Greetings my people.
Hip Hop News!!
Coming soon is the Red Bull BC One World Final on Sep 29, 2018. Excited? But I am even more eager for Sep 27th i.e. BC One B-Girl Battle. I am laying my bets on B-Girl AT. Oh yea, she is myfavourite. Also the Hip Hop’s history has suffered a great loss, B-Boy Float – a legend, an O.G. who slayed beats and roasted guys on the dance floor longer than most bboys have been walking. Let this legend’s soul rest in peace.
Umm!! Listening and talking about these new feeds in Hip Hop, I feel like discussing about our fourth element – Breaking, commonly known bboying. The practitioners of this art are called B-Boy, B-Girl (‘B’ denotes break i.e. break-boy/break-girl) or Breakers. This Hip Hop dance tradition was also called as Breakdancing by the media & commoners. But time and again, many discussions & debates have clarified that Breakin’/Breaking is the original term. And I am sure, ya’ll agree. Breakin’ embodies 4 elements known as toprock, downrock/footwork, power moves, and freezes. Different breakers combine and connect elements with their own ideas and knowledge in order to create a unique style of their own. Hence, they can be categorized in a styles like power, abstract, blow-up and flavour which lead to debates like styleheads vs powerheads. (For more, check Elements & Style in brief). But even before the formulation of these elements, even before the term breaking was coined; this dance showed its existential proofs in different ways in different places. So let’s see dig in.
So, breaking had its history scattered all the way from some unknown places to Africa to America. From 1877 to 1898, various incidents derived the existence of breaking. A book named Rob Ray on the Baltic in 1877 describes a young man performing flips and power moves. The dance was called the Giesse Harad Polska or Salmon district dance. Thomas Edison had filmed Walter Wilkins, Denny Toliver and Joe Rastus dancing and performing a breakdown in 1894. He filmed another such clip of a young Arab boy headspinning in 1898. Proofs of this style of dancing were seen in the state of Kaduna, Nigeria in 1959. But as I mentioned in my previous posts, breaking wasn’t termed and defined as a dance style until 1970 in USA.
Influences on Breaking
Breaking was also known as Rocking. It was a reflection of African, American and Latino (Puerto Rican) culture brought by the immigrants and emerged in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s. Though, breaking comprises of toprocks, downrocks, freezes and power moves; but in its early stages this dance was done upright. This later came to know as Toprocks. It adopted its form and structure from Rocking, Burn & Jerk Brooklyn style of Uprocking, Tap dance, Lindy hop aka Jitterbug, Capoeira, Gymnastics, Salsa (like the Latin rock, salsa step), Afro Cuban and various African and Native American (like the Indian step) dances. There is also a toprock Charleston step called the Charlie Rock. The Uprocking culture of street gangs, specially influenced a lot of breakers for mimicking ways of fighting each other using mimed weaponry in rhythm with the music.
Uprock evolved in NYC in late 1960s. A precursor and influence to this form of dance was gang cult. Later rose the Brooklyn Uprocking in 1970. Despite of it being a different style than breaking; I feel Uprocks have contributed in greater ways to this dance style.
Another major influence and inspiration was James Brown. Not just breaking but hip hop too. Read about it here. In 1972, he was getting down with his big hit Get on the Good Foot and oomph!! His energy was flying beyond eternity.
By the time the Good Foot became the new acrobatic dance style, the tradition of dance battle was well established. Dancers would gather at places like Harlem World on 116th Street and battle. The Good Foot, which was soon to be called as Breaking, was very different from the Breaking we see today. In some ways, it was simpler with no headspins, no windmills, no handglides or backspins. It was called old-style breaking or old school breaking. It consisted only of floor work/floor rock. But the complexity of floor rocks can involve some extremely complicated and fast leg moves.
This old-style breaking was popular amongst the street gangs roaming in South Bronx. The best men of the gangs would battle each other over turfs, to gain respect or when someone stepped on someone else’s shoes. Ha! Crazy Melodramatic Gangsters huh!! I am just loving it. Either ways, the quote – “Fight with creativity, no weapons” excelled in these boroughs. The breaking crews in these mid 70s were The Nigga Twins, The Zulu Kings, The Seven Deadly Sinners, Shanghai Brothers, The Bronx Boys, Rockwell Association, Starchild La Rock, Rock Steady Crew and the Crazy Commanders (where the name for the CC step is coming from). They are our pioneers. After some years of development, emerged some remarkably skilled b-boys like Beaver, Robbie Rob (Zulu Kings), Vinnie, Off (Salsoul), Bos (Starchild La Rock), Willie Wil, Lil’ Carlos (Rockwell Association), Spy, Shorty (Crazy Commanders), James Bond, Larry Lar, Charlie Rock (KC Crew), Spidey, Walter (Master Plan) and other. The biggest crew rivalries during this period were between SalSoul aka Disco Kids and Zulu Kings as well as between Starchild La Rock and Rockwell Association. Such beefs were the driving force that kept the crews alive. Like cited earlier, breakin’ was still about freezes, footworks and toprocks. There were no Spins! It was still old school.
