Breakdance: From B-Boy's Point Of View
Breaking History By Lama
Okay, so let's get one thing straight... no, I haven't broken any bones because I'm not a break dancer, but I am a B-boy, that lives the art of B-boying, just like those before me from way back since the 70's and those who will shortly follow in future generations to come.
"B-Boying/B-Girling" (Breaking) is one of the original elements of Hiphop, under the same umbrella as Mc'ing (Rapping), Turntablism (DJ'ing), Writing (Grafitti Art) and Knowledge. The "B" in B-boy comes from the word "Break," the literal term for a section of a funk record that Break-boys and Break-girls dance to.
Today, B-boying/Breaking has reached worldwide attention as it re-enters the broader world majority after an international circuit of highly budgeted, commercially sponsored competitions, as many as a dozen or more per year since 1995. As opposed to popular belief that B-Boying ended in the 1980's, it remained strong in the hearts of its younger pioneers, who developed the art from the 70's pushing it further after its dormant stages in the 80's and its revival in the early to mid-90's which still continue today.
These dancers of whom now enter their mid to late 40's and still dance to this day, preserve a true American art form, what most thought was only a passing fad. Namely Crazy Legs, president of the "Rocksteady Crew", Ken Swift, and Storm from Battle Squad, some of the living legends and pioneers who advanced B-boying to its standard today.
Because of a misconception that the media brought to the art in the 1980's, the politically incorrect term "Breakdance" is frowned upon by today's practitioners and is replaced with the more respectful term of B-boying/B-girling or simply Breaking. Not only did the media bring about an unwanted fusion of street dance arts (Popping from the dance style known as Boogaloo invented by Boogaloo Sam from the late 70's, not to be confused with the Latin music of the same name and Locking which was invented by Don Campbellock which preceded it in the early 70's), but also ignorant associations and misunderstandings of "breaking your bones" and spinning moves not dissimilar to gymnastics. These pioneers pushed to gain separate identities of their arts, independent to each other to further evolve its progress for the next generations to come.
In many parts of the world today, more focus is placed on the acrobatic moves and spins, called "Powermoves" which dominate the vocabularies of most B-boys worldwide. These extremely difficult and dynamic continuous spins and acrobatics are the most popular associations to the art, which represent but one main part of the whole spectrum of B-boying. Done together with dance steps which involve Style and Character complement powermoves and vice versa. These two elements, of which many B-boys and B-girls for years have pointlessly debated over, either favouring one or the other, are now realising the importance of both elements in co-existence as one in their art. Newer generations of dancers have adopted a mentality to incorporate and master both. New talented individuals, both male and female from all parts of the world particularly, France, Brazil, Korea, Japan, and North America continue to inspire those new and old, combining their own unique blend of the two elements.
Europe was known for pushing the boundaries of powermoves in the 90's. Finding multiple combinations of these eye-dazzling moves and increasing the number of continuous rotations of one particular powermove was, back then, a European B-boy's main focus. One move known as the "Headspin Strip" was apparently learnt in Europe, from videos of two Australian twins from Queensland known as the "B-boy All Stars", a move whereby the B-boy removes his clothes during one continuous headspin.
Many of these powermoves were invented by different B-boys from different parts of New York, later evolving in the West Coast of the United States. It is said that B-boys from California innovated many powermoves, their legacy pushing the boundaries of high difficulty and risky powermoves known as "Airmoves". Air Force Crew one of the pioneering West Coast crews responsible for taking the art to the next level, travelled to Europe and Asia, and soon in Japan, France and Korea, the next wave of dynamic moving B-boys and B-girls continued to push the boundaries already in place.
Although these are evolved forms of the dynamism in B-Boying, dynamic moves were created out of the pressure to beat other dynamic moves that opponents would use in the heat of a "Battle". "Battle," a form of rhythmical energetic spiritual exchange born out of gang warfare over territories in New York in the 60's had evolved from an upright dance named Brooklyn Uprock, originally known as Rocking. Known for its gesture driven dances combining attacking movements with Latin steps and disco shuffles, it replaced the whole physicality of having to literally fight each other.
Sooner than later, dancers concentrated on one part of this dance, and new steps were invented to stay low called "Downrocks", which were dance steps and spins while in these squatting positions. 1972 hailed the release of James Browns famous hit, "Get on the Good Foot", whereby James Brown popularized a move known as the "Get Down" and his style of dancing emphasized on dropping to the floor and returning upright. This is said to be the precursor to B-boying.
