Breakdancing, a vibrant cultural phenomenon originating from the streets of New York City in the 1970s, is characterized by its electrifying “power moves.” These dynamic and acrobatic maneuvers showcase the athleticism and creativity of breakdancers worldwide. In this series, we explore the techniques and cultural significance of these moves, from foundational spins like the windmill to advanced feats such as the jackhammer and criticals. Join us as we unravel the artistry and skill behind some of breakdance’s most iconic movements.

What are power moves in breakdance?

Power moves in breakdance refer to a category of dynamic and acrobatic movements that are characterized by their explosive energy and continuous rotational elements. These moves often involve spinning or rotating across various body parts, such as the head, hands, or back. For instance, a dancer might spin on their head in a headspin, rotate on their hands in a windmill, or circle around on their back in a backspin.

To those who are not familiar with the art of breaking, power moves tend to be perceived as the most spectacular and awe-inspiring aspect of the dance. The fluidity, strength, and control required to execute these moves make them a highlight for audiences and a test of skill for dancers. The visual impact of power moves, with their fast-paced and gravity-defying nature, often leaves spectators amazed and captivated.

In the world of breaking, power moves hold a significant place and are considered one of the four fundamental elements of the dance. The other three elements include toprock, which involves standing dance steps and transitions; footwork, which focuses on intricate steps and movements performed close to the ground; and freezes, where dancers hold a pose, often in a complex and challenging position.

Below, we will provide a comprehensive overview of all the power moves in breaking, delving into their techniques, variations, and the skills required to master them.

Power moves in breakdance
Power moves in breakdance

The backspin

The backspin is a quintessential spinning movement in breakdance where the dancer rotates on their upper back. This move is characterized by its fluidity and the impressive speed that can be achieved through proper technique. The execution of a backspin involves a combination of leg movement, momentum, and body control.

To initiate a backspin, the dancer typically starts by spreading their legs wide open while positioned on their back. This initial position is crucial as it helps generate the necessary momentum. By swinging the legs in a circular motion, the dancer creates the speed needed for the spin. As the spin progresses, the dancer gradually brings their legs together. This action of closing the legs helps to increase the rotational speed, creating a more visually striking effect.

The backspin is often one of the first power moves that beginner breakers learn. Its importance lies not only in its own execution but also in its role as a foundational movement for other more advanced power moves. Mastery of the backspin provides the essential skills and body awareness needed to perform other complex moves, such as the windmill. The windmill, which involves rotating on the shoulders while transitioning from the back to the front, builds upon the momentum and technique of the backspin.

Learning the backspin involves practicing the coordination of leg swings and body positioning. Dancers must develop a sense of timing and control to maximize the speed and fluidity of the spin. As a fundamental power move, the backspin is an essential component of a breakdancer’s repertoire, serving as a building block for more intricate and dynamic movements within the dance.

The windmill

The windmill, aptly named after the traditional windmills found in the Netherlands, is one of the most recognizable and widely practiced power moves in breakdance. Its visual appeal and the skill required to execute it make it a staple in the repertoire of any serious breakdancer. As one of the foundational power moves, mastering the windmill is crucial for developing proficiency in other advanced breakdance techniques.

The windmill involves a continuous, circular rolling motion across the dancer’s torso, with the legs spread wide in a V-shape in the air. This position not only adds to the visual impact of the move but also helps in maintaining balance and momentum. The dancer’s legs and shoulders work in unison to create and sustain the spinning motion. By swinging the legs and using the shoulders to push off the ground, the dancer generates the necessary speed and rotation.

Initiating the windmill typically starts from a freeze position, such as a turtle freeze or a baby freeze. From this static position, the dancer kicks their legs to start the spinning motion. As the body begins to rotate, the dancer uses their shoulders and upper body strength to keep the momentum going. The key to a smooth and continuous windmill lies in the coordination of the leg swings and the controlled use of shoulder push-offs.

