B-boying or breaking, also called breakdancing, is a style of street dance that originated primarily among African American andPuerto Rican youth, many former members of the Black Spades, the Young Spades, and the Baby Spades, during the mid 1970s.The dance spread worldwide due to popularity in the media, especially in regions such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Russia, and South Korea. While diverse in the amount of variation available in the dance, b-boying consists of four kinds of movement: toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes. B-boying is typically danced to hip-hop, funk music, and especially breakbeats, although modern trends allow for much wider varieties of music along certain ranges of tempo and beat patterns.
A practitioner of this dance is called a b-boy, b-girl, or breaker. Although the term "breakdance" is frequently used to refer to the dance in popular culture and in the mainstream entertainment industry, "b-boying" and "breaking" are the original terms. These terms are preferred by the majority of the pioneers and most notable practitioners
Many elements of b-boying can be seen in other antecedent cultures prior to the 1970s. B-boy pioneers Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon and Kenneth "Ken Swift" Gabbert, both of Rock Steady Crew, cite James Brown and Kung Fu films as influences to b-boying. Many of b-boying's acrobatic moves, such as the flare, show clear connections to gymnastics. In the 1877 book 'Rob Roy on the Baltic' John MacGregor describes seeing near Norkoping in Sweden a '...young man quite alone, who was practising over and over the most inexplicable leap in the air...he swung himself up, and then round on his hand for a point, when his upper leg described a great circle...'. The engraving shows a young man apparently B-boying. The dance was called the Giesse Harad Polska or 'salmon district dance'. A young street dancer performing acrobatic headspins was recorded by Thomas Edison in 1898. However, it was not until the 1970s that b-boying developed as a defined dance style in the United States.
There are four primary elements that form b-boying. They are toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes.
Toprock generally refers to any string of steps performed from a standing position. It is usually the first and foremost opening display of style, though dancers often transition from other aspects of b-boying to toprock and back. Toprock has a variety of steps which can each be varied according to the dancer's expression (i.e. aggressive, calm, excited). A great deal of freedom is allowed in the definition of toprock: as long as the dancer maintains cleanliness, form, and the b-boy attitude, theoretically anything can be toprock. Toprock can draw upon many other dance styles such as popping, locking, tap dance, Lindy hop, or house dance. Transitions from toprock to downrock and power moves are called "drops".
Downrock (also known as "footwork" or "floorwork") is used to describe any movement on the floor with the hands supporting the dancer as much as the feet. Downrock includes moves such as the foundational 6-step, and its variants such as the 3-step. The most basic of downrock is done entirely on feet and hands but more complex variations can involve the knees when threading limbs through each other.
Power moves are acrobatic moves that require momentum, speed, endurance, strength, and control to execute. The breaker is generally supported by his upper body while the rest of his body creates circular momentum. Some examples are the windmill, swipe, back spin, and head spin. Some power moves are borrowed from gymnastics and martial arts. An example of a power move taken from gymnastics is the Thomas Flair which is shortened and spelled flare in b-boying.
Freezes are stylish poses that require the breaker to suspend himself or herself off the ground using upper body strength in poses such as the pike. They are used to emphasize strong beats in the music and often signal the end of a b-boy set. Freezes can be linked into chains or "stacks" where breakers go from freeze to freeze to freeze in order to hit the beats of the music which displays musicality and physical strength.
There are many individual styles used in b-boying. Individual styles often stem from a dancer's region of origin and influences. However, some people such as b-boy Jacob "Kujo" Lyons feel that the Internet inhibits individual style. In an 2012 interview with B-Boy Magazine he expressed his frustration:
B-boy Luis "Alien Ness" Martinez, the president of Mighty Zulu Kings, expressed a similar frustration in a separate interview three years earlier with "The Super B-Beat Show" about the top five things he hates in b-boying:
Although there are some generalities in the styles that exist, many dancers combine elements of different styles with their own ideas and knowledge in order to create a unique style of their own. B-boys can therefore be categorized into a broad style which generally showcases the same types of techniques.
