a new version of "Singin' in the Rain", remixed by Mint Royale. The tagline was, "The original, updated."
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