In 1973, DJ Kool Herc, (a migrant from Jamaica) who held "Block Parties" in the ghettos of the South Bronx, (which soon gave birth to the culture known as Hiphop), was the first DJ to notice people's reaction to the "Break" section of a record. These only lasting 10 to 30 seconds; Herc extended the break using two turntables and a second copy of the record, thus inventing the "Breakbeat". Multi-layered instrumentations, speedy tempos, multiple rhythms and catchy lyrics - the characteristics typical of Rock, Funk, Soul, Latin Funk, Disco, Garage and Jazz - pushed the B-boys and B-girls to invent quick rhythmical steps and shuffles, called "Footwork" predominantly done low to the floor, (squatted and in push-up stance), and poses called "Freezes". Some of the first crews around at that time were the "Nigga Twins", "Rocksteady Crew" and the still active "Zulu Kings".
At this time the basic forms were being put into place which would give B-boying its identity in the dance world. In a "Throwdown" - the action of going down - first is the "Toprock", the upright dance or modified version of Uprock. Next is the drop to the floor and the footwork. Many combinations of these, such as shuffles and spins were created in the late 70's are still being re-discovered today. Of these, a dancer named Spy "the man with a thousand moves," invented the "6-step" a basic form which is now the main style of footwork all around the world. Following the momentum of the footwork, dancers inserted what we now call powermoves, one of the first being the "Backspin" or more less known as the "Continuous Backspin" which became the "Windmill", invented by Crazy Legs.
Many of these moves were inspired by great dancers of the first "Street Dance" known as Tap. B-boy movements in dance are probably more closely related to the ballistic floor maneuvers first performed by the Nicholas brothers and Gene Kelly then they are to Capoeira (a Brazilian Martial Art), which are more passive and smooth moving. 70's Television kung-fu specials, played a large role also, with original B-boys interpreting Kung-fu movies and poses into their moves vocabulary. Ken Swift, famous for the face and body style called the "Mugsy" and also the toprock step known as the "Snake Style", are taken from Bruce Lee's stern fighting stances and facial mannerisms and from classic hand gestures of Snake style orientated Kung-fu films.
Contrary to testimonies given by old school B-boys, Herc insists however, that the term B-boy did not come from "dancing to the break", but from reaching "breaking point," that these individuals would "breakout" and "go crazy", perhaps reaching a state of euphoria causing the individual to get down to the floor in all the excitement, preferring to continuously stay low and sway the body more wildly.
Today, dancers flock from all parts of the world to events held in the United States. What most B-boys call "A return to the Mecca"; many come to seek out information and knowledge from original B-boys and B-girls who teach various workshops. An understanding of the feel of the dance and character building and the mentalities of being a "B-boy" are the main focus of these classes. Foundations and combinations of moves called "Texts" are taught and students get a better understanding and comprehension of what many, if not most dancers only picked up from videos available previously.
This issue of "Biting", meaning to blatantly copy or imitate is also targeted to teach new generations the methods to adopt what they see and how they should "Flip it", meaning change it in accordance to the dancers personal "Flava" and character.
Crews also enter these events to pit their skills against highly reputable and world classed experienced crews, all in the running to win large amounts of cash given by sponsors of the event. Events have become so frequent now, that dancers are able make a decent living on entering competitions alone and many have attained a level worthy of being an instructor at these workshops.
"Freestyle Session", one of the biggest events in the world, the "B-boy summit" a congregation of old school and new school dancers, "Rocksteady Crew Anniversary" now in its 29th year and "Evolution", one of the hottest events right now are some of the main events in the United States to name a few.
Now finding its way to the remaining countries of the world, already reaching as far as Finland and Scandinavia, China, South Africa, South America and South East Asia, B-boying too, has a history in Australia and New Zealand. Few who bridged the gap to teach newer generations of dancers hold the legacy of keeping the art true to its name.
The amount of Australian males dancing today, show a break away from the nearly obsolete and over dominant mentality that "dancing is only for women" and more harshly "a gay thing", proving that B-boying has the major potential to become a nationwide phenomenon for all people embraced by our shores. Now for the small minority of kids and adults here, who actively practice the art of B-boying; whose future lies in its advancement in Australia, only positive exposure and better understanding of the still misinformed art form will only help its growth.