“Breaking – From Local Moves to Worldwide Grooves” offers a dynamic look at the journey of breaking from its origins in local communities to its global impact. Join us as we explore the evolution and cultural significance of this electrifying dance form.

What is breakdancing?

Breaking, commonly referred to as breakdance or breakdancing, is an exhilarating form of street dance characterized by its dynamic movements and acrobatic flair. Executed predominantly by practitioners known as b-boys and b-girls, it holds the distinction of being the foundational dance style within the broader urban culture of hip-hop. Embedded within the cultural fabric of hip-hop, breaking stands as one of its four fundamental elements, alongside DJ’ing, MC’ing/rapping, and graffiti art.

What is breakdancing?
What is breakdancing?

How did breaking start and who created it?

The genesis of breaking can be traced back to the vibrant streets of the Bronx borough in New York City during the 1970s, a pivotal era when the cultural phenomenon of hip-hop was taking root. It was within this dynamic milieu that African-American and Latino youths, seeking creative expression and a sense of identity, innovatively crafted the art form known as breaking.

At the heart of this burgeoning movement was DJ Kool Herc, a seminal figure whose neighborhood parties became epicenters of artistic innovation. Observing the electrifying energy unleashed by young attendees on the dance floor, particularly during the instrumental breaks of tracks, Herc discerned a unique opportunity for creative exploration. These breaks, characterized by the absence of vocals and other instruments, leaving only the pulsating rhythm of the percussion section, served as the catalyst for what would become breaking.

In a stroke of ingenuity, Kool Herc pioneered the technique of playing two copies of the same record on two turntables, seamlessly blending them with a skillful method known as the ‘Merry-Go-Round.’ This revolutionary approach allowed Herc to elongate the musical breaks, providing ample time for dancers to unleash their creativity and prowess. It was this innovative DJing technique that provided the fertile ground upon which the dance form of breaking would flourish.

How did breaking start and who created it?
How did breaking start and who created it?

The music of breakdance

The music that accompanies breakdancing, often referred to as breaking or breakdance, is a rich tapestry woven from a diverse array of musical genres. While breakers exhibit their mesmerizing moves to an eclectic mix of sounds, several primary music genres serve as the rhythmic backbone of this dynamic dance form. Among these foundational genres are break beats, funk, rap, and soul, each contributing its own unique flavor and energy to the breaking experience.

Within the annals of breaking history, certain tracks have attained legendary status, becoming synonymous with the art form itself. These classics, revered by breakers worldwide, evoke a sense of nostalgia and reverence within the community. Examples of such iconic tracks include “Apache” by the Incredible Bongo Band, “Just Begun” by the Jimmy Castor Bunch, “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth, and “Give It Up or Turn It Loose” by James Brown. These songs, with their infectious rhythms and pulsating beats, have provided the soundtrack for countless breaking battles and showcases, inspiring dancers to push the boundaries of their craft.

See also  Top 25 Craziest Breakdance Moves

How breaking amassed media attention and worldwide exposure

Throughout the vibrant era of the 1970s, breaking underwent a remarkable expansion across the boroughs of New York City, gaining momentum within underground dance scenes and urban communities. As the phenomenon continued to captivate audiences with its electrifying energy and innovative movements, the attention of promoters and media outlets was inevitably drawn to the mesmerizing displays of talent exhibited by b-boys and b-girls at parties, parks, and clubs throughout the city.

The turning point for breaking came with a series of pivotal moments that propelled it onto the global stage, providing unprecedented opportunities for exposure and recognition. In 1982, the renowned Rock Steady Crew embarked on the groundbreaking Roxxy European Hip Hop tour, gracing stages in cultural capitals such as London and Paris. Their performances not only mesmerized international audiences but also served as a catalyst for breaking’s burgeoning popularity overseas. Additionally, their appearance on the esteemed American talk show, Letterman, in 1983, further solidified their status as pioneers of the art form.

Further elevating breaking’s profile was its inclusion in various media projects that showcased its raw talent and infectious energy to a worldwide audience. In 1984, the New City Breakers made a memorable appearance on the TV show pilot, Graffiti Rock, providing viewers with a glimpse into the dynamic world of breaking. Moreover, their electrifying performance in Washington D.C. for President Ronald Reagan during the 1984 Kennedy Center Honours, broadcast nationally, underscored the mainstream recognition attained by the dance form.