Power moves in breakdance
Power moves in breakdance

The windmill is not only a visually impressive move but also a physically demanding one. It requires a strong core, flexible hips, and precise timing. Dancers must practice repeatedly to perfect the technique, ensuring that each rotation is fluid and that the momentum is sustained throughout the move. As a foundational power move, the windmill also serves as a stepping stone to even more complex power moves, such as the flare and the airflare, which build upon the principles of the windmill.

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There are several variations of the windmill, each adding a unique twist to the basic move. Here are some of the most notable ones:

Barrel Windmill: In this variation, the hands are not used to push off against the floor. Instead, the arms are held in a barrel shape, allowing the dancer to roll over their arms and forearms, and then via a roll over the head back to the back.

  • Baby Windmill / Babymill: This version involves the dancer bending and crossing their legs while keeping their arms in a barrel form, similar to the barrel windmill.
  • Nutcracker Windmill: In the nutcracker windmill, the dancer covers their private parts with both hands. The challenge here is to maintain this hand position while using the shoulders and legs to swing and generate the windmill motion.
  • Handcuffed Windmill: For this variation, the dancer holds their hands together behind their back, as if handcuffed. This position requires significant shoulder and core strength to maintain the spinning motion.
  • Tap Windmill / Tap Mill: In the tap windmill, the dancer taps the floor with their toes each time they come to their back, using this tap to gain momentum for the next rotation.
  • Tombstone Windmill: This is one of the most challenging windmill variations, where the dancer keeps both legs straight and together throughout the move, making it difficult to use leg momentum for swinging.
  • Australian Windmill: In this variation, one leg is straight and extended while the other leg is crossed over the straight leg, forming a figure-four shape. Like the tombstone windmill, it is considered one of the more difficult variations due to the complexity of maintaining balance and momentum.

These variations add complexity and creativity to the basic windmill, allowing dancers to showcase their skills and personal style. Mastering these variations requires dedication and practice, but they can significantly enhance a dancer’s performance and versatility.

The headspin

The headspin is one of the most iconic and visually impressive power moves in breakdance. This move involves the dancer rotating around the vertical axis of their body while balancing on the top of their head. The sheer athleticism and control required to perform a headspin make it one of the most celebrated and recognizable moves in the breakdancing community.

The origins of the headspin can be traced back to the 1933 film “Wild Boys of the Road,” where it was first seen on screen. However, it wasn’t until the move was adopted and popularized by breakdancers that it became a defining element of the dance style. Today, the headspin is arguably the most famous power move in breakdance, symbolizing the strength, skill, and creativity of the dancer.

Executing a headspin requires a combination of balance, strength, and precision. The dancer typically begins in a crouched position before launching into a spin. By using their hands and legs to generate momentum, they lift their body into a balanced position on the top of their head. The key to maintaining the spin is the dancer’s ability to control their core and distribute their weight evenly.

Power moves in breakdance
Power moves in breakdance

Dancers often use protective headgear or specially designed beanies to cushion their head and reduce friction with the floor, allowing for smoother and faster spins. As the dancer gains momentum, they can perform multiple rotations, showcasing their control and endurance.

The headspin is not just a standalone move but also serves as a foundation for various combinations and transitions in breakdancing routines. Advanced dancers can incorporate intricate hand movements, leg kicks, and even switch between different power moves while maintaining the spin, adding layers of complexity and flair to their performance.

Overall, the headspin remains a testament to the evolution of breakdance, blending elements of athleticism, artistry, and innovation. Its lasting appeal and challenge continue to inspire dancers around the world to push the boundaries of what is possible in this dynamic and ever-evolving dance form.

The swipe

The swipe is a fundamental power move in breakdancing, essential for any b-boy or b-girl’s repertoire. This move combines strength, agility, and coordination, making it both challenging and visually impressive.

To execute a swipe, the dancer starts by positioning themselves with their arms and feet on the ground, hips raised high in the air. This initial stance is crucial for generating the necessary momentum. The dancer then swings their arms in a circular motion, either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on their preference. This arm movement is synchronized with a powerful twist of the core, allowing the upper body to follow the arms’ motion.

