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What is Breakdance?

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What is Breakdance?

Are you looking to try out breaking for the first time? Then you’re probably wondering what breakdance is, where it comes from, and what makes it unique. Before delving into free breaking tutorials to try it for yourself, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into.

Up to ten million Americans have danced or taken a class in a studio, so you’ll be in good company. Technically, breaking is one of hip-hop culture’s four main elements, including DJing, rapping, and graffiti.

So, if you’re ready for your journey into the world of hip-hop, here’s a taster.

What is Breakdance?

Breakdancing comes under many names, including breaking and b-boying. It falls under the category of street dance and requires strength, balance, coordination, and athleticism to pull off.

But what makes it different from other forms of dance is that much of it is improvisational. It’s why if you sign up for any of the multitude of courses, you should see them as an intro rather than a tell-all guide.

If you’ve ever watched a pro at work, you’ll see that their fancy footwork and spectacular moves all consist of elements like:

  • Drops
  • Footwork
  •   Freezes
  • Power moves
  • Toprock

Another part that makes breakdance unique is that it’s not just about the dancing. It’s a part of culture. You’ll find a highly competitive sub-sect within the scene, and so-called “break battles” are common.

Strictly speaking, any hip-hop music track can be used for breakdancing. All you need is a track with a strong and steady beat. In this sense, breaking relates closely to Brazilian capoeira.

But any track with a decent drop and the right beat can deliver a danceable break track. It’s all about using your imagination.

The History of Breakdance

The birth of breaking is usually associated with American-Jamaican pioneer DJ Kool Herc. In the 1970s, he gave birth to this new genre by initiating “breaks” in his DJing. Originally, Herc would play his classic funk and soul records in a unique way that enabled breakers to show their stuff.

The rise of breaking was unstoppable, and by the late 1970s, New York City’s hip-hop scene had taken this dance style to heart. It was especially popular in Manhattan and the Bronx, with black and Puerto Rican youth helping spread the word.

But the entrance to mainstream culture didn’t begin until the early 1980s under the Rock Steady Crew, formed by several legendary breakers in 1977. The Rock Steady Crew would feature in several movies, including Wild Style and Flashdance.

Although these movies weren’t Oscar-winning hits, they succeeded in spreading breaking across the globe. Whether it’s Paris or Tokyo, an intense breaking scene has endured. These days, competitions exist worldwide, and breakdancing will feature in the Paris 2024 Olympics for the first time.

 Breakdancing Etymology

On a side note, the term “breakdancing” may be considered offensive within purist circles. Although today it’s used within pop culture worldwide, this term comes not from the 1970s but from the 1980s after it entered the public consciousness.

If you’re learning how to breakdance by mastering the basics, beware that many breakdancing moves aren’t part of the style.

For example, it’s not uncommon for popping and locking to be associated with breaking because it emerged around the same time in Los Angeles.

5 Foundational Elements of Breakdancing

Head to any physical or online breakdancing school and one of the first things you’ll learn about is this dance style’s five distinct elements. Without these, you cannot expect to master your foundation.

In no particular order, these elements are:

  1. Toprock – The steps performed while standing. Most breakdancers will begin with toprock moves before transitioning into things like how to windmill and freezes and transitions.
  2. Downrock – As the name implies, these are the moves performed while you’re on the ground. They can be done with support from either your hands or your feet. One of the first downrock or footwork moves you’ll learn is the six-step.
  3. Drops – Drops are what come between toprock and downrock. They can be as simple as throwing your body to the floor or intricate moves to add a unique spin to your routine.
  4. Power Moves – Gymnastics and martial arts inspire power moves. These are the moves that the majority of people associate with breakdancing. They include headspins, backspins, swipes, windmills, and flares.
  5. Freezes – Freezes provide a break between moves/beats, which is where the name of this style comes from. They require control, balance, and strength to hold, but they’re an essential element of what makes breakdancing distinct.

With so many elements, it’s easy for beginners to get overwhelmed by everything. But don’t worry because with a perfect practice formula, persistence, and gradual progress, you’ll be putting your dance routines together in no time.

How to Build Yourself Up to Breakdance

What does it take to be a breakdancer that people want to watch and jam with? Well, first, it requires endurance, strength, balance, coordination, and technique. It’s one of the most physically demanding types of dance, especially if you want to get to that next level of incorporating flips and other athletic moves.

With 14 styles of footwork alone, the biggest problem your average breaking teacher has is choosing a starting point and stopping their students from getting overwhelmed. However, the key to longevity in breaking is to start small and focus on getting the basics down.

Above all, this dance style emphasizes general strength and fitness because, without both of those things, you won’t be able to hit most of the moves. In particular, you must focus on:

  • Cardio
  • Core strength
  • Arm strength

Once you get these down, it’s just a matter of getting used to awkward positions, such as being upside down.

Get Started With Breakdance in 2024

Breakdancing can be done anywhere. Whether you start on the street like the founding fathers of the style, prefer to jam with yourself at home, or sign up with a local dance studio, countless options exist for starting something new.

With an online dance school like B-Boys & B-Girls Dojo, you can take advantage of affordable lessons with experts. Plus, you can dance and redo lessons wherever and whenever you like.

If you’re looking for a breakdance school that can get your body rocking, contact us today.

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