“We started breaking because it fit our personality, not because we needed to find one.” -Mohammed Iro
What comes to mind when you hear the word breakdance? Do you think of dangerous people dancing on the floor in dim light underpasses or alleys with graffiti on the walls? Or do you think of the flexibility of a person and their true talent to glide across the floor performing distinct moves?
Whatever comes to your mind, breakdancing is a major dance discipline that is currently being practised all over the world.
While it is true that breakdancing might not appeal to an older more aristocrat audience since they might view it as dangerous and filthy, young ones in the UK must learn the appropriate techniques and steps to avoid injury.
Is there really any technique in breakdancing? Doesn't it just look like rolling on the floor?
Just like every dance, breakdancing contains a history of origins and possesses certain techniques that make it unique to other dances. Dear readers, please join us on our exploratory voyage into the world of breakdancing!
Where Did Breakdancing Come From?
Let's start this section by stating a very bizarre, amusing, yet completely true fact about break dancing. Did you guys know that in 2004 professional breakdancers were invited to perform in front of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican?
What? Are you actually serious?
We're not messing around at all. Considering the fact that Popes are usually extremely conservative and only invite classical acts to the Vatican, this shows the immense popularity of breakdancing and how it is cherished by all types of individuals; even the Pope!
Nevertheless, where did breakdancing originate from? According to many reputable sources, breakdancing started in the 1960s and 1970s in New York City featuring a predominantly US Latino and African American practitioners.
Why mainly Latino and African American dancers?
Not to racial profile in any way at all; however, in the 1960s and 1970s street gangs in NYC were primarily Latino or African American and breakdancing roots from the martial arts moves developed by street gangs to defend themselves. Although the steps of breakdancing were originally derived from self-defence moves, they quickly evolved in the next few years to be very complex and athletic moves that could only be attempted by the most physically fit persons.
It is important to state that breakdancing is extremely demanding and physical. Therefore, it is not surprising that experienced breakdancers have toned abdominals and arms that could make anyone jealous!
But why the name "breakdancing?"
The terminology used to describe such a physical dance may confuse many people. Nevertheless, it has been said the term "break" refers particularly to the rhythms and sounds produced by the DJs mixing the sounds to produce a continuous dancing beat that does not stop.
Since the music of breakdancing is what makes it unique and shine, it can be said that the technique was partially pioneered by the Jamaican DJ living in New York City known as Kool Herc.
DJ Kool Herc mixed percussion breaks from two identical songs and created an inspiring rhythm that he called "cutting breaks."
Also, it is widely known that during concerts where DJ Kool Herc was performing, he would play the "breaks" repeatedly and switch from one record to the other while at time shouting "B-boys go down!" When Herc told the guys to go down, he was signalling them to dance on the floor the gymnastics moves that were physically demanding and risky; hence, breakdancing was initiated.
After some years of practice and popularity, breakdancing in the late 1970s began to evolve and feature different moves with "pops" and "locks" that were different from the origins of breakdancing in the 60s.
In the 1980s Michael Jackson was one of the most popular persons on the planet; therefore, when he performed some aspects of breakdancing such as the moonwalk, the breakdancing genre skyrocketed to fame more than it ever had.
Hence, because of the popularity, for the next 10-15 years, many record producers insisted that pop, R&B, and rap artists feature breakdancers in their music videos. Britney Spears was one of the primary artists who embraced breakdancing, bringing it from a street dance to a worldwide phenomenon.
Popping and locking dances have also gained popularity since the 1980s.
Unique Characteristics of Breakdancing
Many of us would be lying if we said that we've never tried to breakdance after watching some professionals on the streets, on our television set, or in a music video.
We might have even asked our sibling, significant other, or parent to hold our feet while we try to attempt a head-spin!
Breakdancing is definitely not a refined type of dance; not ballroom in any way! The style of "breakers" is often very grunge and street looking. They might wear baggy pants or jeans, that allows them the freedom to move, sweatsuits, baseball caps (to protect their hair during headspins), and running shoes/sneakers to avoid injury from dangerous moves and the harsh environment outside.
Although breakdancing is characterised by not having many standard "steps" or "moves" and being largely improvised, there are still some techniques and classic moves that some of the best breakdancers put into practice to their audiences in awe.
The following are the most important breakdancing moves that all interested ones in the genre should become familiar with:
- The Windmill: probably the most classic breakdancing move, The Windmill is originally borrowed from the martial art of Kung Fu, the move requires continuous motion in which the dancer around his or her upper body; a true masterpiece move!
- Headspins: what would breakdancing be without the headspin? Headspins should definitely not be tried on concrete, they are the most unnatural yet most recognisable dance moves for breakdancing.
- Flares: originally borrowed from gymnastics, flares are extremely popular in breakdancing. They demand a lot of upper body strength and they are basically characterised by the legs moving in a circle around the body without ever touching the ground. The wider the legs are spread apart the easier it is to carry momentum. I'd call this quite the exercise!
- Boomerangs: the original name of this move comes from the way that the legs are kept afloat making a "V" shape. Breakdancers need a lot of hip flexibility to support their weight on their hands. The boomerang move should definitely not be tried at home since it can be quite dangerous and result in wrist injuries.
To learn more about the essential moves of breakdancing, we highly recommend watching videos on Youtube that demonstrate step-by-step tutorials on specific techniques and steps.
The swing dance also has intriguing moves that can be learnt.
The Absolute Best Songs to Breakdance to in Style
Without music, it is impossible to dance. Without breakdancing music, it is impossible to breakdance. Thankfully breakdancing has been around since the 1960s and many musical artists have made a lucrative and successful career of creating tunes that are perfect for breakdancing.
The following are some of the best songs for those who want to practice their breakdancing skills:
- Get On The Good Foot by James Brown,
- The Mexican by Babe Ruth,
- Dancing Machine by The Jackson Five,
- Planet Rock by the Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Crew,
- Beat Box by The Art of Noise,
- Paid in Full by Eric B & Rakim,
- It's Like That by Run DMC and Jason Nevins.
The previously mentioned songs are suggested by Red Bull and were all recorded either in the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s when breakdancing was all the rage and at the pique of its popularity.
Wanna learn how to breakdance?
Read the next subheading to find out if there are breakdancing lessons near you!
The foxtrot is a world-famous dance practised in shows around the world.
Breakdance Lessons in Nearby UK Cities
If you're sure that breakdancing is the dance you wish to practice in your spare time, you've come to the right place to find resources about where to attend breakdance classes at a professional studio.
Superprof offers fantastic private lessons with extremely qualified dancers throughout the UK via in-person or online classes. Nevertheless, if you wish to attend a dance academy providing beginners with breakdance lessons, the following are the most highly recommended schools:
- Stage Pro Academy: located in the town of Warrington, an easy drive from large cities Liverpool and Manchester, the StagePro Academy has been very successful in its years of operation and offers breakdancing classes for boys, girls, and adults who are daring. The breakdancing courses are taught by Craig who is a specialist in street dance, urban style, and hip-hop.
- B-Better Dance Company: known as the ultimate place to learn breakdancing in London, the B-Better dance company is a qualified institute offering great classes that have students regularly practise while at the same time learn about the history of the dance they learning. Visit their website for more information.
Whether you are young or old, learning about the history of breakdancing is a fantastic idea to add more valuable information to your dance knowledge repertoire. Remember that when all else fails, break or bust a move!