So You Thought Break Dance Was Dead? Think Again!

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In the early 1980’s, break dance exploded onto the scene and became a national phenomenon that officially ushered in the “Hip-Hop” era. Then in the 90’s, the popularity of Rap music dominated the scene, essentially forcing “break dancing” out of the public spotlight and back to its underground origins. That is where break dancing has remained for the past two decades – growing in popularity ¬- evolving and developing a massive following that now spans the globe.

Break dance – which is now mostly referred to as “b-boying” and the dancers called “b-boys” or “b-girls” – is actually a term applied to anyone who identifies with the “break dancer” culture. The B-boy genre – which is largely unnoticed in the U.S. mainstream – is actually as popular today as other forms of popular sports and entertainment. B-boy now generates millions of dollars of revenue through its own network of live events, websites and retail outlets ¬- which sell their own unique brand of B-boy videos, music, apparel and related paraphernalia – and is searched on-line as much as other forms of popular sports and entertainment. B-boy entertainment is viral, a bonafide phenomena that is re-emerging in the U.S.

B-boy – which technically stands for “break or beat-boy”- is the art of traditional break dancing, but now combined with elements of gymnastics and mixed martial arts or what is now known as “tricking”. The original form of the dance, which never actually died as most assume, simply went underground where it could find its own home. A place where B-boy’s could shine in their own right, away from the negative aspects of modern mainstream Hip-Hop. There it’s where it has remained and morphed into an incredible acrobatic-styled dance that is often compared to an Olympic sport.

“You won’t see any finer moves in the Olympics” – Ron Wilkerson / Monster and

At the center of any B-boy competition is the “Battle”; where two opposing sides – either teams or solo – face each other in a battle of dance supremacy. Many B-boy competitions include choreographed stage presentations – in which they’re judged for creativity and showmanship – but the Battle remains the foundation of any B-boy competition.

RedBull & SONY® are two of the largest and most notable sponsors of B-boy competitions worldwide. With several dozen major events held annually, some of the larger events like Battle of The Year and R-16 draw in crowds of over 10,000 and 20,000 respectively. Other notable events like the World B-Boy Championships, FreeStyle Session, Red Bull BC One & Beat Battles boast record breaking attendances into the thousands, and sell out year after year.

These hi-energy contests are incredible displays of creativity, dexterity and agility. The Battles – which are often laced with verbal smack, jostling and chest thumping – are explosive to watch and have often been compared to a WWE match. However, this is unscripted and in the end, with hugs and handshakes all around, there’s nothing but respect and honor for ones opponent…that’s the B-boy way.

In Europe and Asia, B-boy has exploded, spawning its first set of celebrities in the Korean crew “Last for One”, which have been featured in commercials, TV and are regarded as bona-fide celebrities in their country. As a matter of fact, over seas, B-Boy is a booming market for endorsements and sponsorships. So much so that SONY® Europe has even released a B-boy game for their Playstation2 (PS2) and PlayStation Portable (PSP) game platforms.

Like most popular trends, the US lags behind, but there are some very significant signs of a mainstream resurgence here. Leading the way is the documentary Planet B-Boy, which made its debut at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The film chronicles the trying journey of five of the best B-boy crews, from all around the world, on their way to the Grand Daddy of B-boy competitions, the International “Battle of The Year; which is considered the “World Cup” of B-boying. The movie opened to rave reviews and is being touted as a film of “great significance in the history of B-Boying and Hip Hop” by The film adaptation of the movie is due out in 2011.

On television there are several projects in development that feature or highlight break dance, of which is the development of a street styled dance competition created by P-Diddy for MTV and the WORLD B-BOY LEAGUE, a league organization, which will televise “fight league” styled B-boy competitions.

On local a local level, the break dance resurgence can easily be witnessed by visiting your local high school or college. B-boy clubs have sprouted up, in what seems like thousands of college and high school campuses across the country. In most cases, these are legit, school-sanctioned organizations, which are offered right along side chorus, poetry and chess. A search on Google for “break dance clubs, college” turns up dozens of these organizations.

This article just skims the surface of this topic, but clearly demonstrates how the B-boy genre is alive and thriving today. It is unquestionably a viable market and a much more popular force than recognized. The days of your Uncle’s head-spins and moonwalks are long gone. B-Boy isn’t a fad or fodder for a punch line. It’s a legitimate art form, a popular sport and a significant element of Hip-Hop culture whose time is well overdue. Break dance never died, it just went back home to change its clothes, and it will be out to play again soon.

“…an important element of dance culture that deserves some legitimate respect. Or perhaps a slot at the Olympics”. – Rich Cline / Shadow on the Walls

Article by Augustine Covert (All rights reserved)

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