Beyond television appearances and live performances, breaking found its way onto the silver screen, captivating audiences in iconic Hollywood movies that immortalized its essence and spirit. Films such as Flashdance (1983), Breakin’ the Movie (1984), and Beat Street (1984) not only showcased the athleticism and creativity of b-boys and b-girls but also served as cultural touchstones, introducing breaking to audiences worldwide. Notably, Beat Street’s unforgettable crew battle scene at the Roxxy club remains etched in the collective memory of fans, emblematic of breaking’s indelible impact on popular culture.

How breaking amassed media attention and worldwide exposure
How breaking amassed media attention and worldwide exposure

Why breakdancing is the incorrect term for the dance

The misnomer “breakdancing” emerged as a result of a misunderstanding perpetuated by the media, diverging from the authentic term for the dance: breaking. This discrepancy in terminology stems from a pivotal moment during the Roxxy European hip-hop tour, where Cool Lady Blue, the manager of the esteemed Rock Steady Crew, inadvertently referred to the art form as “breakdancing.”

In its essence, breaking encompasses a rich tapestry of movements, rhythms, and cultural expressions deeply rooted in the urban landscapes of New York City. Originating within marginalized communities as a form of creative expression and social empowerment, breaking quickly evolved into a global phenomenon, captivating audiences with its electrifying energy and acrobatic feats.

However, despite its widespread popularity, breaking fell victim to misrepresentation and oversimplification in the media, culminating in the erroneous term “breakdancing.” This misnomer not only fails to encapsulate the complexity and cultural significance of the dance but also perpetuates misconceptions about its origins and evolution.

The basic elements of breaking

At the core of breaking lie several key components, each imbued with its own distinct characteristics and techniques:

  • Toprock: This foundational element encompasses the movements performed by breakers while standing upright before transitioning to the floor. Basic toprock steps such as the Indian step and Cross step serve as introductory sequences, setting the stage for the dancer’s expression.
  • Go downs: These transitional movements facilitate the journey from toprock to floorwork, enabling breakers to seamlessly descend to the ground. Examples of basic go downs include knee drops and spin downs, executed with fluidity and precision.
  • Footwork: An integral aspect of breaking, footwork entails intricate movements performed on the floor, with breakers utilizing their hands for support as they maneuver through a diverse array of steps and patterns. Basic footwork sequences such as the six-step, three-step, and CCs showcase the agility and dexterity of the dancer.
  • Freezes: These dynamic poses involve breakers transitioning into and holding a solid shape with their body for a brief duration, adding punctuation to their performance. Basic breaking freezes such as the baby freeze, chair freeze, and elbow freeze demonstrate the dancer’s strength and control.
  • Power moves: Characterized by dynamic and continuous spinning motions propelled by rotational force, power moves exemplify the athleticism and agility of breakers. Examples of power moves include head spins, air flares, and windmills, requiring immense strength and coordination.
  • Tricks: Breakers infuse conventional breaking steps, freezes, and power moves with unconventional twists and dimensions, showcasing their innovation and creativity. Examples of breaking tricks include the hopping air chairs and leg threading during hand hops, pushing the boundaries of traditional techniques.
  • Transitions: These fluid movements serve to connect various elements of breaking, seamlessly linking footwork, freezes, tricks, and power moves into a cohesive and fluid performance. Basic transitions such as sweeps, pretzels, and spins facilitate the smooth flow and continuity of the dancer’s routine.
See also  How to Breakdance | Shuffle | Footwork 101
The basic elements of breaking
The basic elements of breaking

What is a cypher and why is it important in breaking?

A cypher, within the context of breaking, is a dynamic and communal space where breakers congregate to showcase their skills, exchange energy, and engage in spontaneous dance battles. It serves as a vibrant hub of creativity and expression, fostering a sense of camaraderie and competition among participants.

Central to the concept of a cypher is the formation of a circle, typically created by breakers themselves, within which they take turns performing and improvising their moves. This circular arrangement symbolizes inclusivity and equality, as each participant is afforded the opportunity to shine and contribute to the collective energy of the cypher.

The significance of cyphers in breaking extends beyond mere performance, as they embody the essence of the culture itself. These circles can spontaneously manifest anywhere breakers gather, whether it be at parties, clubs, or outdoor settings. Regardless of the location, the cypher serves as a sacred space where dancers come together to celebrate their shared passion for the art form.

Moreover, cyphers play a pivotal role in the development and evolution of breaking skills. Within the confines of the circle, breakers are encouraged to push their boundaries, experiment with new moves, and engage in friendly competition with their peers. It is within this environment of mutual respect and support that breakers hone their craft, continuously striving for improvement and innovation.


This article provides a brief yet engaging overview of the evolution of breaking, tracing its roots from local gatherings to its current status as a global phenomenon. Through this documentary, viewers gain insight into the cultural significance and transformative power of breaking as it continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

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