- Power: This style of b-boying is what most members of the general public associate with the term "breakdancing". Power moves comprise full-body spins and rotations that give the illusion of defying gravity. Examples of power moves include head spins, back spins, windmills, flares, air tracks/air flares, 1990s, 2000s, jackhammers, crickets, turtles, hand glides, halos, and elbow spins. Those b-boys who use "power moves" almost exclusively in their sets are referred to as "power heads".
- Abstract: A very broad style of b-boying which may include the incorporation of "threading" footwork, freestyle movement to hit beats, house dance, and "circus" styles (tricks, contortion, etc.).
- Blow-up: A style of b-boying which focuses on the "wow factor" of certain power moves, freezes, and circus styles. Blowups consist of performing a sequence of as many difficult trick combinations in as quick succession as possible in order to "smack" or exceed the virtuosity of the other b-boy's performance. The names of some of these moves are air baby, hollow backs, solar eclipse, and reverse air baby, among others. The main goal in blow-up style is the rapid transition through a sequence of power moves ending in a skillful freeze or "suicide". Like freezes, a suicide is used to emphasize a strong beat in the music and signal the end to a routine. While freezes draw attention to a controlled final position, suicides draw attention to the motion of falling or losing control. B-boys or b-girls will make it appear that they have lost control and fall onto their backs, stomachs, etc. The more painful the suicide appears, the more impressive it is, but breakers execute them in a way to minimize pain.
- Flavor: A style that is based more on elaborate toprock, downrock, and/or freezes. This style is focused more on the beat and musicality of the song than having to rely on power moves only. B-boys who base their dance on "flavor" or style are known as "style heads".
In addition to the styles listed above, certain footwork styles have been associated with different areas which popularized them.
- Traditional New York Style: The original style of b-boying from the Bronx, based around the Ukrainian Tropak dance. This style of downrock focuses on kicks called "CCs" and foundational moves such as 6-steps and variations of it.
- Euro Style: Created in the early 90s, this style is very circular, focusing not on steps but more on glide-type moves such as the pretzel, undersweeps and fluid sliding moves.
- Toronto Style: Created in the mid 90s, also known as the 'Toronto thread' style. Similar to the Euro Style, except characterized by complex leg threads, legwork illusions, and footwork tricks. This style is attributed to three crews, Bag of Trix (Gizmo), Supernaturalz (Leg-O & Dyzee) and Boogie Brats (Megas).
Power versus style
Multiple stereotypes have emerged in the breaking community over the give-and-take relationship between technical footwork and physical power. Those who focus on dance steps and fundamental sharpness are labeled as "style heads." Specialists of more gymnastics-oriented technique and form—at the cost of charisma and coordinated footwork—are known as "power heads." Such terms are used colloquially often to classify one's skill, however, the subject has been known to disrupt competitive events where judges tend to favor a certain technique over the other.
This debate however is somewhat of a misnomer. The classification of dancing as "style" in b-boying is inaccurate because every b-boy or b-girl has their own unique style developed both consciously and subconsciously. Each b-boy or b-girl's style is the certain attitude or method in which they execute their movements. A breaker's unique style does not strictly refer to just toprock or downrock. It is a concept which encompasses how a move is executed rather than what move is done.
The musical selection for breaking is not restricted to hip-hop music as long as the tempo and beat pattern conditions are met. Breaking can be readily adapted to different music genres with the aid of remixing. The original songs that popularized the dance form borrow significantly from progressive genres of jazz, soul, funk, electro, and disco. The most common feature of b-boy music exists in musical breaks, or compilations formed from samples taken from different songs which are then looped and chained together by the DJ. The tempo generally ranges between 110 and 135 beats per minute with shuffled sixteenth and quarter beats in the percussive pattern. History credits DJ Kool Herc for the invention of this concept:79 later termed the break beat.
