WHAT IS BREAKIN'
The art of breakin’ evolved from many different dances and other activities, which influenced New York youths in the years leading up to the mid-1970s. In the early years, breakers would break at parties, in clubs and on the street, practicing at home and in the hallways of buildings or in community centers. During that era, structured competitions with judging were seldom held.
By the early 1980’s, breakin’ had begun to catch the attention of the mainstream media in the United States and the dance became increasingly popular, spreading out quickly across the United States and overseas. Breakin’ crews like the Zulu Kings, Rock Steady Crew, Dynamic Rockers and New York City Breakers were formed – they developed not only the foundation of the dance, but also the more complex moves.
In 1983, the major motion picture Flashdance introduced breakin’ to the mainstream public on a larger scale. Although Flashdance was not intended to be a breakin’ movie per se, only featuring some short breakin’ scenes, the movie still had a big impact on breakin’, inspiring people throughout the world to try breakin’.
After Flashdance, a number of breakin’-focused movies such as Breakin` and Beat Street were produced. Beat Street featured one of the most famous breakin’ scenes ever shown on film, the battle between Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers. It was filmed at the Roxy, which was a popular lower West Side nightclub in Manhattan and the stomping ground for the breakin’ scene, where crews from each of the New York area would come to break and battle one another.
By the mid-1980’s, breakin’ had become a global phenomenon with overwhelming media coverage, but by the late 1980´s, many in the United States would have declared the breakin’ fad as having come and gone, at least in the eyes of the mainstream public.
As the 1990’s approached, only a handful of breakers worldwide understood the cultural relevance of the art form and started to pull other dancers out of early retirements to help activate the breakin’ scene again. A lot of activities and collaborations started in the field of dance theater, but also another stage opened up -- judged competitions.
In 1990, the International Battle of the Year (Battle of the Year) was created. In the Battle of the Year’s tradition, breakin’ crews would perform a showcase representing their countries - an international group of judges would select the best crew performances from the showcase, then the top crews would battle against one another for first place. Battle of the Year was the first breakin’ event to establish formally-judged competitions on a large scale. Today, Battle of the Year involves qualifier events on all continents and is traditionally the largest breakin’ event in the world in terms of spectator attendance.
As the 1990’s unfolded, other international breakin’ events followed, including the Pro-Am in Miami, and The Bboy Summit and Freestyle Session, both in California. With the advent of these judged competitions, renewed interest in breakin’ was spawned in the urban areas and the breakers who began competing in the 1990’s generation grew up participating in organized battles throughout the world.
In addition to Battle of the Year and Freestyle Session, today’s major national circuits include the Break Free Hip Hop Breakin’ League, the Competitive Breakin’ League, UDEF’s Pro Breakin’ Tour, and The Silverback. International breakin’ events include The Notorious IBE (Holland), Outbreak Europe (Slovakia), the Red Bull BC One Championships (Global), the UK B-Boy Championships (England), BIS (China), and The Undisputed World Finals (Global), among many others primarily in North America, Europe and Asia.
There is not only an active competitive scene with prize money events and professional tours, but also breakin’ is frequently featured on TV shows and in commercials, as well as in theatre performances or as part of contemporary dance productions. In short, breakin’ has evolved into a global cultural art form with many elements of sport, given the athletic nature of breakin’. This naturally led to the 2016 decision of International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add breakin’ to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. Based on the success and popularity of this debut, in 2022, Breakin' will be a featured sport at the World Games being held in Birmingham, Alabama and in 2024, Breakin' will showcase on the world stage in the Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
Many in the community have seen this coming. In the past decade, a handful of Breakin' schools have opened throughout the country. Schools such as BreakFree in Houston, The Beacon in Seattle, District in Las Vegas and many more. These facilities have provided a space for kids to find proper instruction to learn the dance. A young new generation is emerging. As more focus is going towards education and mentorship the need for a sanctioned governing body to provide representation at the national and international level is growing. This is challenging for a dance that is traditionally organized by grassroots community members.
To be a sport, there has to be a recognized body that governs members, established standardized rules and judging criteria, and sanctions events that lead to the creation of a National Team of athletes that represent the United States internationally. Internationally, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) is recognized as at the International Governing Body for DanceSport by the International Olympic Committee. In the United States, USA Dance is the national member body of the WDSF and is currently the Recognized Sport Organization for DanceSport by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
In December 2020, USA Dance announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with USA Breakin', a Washington, DC based 501c3 non profit corporation established to support the growth of Breakin' and Hip Hop through sport educational programs and to develop the pathway to the Olympics. The agreement establishes USA Breakin' as a National Sports Organization member of USA Dance responsible for the Breakin' DanceSport discipline. Under this agreement USA Breakin' is responsible for training athletes, adjudicators, and coaches, sanctioning Breakin' competitions, and managing operational aspects of the Breakin' DanceSport discipline in preparation for the Olympics.