Tuesday, July 14, 2009
the History of breakdaNcing
Breakdancing 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, Breakdance did come from somewhere, something and someone. In the case of Breakdancing, that 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 preformed 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 fas as the history of Breakdancing is concerned is that Breakdancing 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 Breakdancing, or Breaking, was very different from the Breaking we see today. In some ways it was simpler. There were no Headspind. 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 Breakdancing 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 Breakdancing really started. Often, the best Breakers in opposing gangs would battle dance wise 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 dance wise. No one likes to lose. But today Breaking battles have, to a large extent, replaced fighting in the Bronx.
In this way Breakdancing crews-groups of dancers who practice and perform 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 practicing, 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 Breakdancing. He is a record producer and member of the Soul Sonic Force, who’s "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 Breakdancing as more than just dancing. He saw it as a way to achieve something. He saw the potential of Breakdancing, 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 Breakdance 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 until 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 Breakdance 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. Breakdancing 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 Breakdancing in the Bronx. Ahearn called on Rock Steady to do the Breaking and Rock Steady became the preeminent Breakdance 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 Breakdancers would perform and hang out.
If you wanted to discover a Breakdancer 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 Breakdance 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 Breakdancing, 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 importantly, Rosy was-and is-always there as a friend whom they can count on. She herself has taken up Breakdancing.