- Battle of the Year (BOTY) was founded in 1990 by Thomas Hergenröther in Germany. It is the first and largest international breaking competition for b-boy crews.BOTY holds regional qualifying tournaments in several countries such as Zimbabwe, Japan, Israel, Algeria, Indonesia, and the Balkans. Crews who win these tournaments go on to compete in the final championship in Montpellier, France. BOTY was featured in the independent documentary Planet B-Boy (2007) that filmed five b-boy crews training for the 2005 championship. A 3D film Battle of the Year was released in January 2013. It was directed by Benson Lee who also directed Planet B-Boy.
- Circle Kingz is an international b-boy competition that took place between 2005 and 2012, where the world final location was in Lausanne. This 2vs2 competition that focused on style and character more than acrobatic movements made the fame of most of the well-known actual top b-boys. Circle Kingz started the cypher qualification in Europe. Some qualification to be invited to Circle Kingz started to pop up all over the world called Circle Prinz. This competition set the standard for his era.
- The Notorious IBE is a Dutch-based breaking competition founded in 1998. IBE (International Breakdance Event) is not a traditional competition because there are not any stages or judges. Instead, there are timed competitive events that take place in large multitiered ciphers—circular dance spaces surrounded by observers—where the winners are determined by audience approval. There are several kinds of events such as the b-girl crew battle, the Seven 2 Smoke battle (eight top ranked b-boys battle each other to determine the overall winner), the All vs. All continental battle (all the American b-boys vs. all the European b-boys vs. the Asian b-boys vs. Mexican/Brazilian b-boys), and the Circle Prinz IBE. The Circle Prinz IBE is a b-boy knockout tournament that takes place in multiple smaller cipher battles until the last standing b-boy is declared the winner. IBE also hosts the European finals for the UK B-Boy Championships.
- Chelles Battle Pro was created in 2001 and it is held every year in Chelles, France. There are two competitions. One is a kids competition for solo b-boys and b-girls who are 12 years old or younger. The other competition is a knock-out tournament for eight b-boy crews. Some crews have to qualify at their country's local tournament; others are invited straight to the finale.
- Red Bull BC One was created in 2004 by Red Bull and is hosted in a different country every year. The competition brings together the top 16 b-boys from around the world. Six spots are earned through six regional qualifying tournaments. The other 10 spots are reserved for last year's winner, wild card selections, and recommendations from an international panel of experts. A past participant of the competition is world record holder Mauro "Cico" (pronounced CHEE-co) Peruzzi. B-boy Cico holds the world record in the 1990s. A 1990 is a move in which a breaker spins continuously on one hand—a hand spin rather than a head spin. Cico broke the record by spinning 27 times. A documentary based on the competition called Turn It Loose (2009) profiled six b-boys training for the 2007 championship in Johannesburg.Two of these b-boys were Ali "Lilou" Ramdani from Pockémon Crew and Omar "Roxrite" Delgado from Squadron.
- Floor Wars is a three-on-three breaking competition founded in 2005 in Denmark. Eight top ranked international crews, referred to as the Great 8, are automatically invited to participate in the final. The other eight crews qualify for the final through regional tournaments.
- R16 Korea is a South Korean breaking competition founded in 2007 by Asian Americans Charlie Shin and John Jay Chon. Like BOTY and Red Bull BC One put together, Respect16 is a competition for the top 16 ranked b-boy crews in the world. What sets it apart from other competitions is that it is sponsored by the government and broadcast live on Korean television and in several countries in Europe. In 2011, R16 instituted a new judging system that was created to eliminate bias and set a unified and fair standard for the way b-boy battles should be judged. With the new system, b-boys are judged against five criteria: foundation, dynamics (power moves), battle, originality, and execution. There is one judge for each category and the scores are shown on a large screen during battles so that the audience can see who is winning at any given moment.
- World B-Boy Classic is a two-on-two Dutch breaking competition founded in 2009 in Rotterdam. An hour before the competition begins all the participating b-boys are randomly assigned a partner. They may or may not know each other. The purpose of the competition is to judge which duo has the best chemistry when working with someone they have not trained with. World B-Boy Classic takes place during Eindhoven's Urban Culture Festival E-Moves and had 13 worldwide qualifiers in 2015.