The History of Breakdancing

Rock Steady Crew
(Photo: Getty Images)

When we refer to "dance" we usually have a specific style of dance in mind. This could be anything from "the running man" and "the moonwalk" to "the dougie" or "the dab." Breakdance, however, is not simply a style of dance. It's a unique culture with its own history, lingo, culture and vast assortment of dance moves.

So let's get to know the art of breakdancing, starting with a simple definition.

What Is Breakdancing?

Breakdancing or breaking is a form street dance that incorporates intricate body movements, coordination, style, and aesthetics. The people who perform this style of dance are known as b-boys or b-girls. They're sometimes called breakers.

The History of Breakdance:

Breakdance is the oldest known hip-hop style of dance. It is believed to have originated in the Bronx, New York, in the 1970's. Musical inspirations date back to the energetic performances of funk maestro, James Brown.

In the early days of deejaying, emceeing, and breakdancing, a break -- the instrumental part of a song that is looped repeatedly by the DJ -- was typically incorporated into songs to allow a showcase of breakdance moves.

In the late 1960s, Afrika Bambaataa recognized that breakdancing was not just a form of dance. He saw it as a means to an end. Bambaataa formed one of the earliest dance crews, the Zulu Kings. The Zulu Kings gradually developed a reputation as a force to be reckoned with in breakdancing circles.

 

Rock Steady Crew, arguably the most important breakdancing collective in hip-hop history, added innovative acrobatic moves to the art. Breaking evolved from simple headspins and backspins to sophisticated power moves.

Breakdancing Music:

Music is an essential ingredient in breakdancing, and hip-hop dance songs make an ideal soundtrack.

 But rap is not the only option. Also great for dancing: 70's soul, funk, and even jazz tunes all work as well.

Style, fashion, spontaneity, concept and technique are also vital aspects of breakdancing.

Popular Breakdance Moves:

 

Notable Breakdancers:

  • The Rocksteady Crew
  • Crazy Legs
  • Mr. Wiggles
  • Fast Feet
  • Tony Touch

Get Started on Breakdancing