The roar of the crowd floods your ears like that of a river. Your chest explodes with each extravagant heartbeat. The sweat slowly drips down your brow as you approach the circle. This is it. This is your moment to prove yourself. This is your passion.

This is what it’s like to enter the floor of a dance competition. “No matter who you are, your ego is on the dance floor. Nothing else matters in that moment, just you, your moves, and the crowd.” Says Nolan Ghislline, a 20-year-old local who is passionate about dancing – specifically breakdancing. “There’s no better feeling than putting in the work and achieving your goal.”

So what is this thing called breakdancing?

It’s a Lost Form of Art

Lopez executing a breakdancing move called the Nike
Lopez executing a breakdancing move called the Nike.
Photo credit: Skyler Nykoda Mueller

What do you picture when you hear the word dance? The swift movements of a gentle ballerina? The competitive stare of a salsa dancer? Or perhaps the ever so famous scene of Kevin Bacon, passionately strutting his stuff in front of his VW Beetle, comes to mind. But how often do you picture our local youth competitively breakdancing?

Let’s be honest, breakdancing is often confined inside the walls of a bad stereotype. But after talking with a few locals who have dedicated their lives to the sport, we come to find out that it’s so much more than that. “Dancing is an escape for me. When I’m dancing all my worries fade away.” Says Alex Lopez.

Lopez is a 22-year-old who discovered dancing when he was 9 years old after watching a movie called Breakin’ – a 1984 movie about a young female jazz dancer who meets two bboys (a word used for male breakdancers). “It’s my passion because it’s an outlet.” He explains.

It’s a Passion

Lopez, in his early teens, frozen mid-handstand
Lopez, in his early teens, frozen mid-handstand.
Photo credit: Alex Lopez

“It’s a form of expression – speaking when words fail me.” Explains Joshua Yee, a 23-year-old who learned how to dance from friends and Youtube videos. Yee says the dancing scene can be intimidating at first, but if your respectful and humble then people begin to open up. It’s a community of its own.

“A passion is something you obsess over. You wake up and it’s all you think about. Your whole life revolves around it.” Says Lopez. We all have something we’re passionate about. Something that makes the excitement exude out of us. Something that makes us grin from ear to ear. Something that makes our hearts leap. For these three individuals, dancing is that very passion.

However, it does go beyond just dancing.

It’s History

Breakdancing is most commonly known to have started in the late 1960’s. In 1969 when the famous artist James Brown released his big hit “Get on the Good Foot” the dance move exploded, but it was Afrika Bambaataa who is known for the growth of breakdancing.

Bambaataa is a legendary grandmaster DJ, and leader of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx. He saw the true potential in the dance crave and encouraged others to stick with it, and together they would go on to create a groundbreaking new trend in the dance scene. Soon they formed one of the first breakdancing crews called the Zulu Kings.

Most breakdancers belong to a crew. A crew is composed of individuals, usually friends, who enjoy dancing together. Being in a group, they help each other learn, encourage each other, and compete with each other against other crews.   

It’s a Lifestyle

Yee (far right) standing with his crew called The Outsiders
Joshua Yee (far right) standing with his crew called The Outsiders.
Photo credit: Skyler Nykoda Mueller

All three dancers agreed on one thing. You can’t be truly passionate about breakdancing if you aren’t passionate about the culture.

Breakdancing is a part of the hip-hop culture, a culture known to have four different components. MC-ing (rapping), DJ-ing, breakdancing, and graffiti. Though graffiti is a common debate for enthusiasts due to its reputation of vandalism, there’s no arguing that all four compose the origins of each other.

“You can’t have an MC without a DJ, and you can’t breakdance without either of those.” Says Lopez. “These things are aspects of the Hip-Hop culture, they acted as platforms for the African and Latino communities to express who they were and protest in the face of oppression.” Yee added.

Gittin’ Jiggy Wit It

Lopez implementing a one handed hand stand into his dance routine
Lopez implementing a one-handed hand stand into his dance routine.
Photo credit: Skyler Nykoda Mueller

There’s nothing quite like watching a breakdancer at work. The movements of their body express passion and determination. The sweat subtly whispers of the endless hours of hard work they endured to achieve such spectacular motions. The roar of the on-watchers sends chills through your spine.

There’s no doubt that these individuals, and all of those who pursue dancing, put in hard work to become better at what they love to do. Not just for themselves, but also to be encouraging for others.

“To be a dancer you have to be responsible because you are a role model.” Ghislline says, “I guess the message I want to spread is just to be honest and respectful.”

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