What's that Dance
By Jackielou Perez
Photo by Glazgow via Flickr (CC)
Let's get one thing straight -it's not called Breakdancing, it's B-Boying.
Part of the hip hop culture that emerged in 1970s New York, B-Boying was influenced by the Funk era, James Brown and other dance forms such as salsa, capoeira and tap. A masculine and aggressive form of dance, it was an outlet for youth to battle it out through creativity rather than weapons.
"B-Boying is about identity, showing who you are using your own style,” says B-Boy Jon "Drops" Reid from the Supernaturalz Crew. "[B-Boy] culture is not choreographed. It's about freestyle movement, listening to the DJ and how the music makes you feel."
Drops breaks down the terms and foundation for beginners
- the steps danced while standing
- the transitional footwork B-Boys use from up to down
- patterns and steps used while on the ground with both hands and feet
- positions held creating a pose or 'freeze' moment, using strength or balance and used at the end to conclude a throw-down
- spinning dynamic motions. Examples of this are headspins, backspins, flares and windmills
B-Boys are usually found on the street and in practice spaces, constantly improving their technique. And while B-Boy culture isn't rooted in the studio, there are some studios that offer beginner classes. Concrete Roots
in Halifax and Break It Down
in Toronto offer workshops in schools and communities for youth to creatively express themselves. It's rare to find advanced B-Boy/break dance classes because once a B-Boy (or B-Girl) learns the foundation, it's time to break out and create his or her own style and moves.
"Some Breakdancers don't understand that B-Boying is dance first," says Drops. "I consider myself a dancer and a B-Boy, 100 percent. B-Boying is about expressing yourself through motion like all dances, but we do it from the perspective of Hip Hop culture."
A little background on the evolution of the B-Boy dance style:
- B-boy culture was all about experimenting and creating its own methods
- Rocksteady Crew appears in Flashdance (1983), making B-Boying a pop culture phenomenon
- The culture moved underground in reaction to pop culture exploitation of the dance. The dance's foundation wasn't a focus, rather the move and unique styles emerged
- Asia exploded with dancers and their power tricks inspired many to elevate this aspect of dance
- More B-Boys are looking for foundational knowledge to inform their dance and its context.
"Originality," says Drops. "Because everyone's influenced by going back to the roots of B-Boying, everyone's style is looking similar, generic and soon we'll break out of that cycle. The next cycle, I believe, is unique style informed by cultural understanding."
Rocksteady Crew in Flashdance (1983)
Supernaturalz showcasing their skills in Korea
Have a listen to James Brown's "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose
" track to get a feel for some funk and b-boy culture.
Breaking for 9 years, Jon "Drops" Reid is a 6th generation member of Supernaturalz, a B-Boy crew based in Toronto. He is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of Break It Down (www.breakitdown.ca), a not-for-profit organization for youth, giving a deeper understanding of hip hop culture through B-Boying.