But not until 80s, when Rock Steady Crew added a lot of acrobatic moves like head spins, backspins, flares, hand glides and windmills. This new-style breaking took inspirations from Kung Fu films and martial arts. Not just breaking but all of hip hop was influenced by the martial forms. RZA, a Wu-Tang member once said,“We would watch them [Kung Fu films] every weekend. That was around the age of nine. By the time I was twelve or thirteen I started getting fascinated. I would go into Chinatown buying everything. Kung-fu books, slippers. You name it, I was on a mission.”
Since, breaking was a performing element in Hip Hop, it got majorly influenced by this Eastern martial art. The old-school breaking transformed into a new style of breaking here onwards.
How Breakin’ Got Known
Rock Steady Crew, NYC Breakers, Dynamic Rockers, United States Breakers, Crazy Breakers, Floor Lords, Floor Masters, Incredible Breakers, Magnificent Force were well known crews of the 80s era. Some of the best dancers of that time were Chino, Ken Swift, Alienness, Brian, German (Incredible Breakers), Dr. Love (Master Mind), Flip (Scrambling Feet), Tiny (Incredible Body Mechanic) and many more pioneers.
The Rock Steady Crew and NYC Breakers as well as between Rock Steady Crew and Dynamic Rockers rivalled really hard. In fact, these rivalries attracted a lot of media. In 1982, Rock Steady Crew gained accelerated fame. The ABC news showed a performance of Rock Steady Crew at Lincoln Center. Also another film/documentary Style Wars featured the battle between Rock Steady Crew and Dynamic Rockers. That’s how breaking found its way to the West Coast of the USA. In the June of same year, the well-known roller-skating rink, Roxy, was turned into a Hip Hop Club for long weekends by Pat Fuji. In 1983, the movie Flashdance came into the cinemas and the video clip of Malcolm McLarens Buffalo Gals was showed on TV. Again, the crew was featured in both productions. Still in the same year, Charles Ahearn released a hip hop movie called Wild Style and in order to promote it the first international tour featuring Hip Hop culture. The MCs, DJs, Graffiti artists and Breakers went to London and Paris which granted the Europeans their first chance to watch breakin’ live. Again in 1984, RSC was featured in the movie Beat Street alongside NYC Breakers and Magnificent Force. Thus, in no time, Rock Steady became the most known crew all over the world. Rock Steady played an important role in popularizing and commercialising this form. In the same year as Beat Street, 100 B-Boys and B-Girls did a performed at closing ceremony of LA Olympic Summer Games. Also, Swatch Watch NYC Fresh Tour took place followed by the Movies Breakin and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo filmed at a club known Radiotron, LA.
Breakin became more and more a trend and B-Boys appeared in commercials (for milk, Right Guard, Burger King,..) and TV shows (Fame, That’s Incredible!, David Letterman). B-Boys were even honoured guests for some important and historic events. Breaking battles started getting worldwide attention. World championships like BOTY(1990), The Notorious IBE(1998), Chelles Battle Pro(2001), Red Bull BC One(2004), Floor Wars(2005), R16 Korea(2006), World B-Boy Classic(2009) provided a greater platform to all the hustling kids of this dance tradition.
Gender Stereotypes Broken
Like other elements, males are predominant gender in breaking too. But as it reaches each nook & corner of this huge world, breaking is being challenged by the rapidly increasing number of b-girls. Many think that the possible barrier is lack of promotion of female-only battles, but I as a b-girl feel that if someone wants to step over this gender inequality barrier then compete together. I personally love it people call it a breaking battle instead of a b-boy or b-girl battle. It’s not like I am anti-bgirl battles or something. I am hell lotta eager to watch AT go down. But for this specific issue, I prefer “breaking” battles over gender-biased battles. I am of a strong belief that – One should be a Breaker before a Gender. Be it a girl’s problem or a boy’s problem, a problem can only be solved with the two together. This dance certainly reached many young souls and drove the world on the hip hop way. No offense. All’s peace. (Check this A B-Girl). So….Help, Hustle and Hip Hop.
A big big biiiigggggg ups to all these strong ladies who took this dance to a graceful yet strong level. I haven’t really mentioned these legendary b-girls yet – so loads of love to our First Lady of Hip Hop i.e. Cindy Campbell, Baby Love(RSC), Bonita(RSC), Ayumi & Narumi(Body Cranival), AT(FlowMo), Terra and many more from all the countries and continents including my country, India. Thanks to you all there. Keep growing bold and beautiful.
Manh!! Right now, I feel so proud to call myself a bgirl. This dance certainly reached many young souls and drove the world on the hip hop way. Sincere apologies if I missed anything and thanks to all our sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers who have given us such a marvellous history.
Stay glued for the next post. Any guesses? Which would be the next topic? Then write back in the box below.
Until next time. Cheerio.