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The Business of Breakdancing

The business of breakdance
The business of breakdance

Table of Contents

Breaking may be a relatively young form of dance, but it has a rich cultural history. Today, it’s a staple of hip-hop, and breakdancing has gone on to conquer the world. But there is a debate within the scene, with many decrying the commercialization of breaking and.

Although many are upset at the professionalization of the sub-genre, this growth, beginning in the 1980s, is also why so many people want to learn how to breakdance. It’s very much a double-edged sword.

In this article, we examine how breaking grew from the streets of New York City to the professional sport we know today.

Breakdancing Origins

Breaking emerged in the Bronx in the 1970s among disadvantaged African-American and Latino youths. This was a time when these groups were often marginalized, feeling as if there was no way out of poor neighborhoods. Breaking was a significant part of the counterculture, encouraging those on the fringes of society to express their anger at police brutality, racism, and inequality.

The same can be said about the history of breaking in France, where it quickly grew in the disadvantaged banlieues on the outskirts of Paris.

Technically, no one person was the first to show people how to breakdance. However, most historians credit DJ Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) for giving the first breakers a platform under the name of the A1 B-Boys crew. And it’s from this point that breaking got onto the map.

From Counterculture to Mainstream

It didn’t take long for breaking to start appearing in the mainstream media. Interest from the media led to a growth in awareness worldwide. It wouldn’t take long for youth worldwide to want to learn how to airflare and how to windmill.

The commercialization of the art form started in the early 1980s, with movies like:

  • Wild Style (1982)
  • Style Wars (1983)
  • Beat Street (1984)

Much of the credit also has to go to the first formal crews, with the Rock Steady Crew earning its place in history. These crews are featured in commercials, television, and special events.

According to Langnes & Fasting, Scandinavia saw breaking become popular due to the movie Beat Street. The youth would reconstruct the body movements, images, and clothing there, considered hip-hop’s entry into this market.

 Naturally, it wouldn’t take long for professional competitions to appear the world over. And, in 2024, breakdancing will reach its zenith, with a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Breaking Enters Formal Competition

Breaking has always been competitive by nature. Initially, these competitions would be informal and take place on the streets, but the 1980s saw organizers offering cash prizes and exposure opportunities for the first time.

Some of the biggest events to have existed include:

  • Battle of the Year
  • Red Bull – Lords of the Floor
  • Circle Kingz
  • The Notorious IBE
  • The UK B-Boy Championships
  • Freestyle Session
  • Red Bull BC One
  • WDSF World Breaking Championships

Dancers entering these competitions are the best of the best. These venues are where you’ll find the top 10 b-boys worldwide duking it out for a shot at glory. And with the addition of breaking into the Olympics, these events often provide a path to even greater heights.

Crucially, these events have opened the way for dancers to turn their skills into a way to make a living. Today’s events attract massive crowds of people looking to level up their breaking skills.

How Dancers Navigate Sponsorships and the Professional Dance Industry

With competition comes business, and breakdancing is no exception in this respect. Many of today’s Olympic b-boys and b-girls set themselves up by progressing via regional and national competitions.

Likewise, the growth of these competitions has opened up ample sponsorship opportunities. Much like other dance styles, today’s dancers are plastered in business logos and endorsements, enabling them to make a living from their art. Plus, many of today’s hip-hop MCs used to break, demonstrating how breaking can open the way for other avenues in the hip-hop scene.

 Additionally, no discussion about sponsorships and commercial opportunities can continue without mentioning YouTube and other social media channels.

Although the traditions behind b-girl and b-boy names and styles of footwork persist, breaking has benefitted massively from the digital era. Not everyone can afford to travel to competitions and get noticed, which is why social media has been so instrumental in gaining exposure for young breakers worldwide.

In many ways, the rise of social media breakers harkens back to the word-of-mouth marketing the original breakers enjoyed on the streets. Plus, many say that social media offers agency.

By controlling their own channels and organic growth, breakers aren’t relying on branded competition to get noticed. Instead of going to the business, the business comes to them.

Anyone Can Become the Next Big Breakdancing Star

Some traditionalists may rail against the commercialization of breakdancing. In many ways, they’re right. Breaking has moved away from its counterculture origins, but it’s also liberated many dancers who would have otherwise been unable to pursue their artistry and innovate the sub-genre.

If you’re learning how to master your foundation, you’re confident that breaking is one of the few dance forms open to everyone. The role of social media and a growing array of competitions, small and large, enables anyone to be their brand.

Several options exist for aspiring breakers to master the basics and become a breakout star, including:

  • Organic growth from social media.
  • Winning and progressing through competitions.
  • Earning endorsements via the online world.

But it all begins with doing something to stand out from the crowd. Breaking is about so much more than the creation of the backspin and relentlessly practicing how to do a headspin.

Technical know-how is one thing, but to truly become a star, you must think outside the box and advance the sport into its next phase. With the professionalization of breaking comes higher standards. It’s not just about how you dance but the message you send. 


Standards for breakdancing have never been higher. The competition has become as ferocious as breaking’s natural dynamism. However, commercialization has created untold opportunities for the leading breakers.

If aspiring to be the next big thing, you must start at the bottom. Learning how to breakdance with an experienced, passionate tutor is your first step on the ladder. To begin your journey, check out some of our world-leading courses at the B-Boy & B-Girl Dojo today.

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