As the upper body twists, the dancer lifts their legs off the ground, creating a 360-degree rotation in the air. This airborne twist is the hallmark of the swipe, showcasing the dancer’s ability to combine fluidity with dynamic movement. The dancer then lands back on their feet, seamlessly transitioning into the starting position to repeat the move.

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The key to a successful swipe lies in the coordination between the arms, core, and legs. The arms provide the initial thrust, the core maintains the twist and balance, and the legs complete the rotation. Practicing this move helps dancers develop a strong core, increased flexibility, and enhanced spatial awareness.

Swipes can be performed in various styles and rhythms, allowing dancers to personalize the move and integrate it into their routines creatively. Some dancers may opt for slower, more controlled swipes, emphasizing precision and technique. Others might prefer fast, explosive swipes, highlighting speed and power.

Beyond its visual appeal, the swipe is a versatile move that serves as a building block for more complex power moves. Mastering the swipe opens the door to advanced breakdancing techniques, such as the windmill, flare, and airflare. Its foundational nature makes it an essential skill for dancers looking to progress in their breakdancing journey.

In summary, the swipe is a dynamic and essential power move in breakdancing, requiring a blend of strength, agility, and coordination. It serves as both a standalone move and a gateway to more advanced techniques, making it a crucial element of any breakdancer’s skill set.

Turtles

The turtle is a renowned power move in breakdancing, evolving from the turtle freeze—a basic yet impressive position where the dancer balances on their elbows, with their hands on the ground and feet lifted in the air. The turtle freeze itself is a staple freeze in breakdancing, requiring strength, balance, and control. However, the turtle power move takes this static position to a dynamic level by adding rotation.

In the turtle move, the dancer maintains the core position of the turtle freeze but incorporates continuous movement. To start, the dancer places one elbow into their abdominal area while positioning the other hand diagonally on the floor. This setup provides the initial stability needed for the move.

Power moves in breakdance
Power moves in breakdance

The rotation begins as the dancer shifts their weight towards the hand that is not in the abdominal area. They lean into this hand, allowing the elbow to take on more weight and facilitate the rotation. The dancer then transitions by placing the other elbow into the abdominal area and releasing the previously engaged elbow to position it on the floor for the next push-off. This coordinated movement requires precise timing and strong core muscles to maintain balance and control throughout the rotation.

As the dancer repeats these movements in a continuous cycle, they achieve a circular motion known as the turtle. The fluidity of the rotations and the seamless transitions between each push-off create a mesmerizing effect, showcasing the dancer’s skill and control.

Mastering the turtle move involves developing significant upper body strength, particularly in the arms, shoulders, and core. Dancers must also have excellent balance and coordination to smoothly execute the rotations without losing stability.

The turtle is not only a captivating move on its own but also serves as a foundation for more advanced power moves and transitions in breakdancing. It exemplifies the blend of strength, agility, and creativity that defines breakdancing as an art form.

In conclusion, the turtle is a classic and essential power move in breakdancing. It transforms the static turtle freeze into a dynamic display of skill and control, requiring strength, balance, and precise coordination. As a foundational move, the turtle paves the way for more complex techniques and adds a unique flair to any breakdancer’s routine.

UFO

The UFO is a dynamic power move in breakdancing that shares similarities with the turtle but stands out due to its distinctive execution. While the turtle involves the dancer leaning into a turtle freeze, with elbows positioned in the abdominal area, the UFO requires the dancer to maintain a planche position throughout the movement. This subtle but crucial difference makes the UFO a unique and challenging move that showcases strength, balance, and fluidity.

To perform the UFO, the dancer starts in a planche position, where the body is held parallel to the ground, supported by the hands. Unlike the turtle, where the dancer balances on their elbows, the UFO keeps the body elevated and the legs extended, creating a horizontal plane. The planche position demands significant upper body strength, particularly in the shoulders, arms, and core, to hold the body steady and prevent it from dropping.

The rotation in the UFO is achieved by maintaining this planche position while performing circular movements. The dancer shifts their weight from one hand to the other, using controlled arm and core strength to propel the body in a circular motion. The legs remain extended and slightly apart, aiding in balance and providing a visually striking aspect to the move.

