The art of breaking evolved from many different dances and other activities, which influenced New York youths in the years leading up to the mid-1970s. In the early years, breakers would break at parties, in clubs and on the street, practicing at home and in the hallways of buildings or in community centers. During that era, structured competitions with judging were seldom held. Breaking crews like The Zulu Kings, The Bronx Boys, Rockwell Association, The Salsoul Crew, Crazy Commandos, and StarChild La Rock were formed - they developed many fundamentals of the dance which paved the way for the next generation of Breakers.
By the early 1980’s, breaking had begun to catch the attention of the mainstream media in the United States and the dance became increasingly popular, spreading out quickly across the United States and overseas. Breaking crews like the Rock Steady Crew, Dynamic Rockers, and New York City Breakers helped spearhead breaking initiatives and activations in the 80's mainstream media boom. They added innovation to the foundation of the dance, and developed more complex moves.
In 1983, the major motion picture Flashdance introduced breaking to the mainstream public on a larger scale. Although Flashdance was not intended to be a breaking movie per se, only featuring some short breaking scenes, the movie still had a big impact on breaking, inspiring people throughout the world to try breaking.
After Flashdance, a number of breaking-focused movies such as Breaking and Beat Street were produced. Beat Street featured one of the most famous breaking scenes ever shown on film, the battle between Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers. It was filmed at the Roxy, which was a popular lower West Side nightclub in Manhattan and the stomping ground for the breaking scene, where crews from each of the New York area would come to break and battle one another.
By the mid-1980’s, breaking had become a global phenomenon with overwhelming media coverage, but by the late 1980´s, many in the United States would have declared the breaking fad as having come and gone, at least in the eyes of the mainstream public.
As the 1990’s approached, only a handful of breakers worldwide understood the cultural relevance of the art form and started to pull other dancers out of early retirements to help activate the breaking scene again. A lot of activities and collaborations started in the field of dance theater, but also another stage opened up -- judged competitions.
In 1990, the International Battle of the Year (Battle of the Year) was created. In the Battle of the Year’s tradition, breaking crews would perform a showcase representing their countries - an international group of judges would select the best crew performances from the showcase, then the top crews would battle against one another for first place. Battle of the Year was the first breaking event to establish formally-judged competitions on a large scale. Today, Battle of the Year involves qualifier events on all continents and is traditionally the largest breaking event in the world in terms of spectator attendance.
As the 1990’s unfolded, other international breaking events followed, including the Pro-Am in Miami, and The Bboy Summit and Freestyle Session, both in California. With the advent of these judged competitions, renewed interest in breaking was spawned in the urban areas and the breakers who began competing in the 1990’s generation grew up participating in organized battles throughout the world.
In addition to Battle of the Year and Freestyle Session, today’s major national circuits include the Break Free Hip Hop Breaking League, UDEF’s Pro Breaking Tour, and The Silverback. International breaking events include The Notorious IBE (Holland), Outbreak Europe (Slovakia), the Red Bull BC One Championships (Global), the UK B-Boy Championships (England), BIS (China), and The Undisputed World Finals (Global), among many others primarily in North America, Europe and Asia.
There is not only an active competitive scene with prize money events and professional tours, but also breaking is frequently featured on TV shows and in commercials, as well as in theatre performances or as part of contemporary dance productions. In short, breaking has evolved into a global cultural art form with many elements of sport, given the athletic nature of breaking. This naturally led to the 2016 decision of International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add breaking to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. Based on the success and popularity of this debut, in 2022, Breaking will be a featured sport at the World Games being held in Birmingham, Alabama and in 2024, Breaking will showcase on the world stage in the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Many in the community have seen this coming. In the past decade, a handful of Breaking schools have opened throughout the country. Schools such as BreakFree in Houston, The Beacon in Seattle, District in Las Vegas and many more. These facilities have provided a space for kids to find proper instruction to learn the dance. A young new generation is emerging. As more focus is going towards education and mentorship the need for a sanctioned governing body to provide representation at the national and international level is growing. This is challenging for a dance that is traditionally organized by grassroots community members.
Internationally, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) is recognized as at the International Governing Body for DanceSport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In the United States, USA Dance is the national member body of the WDSF and is currently the Recognized Sport Organization for DanceSport by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
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