Breakin 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, Breakin did
come from somewhere, something and someone. In the case of Breakin,
the 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 performed 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 far as the history of Breakin
is concerned is that Breakin 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 Breaking,
was very different from the Breaking we see today. In some ways it
was simpler. There were no Headspin. 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 Breakin 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 Breaking really started. Often, the best
Breakers in opposing gangs would battle dancewise 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 dancewise. No one likes to lose. But today Breaking battles
have, to a large extent, replaced fighting in the Bronx. In this way
Breaking crews-groups of dancers who practice and preform 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 praticing,
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 Breakin. He is a record producer and member of the Soul
Sonic Force, whose "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 Breaking as more than just dancing. He saw it
as a way to achieve something. He saw the potential of Breaking, 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 Breaking 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 untill 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 Breaking
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. Breaking 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 Breaking in the Bronx.
Ahearn called on Rock Steady to do the Breaking and Rock Steady became
the preeminent Breaking 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 Breakers would perform and hang out. If you wanted to discover
a Breaker 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 Breaking 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 Breaking, 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
importanly, Rosy was-and is-always there as a friend whom they can
count on. She herself has taken up Breakdancing.