B-boying or breaking came up in the early 70s in the 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 the Rock Steady crew. 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.