Dance is an integral part of rave culture. There is no limit to the way people can express themselves, especially when under the influence of Ecstasy. From spasmodic limb floppery to pristine choreography, everyone has something to offer. To that end, breaking has had a major influence on how dance developed within the scene. The first time I went to a rave, I was amazed to see kids popping and locking. And of course, there were a few B-boy brothas keeping it real. Granted, there are differences between breaking and the aforementioned styles. I’m not here to get into semantics or to give anyone a history lesson on technicalities. You can find plenty of sites catering to this. I’m simply here to reflect on how far breaking has come, contrary to popular belief that it would become extinct in its heyday.
Flashback to 1983. Michael Jackson electrifies the world when he moonwalks across the stage at Motown’s 25th Anniversary. I will never forget that moment. I was sitting in front of the TV, mouth open wide thinking, “Wow…what was that?” Jackson had people talking for weeks, wondering how did he manage to glide backwards effortlessly. Hilarious episodes of peeps trying to moonwalk on the sidewalk quickly followed. “Flashdance” (1983) was a massive hit, but not without Crazy Legs executing Alex’s infamous spin at her dance academy audition. “Breakdance fever” (as mainstream media coined it then) had officially swept the nation. Some newscaster actually devoted a segment advising people that breakdancing was not a substitute for eating. Competitions on talent shows were broadcast live, with tutorials on how to do The Windmill and The Worm. Such a tutorial could have helped my cousin avoid banging his balls on the ground. But anyways, “fever” was no exaggeration. Guys with ghettoblasters on one shoulder could be seen strutting around my block. Hell, I even had a scarlet beauty with chrome accents sitting on my dresser. If you didn’t have a boombox back then, you were square. B-boys would break anytime, anywhere, much to the delight of onlookers.
At that time, breaking was a “guy thing.” I never saw girls participate (except to cheer on from the sidelines) and the general consensus was it was “not proper.” Personally, I was happy to let the boys do all the work. They would get all sweaty and stinky afterwards. Baggy tracksuits, furry Kangols, and Adidas with big laces were all the rage, courtesy of Run DMC. It was such an exciting time. Already, there was talk in mainstream media about “breakdancing” being a fad that would die out soon. I didn’t believe them. Hearing rap and electro going off on somebody’s boombox outside my window everyday as the breakers practiced was something I’d grown accustomed to. There seemed to be no end in sight for this phenomenon.
Flashforward to 1985, Brooklyn, New York. Here I was, visiting the place where it all began. By this time, breaking had begun to die out, but the atmosphere was still electric. It was something you could actually feel in the air. Much like contagion, you could “catch it” just by walking around and watching all the action unfold on street corners and inner city parks. Watching graffiti emblazoned trains with messy tags and bodacious burners rumble by my uncle’s apartment daily was quite an experience. Sometimes I even saw punks riding between cars, their spiked hair and chains visible even from a distance. Black and Puerto Rican kids could be seen breaking and double-dutching. Although I was too young to hit the clubs, I soaked up some illicit glee from hanging with older kids. The kind that had boyfriends and whispered about taking “the Pill.” The fashions were mindblowing. The music was evolving too. Rap was beginning to sound more like pop with an RnB flavour. Garage was going mainstream, with Gwen Guthrie’s “Padlock” lighting up the airwaves. Being exposed to all this excitement as a little kid in The Big Apple was a gamechanger. New York was the city of dreams, a place where anything was possible. I returned from my vacation, head turned inside-out. And then, the bubble burst. Just like that, breaking died. The B-boys vanished and ghettoblasters were banished to closet space. No-one even talked about breaking anymore. It was as if it had never existed. I forgot about it and moved on to bigger things, like popping pimples and rocking acid wash jeans. Life was starting to get pretty complicated. Those fun times were like half-forgotten dreams, lost in a dusty corner of yesteryear, never to return.
Flashforward to Toronto, Canada, 1990’s. Raving rears its noisy, colourful head. Once again, I am caught up in something electric, fresh and exciting. I witness ravers executing classic moves I saw on the streets during my childhood. Girls are breaking and it’s no big deal. The naysayers from yesteryear were wrong. Breaking is NOT a craze, it is an artform, born out of inner city resistance and struggle. It speaks volumes to millions of youth around the world, and will continue to do so for generations. Like everything else, it is cyclical. After all, didn’t acidwash make a comeback like two years ago? Within less than a year, I was ashamed to even wear my jacket, that’s how fierce trends were back in the 80’s. Although some diehards will say capoeira did not influence breaking, there is a definite correlation between the two. Brazilian martial arts evolved from African slaves’ resistance to oppression. African Americans invented breaking. How could there be no relation? It’s in the blood. Give it up to The Motherland for enriching the lives of millions across the globe. Breaking will never die.
R.I.P. FROSTY FREEZE. YOU WERE ONE OF THE GREATEST!
Special shoutouts to The Rocksteady Crew whose pioneering efforts helped bring breaking into public awareness. If you look closely, you will spot Crazy Legs and Frosty Freeze in the video. Enjoy 😉
Copyright © 2013 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.