I was having a walk in the quarter the other day and, I run into some people who were dancing in the street. It had been a long time since I had a walk and I was amazed to see that still, the youth in the streets are dancing. People embraced me and we had a small singing stance with the boom boxes looping some tunes of mine for an hour or some. I really had a great time!
Many elements of breakdancing 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. Many of the 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 Norrköping a ‘…young man quite alone, who was practicing 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 breakdancing. 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 is also evidence of this style of dancing in Kaduna, Nigeria in 1959.
Beginning with DJ Kool Herc, Bronx-based DJs would take the rhythmic breakdown sections (also known as the “breaks”) of dance records and prolong them by looping them successively. The breakbeat provided a rhythmic base that allowed dancers to display their improvisational skills during the duration of the break. This led to the first battles—turn-based dance competitions between two individuals or dance crews judged with respect to creativity, skill, and musicality. These battles occurred in cyphers—circles of people gathered around the breakers. Though at its inception the earliest b-boys were “close to 90 percent African-American”, dance crews such as “SalSoul” and “Rockwell Association” were populated almost entirely by Puerto Rican-Americans.