B-boying or breaking is a dance. The term b-boying comes from the word b-boy.
B-boy is short for breakboy and breakboy is the name Dj Kool Herc gave to the people dancing to
the breaks in the funk tracks at his parties in the early 70s. The dance practised by b-boys or b-girls
was therefore called b-boying or breaking. In the early 80s b-boying or breaking was, together with
other forms of dance, erroneously named breakdancing by the media.
B-boying or breaking is a dance on its' own. It is danced to funk music and especially to
the breaks in funk tracks. B-boying is commonly named as one of the five elements of hip hop. According to
Afrika Bambaataa the founder of the Zulu Nation these are: mcing, djing, writing, b-boying and knowledge.
Fluidity, musicality, individuality and originality are key in b-boying or breaking.
Fluidity or flow is important because the b-boy or b-girl should try to make out of his single movements a consistent
whole with beginning and end. Musicality is important because the b-girl or b-boy is a dancer and a dancer not only moves
with or to the music but tries to interpret and make something new out of it. Individuality is important because
b-boys and b-girls search for their own style as they try to express themselves in dance. Since each and everyone is different, each and
everyone should dance differently. Dancers should not so much try to set themselves apart from others but rather look
for their own selves. Originality is important because b-girls and b-boys should try to develop new moves. They should try to find their
own style. Stealing ones' moves from other dancers or copying another dancer's style is called biting and frowned upon. However, the line
between known or unknown influence and intentional theft is not that easy to draw.
THE ELEMENTS OF B-BOYING
As all classifications, these elements are broad categories. Thinking in categories has its
advantages but also its dangers. Since b-boying or breaking is a dance where fluidity, musicality, individuality and
originalty are important, a lot of moves are not easily categorized and as straight thinking in categories requires
rigidity it may well lead to the loss of the values so important in b-boying or breaking. However, since categorization makes it a lot easier to speak about b-boying
or breaking as a subject, we will here use categories for the purpose of explanation.
Basically b-boying or breaking can be said to consist of four elements: up- and top rocks, footwork, freezes and powermoves.
Up- and top rocks are steps that are performed while in an upright position. One of the first top rocks was probably
the Indian Step. Up rocks come from a different dance called uprocking or rocking. Up rocks are imitations of fight moves performed
against another dancer without touching him or her. By doing top rocks the dancer prepares for the drop and footwork.
The move that initiates the footwork is called the drop. The drop is used to transfer from up- and top rocks to footwork.
Footwork then are basically all moves where both the dancer's hands and feet touch the floor. Today the basic step of footwork is the
Sixstep developed by b-boy Spy. Doing the Sixstep the dancer rotates his feet around his body within six steps.
A freeze is when the dancer abruptly stops all movement for a short time. The dancer seems to freeze, hence the name.
Freezes can be done out of practically any position. One of the best known freezes is maybe the Baby Freeze.
The powermoves are moves that form a continous rotation. Two of the most widely known powermoves are probably the Windmill
and the Headspin. Blow ups are sometimes considered powermoves or a category apart. They are basically series of freezes where
positions get changed without the continous rotations that are characteristic for the other powermoves.
Other than in practice sessions b-boying or breaking takes place in a cypher or circle. A cypher or
circle is an open space surrounded by b-boys and b-girls. In the open space b-girls and b-boys dance one at the time. As soon as the
dancing b-boy or b-girl has finished his set or run someone else may enter the cypher. A set or run dures approximately 30
seconds. It should build a whole with an entry into the circle, a beginning, an end and an exit from the circle.
The battle is b-boying's or breaking's competition form. A battle takes place in a cypher or circle. In
a battle two b-boys or b-girls or two crews made of b-boys and b-girls dance against each other. Touching is not allowed. The b-girls or b-boys
or members of each crew enter the cypher in turns and try to trump the adversary's run. Routines or commandoes can be used by crews. A routine is when
two or more b-boys or b-girls of the same crew dance together at the same time. A commando is a short routine used to exchange dancers of the
same crew. This enables them to leave out a dancer of the competing crew as two dancers of the same crew can now enter the cypher one after the
other. Battles can dure until one dancer or crew gives up. Most of the time however, either the spectators or better a jury decide
which dancer or crew has won the battle after a given time.
B-boying or breaking came up in the early 70s in the borough Bronx in New York City, USA. During that time the Bronx was in a crisis
resulting from the construction of the crossbronx expressway in the 50s. The construction led to the exodus of the middle class. The financial
crisis and wrong reactions by the New York authorities led to the emergence of slum and ghetto like districts in the Bronx. B-boying was
born under these circumstances.
In 1973 Dj Kool Herc called the people dancing to the breaks in the funk tracks breakboys. At this time all dance steps were performed in an
upright position. They were called top rocks. These steps appear to come from various sources. One source is a dance called the goodfoot practised
by James Brown in his 1972 hit record "get on the goot foot". Another source is a dance called rocking. Rocking or uprocking came from a
dance practised by gangs in the Bronx. Other inspirations were kung fu from martial art films or tap dancing.
Footwork came up in 1974. The Nigger Twins were the first b-boys doing versions of footwork. This footwork was not yet of a fluid nature but
more choppy and edgy. The Russian or Cc's were some of these early footwork steps. First freezes as the Baby Freeze were invented. The
first generation of b-boys seem all to have been afroamericans. In 1975 puerto ricans began practising b-boying. New crews were formed.
With the Sixstep, developed by b-boy Spy, footwork got a continous and more fluid form. First powermoves were invented: the Buttspin, the Swipe, the
Backspin and the one shot headspins called Pencils.
In 1977 b-boying seems to have been just another trend as a lot of dancers began to dedicate themselves to other dances called the freak and the
hustle. A lot of b-boys got into the disco scene or into rapping. By 1979 b-boying was practically dead. A b-boy called Crazy Legs started uniting
left over dancers throughout New York City in his crew Rock Steady. The second generation of powermoves was developed: continous backspins also
known as the Windmill, the continous headspin, handglides and air swipes, an early form of air tracks. All in all b-boying got more acrobatic.
When the media got to know of b-boying in 1981 they erroneously named it breakdancing. B-boying got the medias' attention. It was streamed on
television. B-boying became a hype. The dance was seen in music videos as Buffalo Gals (1982) and in the movies Style Wars (1983), Wildstyle (1983),
Flashdance (1983) and Beat Street (1984). Especially the hollywood movies Flashdance and Beatstreet as well as the music video Buffalo Gals made b-boying
known all over the world. By 1984 the whole boom had subsided, and by 1986 b-boying was considered out one more time.
However, b-boying now spread all over the world was at first practised in more or less independent communities worldwide. In the 90s the dance underwent
enormous change as new moves and new styles were developed. In the early 90s the first bigger competitions as the B-boy Summit, Radiotron and
Freestyle Session in the USA and the Battle of the Year in Europe were organised. With the emergence of the world wide web b-boys and b-girls
found a medium for exchange that led to the even further diffusion of b-boying.
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