What is Breakdancing?

breakdancing

Breakdancing is an energetic style of street dancing that involves intricate body movements that range from head spins to stylized footwork. While competition has always been an important part of breakdancing culture, it only recently became acknowledged as a conventional sport when it became included in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games. Although breakdancing only recently became formally recognized as a sport, the athletic style of dance has a unique history that dates back several decades.


History

Breakdancing evolved from the hip-hop movement that sprung out of New York City in the early 1970s. Because breakdancing is largely improvisational, emphasis is placed on creativity, movement, and an element of danger that conveys the rough world of the city streets from which it evolved. Breakdancing reached a greater audience in the 1980s when mainstream artists such as Michael Jackson adopted the dance form. In 2020, the International Olympic Committee approved breakdancing as a sport at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Playing Surface

breakdancing playing surface

Breakdancing can be performed practically anywhere, but it is believed to have originated in the streets of the Bronx in New York City. Thus, breakdancing is widely considered a form of street dancing. Nowadays, breakdancing is commonly performed on slip-resistant floor mats that allow dancers to safely perform moves while avoiding injuries.

Breakdancing Equipment

Breakdancing Equipment

There isn't much equipment needed to breakdance. In fact, breakdancing can be done anytime and anywhere without prior preparation. However, there are a few items that can make the breakdancing experience more enjoyable.

Here is the essential breakdancing equipment you should have:

  • Comfortable clothing: Loose, flexible clothing such as sweatpants and T-shirts are ideal for breakdancing
  • Elbow and knee pads: Useful for performing moves that involve the elbows or knees
  • Skateboard helmet: Great for performing headspins
  • Slip-resistant mat: to prevent injuries
  • Wrist wraps: Ideal for dancers with weaker wrists

Objectives

Competitions, otherwise known as battles, are an essential part of breakdancing culture. The winners of breakdancing battles are determined by judges, who look for elements such as musicality, the difficulty of movement, character, personality, style, execution, and originality when evaluating dancers. Although there are formal breakdancing competitions today, in the early days breakdancing battles were often held to settle disputes between gang members in the Bronx.

Rules and Regulations

Breakdancing Rules and Regulations

In each breakdancing battle, rules may vary, but the breakdancing community widely adopts a few guidelines.

Here are the most important breakdancing rules you should know:

  • Battles can be performed between two individual dancers or between crews that can include up to ten dancers and sometimes more
  • Individuals, or crews, take turns performing in the middle of the dance floor
  • Competitions are usually held in a tournament style where the winner goes on to the next round and the loser is knocked out
  • This goes on until there are two dancers or crews left, at which point a final battle is held to determine the winner

Strategy

There are certain components that breakdancers focus on when trying to stand out to judges.

Here are the most important breakdancing strategies you should know:

  • Foundation: Demonstrating the basic fundamentals of the dance including rock steps, go downs, footwork, freezes, power moves and transitions
  • Difficulty of movement: Putting together extremely difficult moves and combinations that involve intricate footwork, patterns, and flow
  • Personality: Demonstrating a unique personal flavor that makes dancers stand out from their opponents

Lingo

Breakdancing Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in breakdancing:

  • B-boys/B-girls: Individuals who practice breakdancing and participate in the hip-hop culture and lifestyle
  • Breaker: Short for breakdancer
  • Throwdown: When a B-boy or B-girl hits the floor and starts breaking
  • Cypher: A circle that breakdancers form and dance in the middle of
  • Cypher cat: A breaker who's very talented at performing in cyphers
  • Crashing: Failing an attempted move
  • Biting: Stealing or copying the moves of another breakdancer
  • Set: A breaker's prepared round or combination of moves

Breakers

Here are the most famous breakdancers you should know:

  • Crazy Legs: One of the most popular and important breakers, Crazy Legs was a pioneer of the dance movement in its early days
  • The Zulu Kings: One of very first breakdancing crews, the Zulu Kings won a lot of battles and performed at many talent shows and clubs in the 1970s
  • Rock Steady Crew: One of the most highly recognized names in the world of breakdancing, Rock Steady Crew was formed in 1977 in the Bronx

Competitions

Here are the most popular competitions in breakdancing:

  • Red Bull BC One: This is the most prestigious one-on-one breakdancing competition in the world. Since 2004, Red Bull BC One has hosted World Finals competitions in major cities around the world.
  • World B-Boy Series: This is a breakdancing championship series established in 2013 that features some of the most renowned solo breakers around the world. The series typically culminates in a masters event called the "Undisputed Masters", which is held to determine the "undisputed" breakdancing champion.

Olympic Breakdancing

Breakdancing will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. It remains to be seen how the Olympic version of breakdancing will play out, but much of the breaking community has expressed support for its inclusion at the Olympics. However, some breakers are concerned that breakdance culture will lose its authenticity as it enters the mainstream. Others fear that Olympic judges might value technical difficulty over intangible qualities that make breaking unique such as style and creativity.

FAQ

Who invented breakdancing?

It is difficult to attribute the creation of breakdancing to a single individual, but DJ Kool Herc certainly helped pioneer the movement. DJ Kool Herc was a Jamaican deejay in New York who came up with the idea to mix percussion breaks from different records. The result was a continuous dance beat that provided a rhythm for B-boys and B-girls.

While breakdancing was popular in the hip-hop community in the 1970s, breaking entered the mainstream in the 1980s when it was popularized by artists such as Michael Jackson. Additionally, the rapid growth of dance teams such as Rock Steady Crew brought massive media attention to the dance form.