Each rotation requires the dancer to push off with their hands, creating momentum and allowing the body to spin around its vertical axis. The key to a successful UFO is the smooth transition between each push-off, ensuring that the body remains in the planche position and the rotations are fluid.

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As the dancer gains proficiency, they can increase the speed and fluidity of the rotations, making the UFO an impressive and captivating move. The continuous circular motion, combined with the elevated planche position, creates the illusion of the dancer floating, much like an unidentified flying object, hence the name UFO.

Mastering the UFO involves rigorous practice and training. Dancers must develop strong upper body and core muscles to maintain the planche position and execute the rotations effectively. Additionally, balance and coordination are crucial to ensure that the transitions between each push-off are seamless and that the body remains stable throughout the movement.

The UFO is a testament to the dancer’s strength, control, and precision. It is not only a visually stunning move but also a foundational element that can be incorporated into more complex breakdancing routines. By mastering the UFO, dancers can enhance their repertoire and add a unique flair to their performances.

In conclusion, the UFO is a distinctive and challenging power move in breakdancing. It involves maintaining a planche position while performing continuous circular rotations, showcasing the dancer’s strength, balance, and fluidity. As a foundational move, the UFO is a valuable addition to any breakdancer’s skill set, adding a unique and visually captivating element to their routines.

The handglide

The handglide is an old-school power move in breakdancing, known for its unique spinning motion and technical difficulty. Although it is not as commonly seen in contemporary breakdancing routines, it remains a testament to the creativity and skill of early b-boys and b-girls. This move combines elements of balance, strength, and control, making it a challenging and impressive power move to master.

To perform the handglide, the dancer begins in a turtle freeze position, with their body balanced on one elbow, hands on the ground, and legs lifted in the air. The primary action involves spinning while maintaining this position. The dancer uses the palm of the hand that is supporting their body to create the spin. This hand remains in contact with the ground, acting as the pivot point for the rotation.

Power moves in breakdance
Power moves in breakdance

The hand that is not in the abdominal area plays a crucial role in generating speed and maintaining balance. By pushing off the ground with this hand, the dancer creates the necessary momentum for the spin. The coordination between the push-off hand and the pivoting hand is essential for a smooth and controlled rotation.

To enhance the spin, dancers often use a slippery object such as a spin cap, glove, or sweatband on their pivoting hand. This reduces friction and allows for a more fluid and swift spin, making the move visually appealing and easier to execute. The use of such aids highlights the ingenuity and adaptability of breakdancers in optimizing their performance.

Mastering the handglide requires significant practice and physical conditioning. Dancers need to develop strong arm and shoulder muscles to support their body weight and maintain the spin. Core strength is also essential for balance and stability during the rotation. Additionally, the dancer must refine their sense of timing and control to synchronize the push-off hand with the pivoting hand effectively.

Despite its decline in popularity, the handglide remains an important part of breakdancing history. It represents the foundational techniques and creative exploration of early breakdancers. For those who choose to learn and perform the handglide, it offers a connection to the roots of the dance and an opportunity to showcase a classic power move.

In conclusion, the handglide is an old-school power move in breakdancing that involves spinning in a turtle freeze position. Using the palm of one hand as a pivot and the other hand to generate speed, dancers create a controlled and fluid rotation. While it may not be as prevalent in modern routines, the handglide remains a challenging and impressive move that pays homage to the creativity and skill of early breakdancers.

Summary

We explore the dynamic world of breakdancing through its captivating power moves. Originating from the streets of New York City in the 1970s, breakdance is renowned for its athleticism and creativity, prominently displayed in acrobatic spins, rotations, and balances known as power moves. From foundational techniques like the windmill and flare to advanced maneuvers such as the jackhammer and criticals, each move reflects the fusion of physical prowess and artistic expression unique to breakdance culture. Join us as we delve into the history, techniques, and cultural significance of these iconic movements, celebrating the artistry and innovation that define breakdancing today.

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