Tijuanense David González breakdancing in Costa Rica.
Breakdancing was in the news on December 8 when the International Olympic Committee announced breaking would debut as a sport at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Breaking started as one of the four original elements of hip-hop, along with MCing (rapping), graffiti, and DJing.
Since the early ’70s, it has evolved into a blend of dance movements. Toprockin’ and uprockin’ are primary steps performed on both feet, generally with a warmup or stylistic series of foot-shuffling and hand gestures, to taunt or rile up the purveyors.
Footwork is a series of six steps during which the dancer has transitioned onto the floor and is supporting and pivoting their weight onto their hands while shuffling the legs in a circling motion.
Power moves are various high-speed maneuvers in which the dancers propel themselves on their backs, shoulders, hands, or heads.
A freeze, as it sounds, is an abrupt end to the series of movements during which the dancer suddenly stops and holds an often-grandiloquent and seconds-long pose.
Flips and floor exercises borrowed from gymnastics and martial arts, and styling cues from other dance forms are frequently blended into breakers’ repertoires. Although, not all breakers follow the elements mentioned earlier in any particular order.
“There is something very particular in breaking styles,” explained David González from Tijuana. “For example, in Mexico, it is difficult to find smooth and agreeable floor surfaces for the body. This leads our dancers to do more aerial and acrobatic movements where we are deployed off the ground. And in San Diego, we practice the art of being stuck to the floor, such as performing spins and footwork, because it is easier to find floors in good condition there.”
I agree. B-boying — another term for breakdancing — in the Philippines in the 1980s was similar for my Floor Masters crewmates and me. But this situation forced us to develop our style elements outside of the proverbial high-speed “breakdance” power moves that we copped from watching Lionel Richie’s breakers in the ’84 Olympics on our parents’ Betamax and TV sets.
Like myself, González began breaking in his pre-teens. Now 30, he reps Sopitas Con Huevo, a national dance crew battling and performing throughout Mexico. We spoke in Spanish on December 30, the same day Breakin’ lead actor Shabba Doo reportedly died.
“The name of my crew translates to 'soup with egg,' and it’s a funny name we came up with when we were kids, but with time, it became serious when we started winning professional events.”
At last year’s Freestyle Session World Finals held at WorldBeat Cultural Center and Sycuan Heritage Events Center, González said his crew-mates advanced to the top 32 finalists’ bracket.
“How’d the Tijuana b-boys and b-girls react to breaking making the Olympics?” I asked.
“There are many dancers and crews in the Baja area, and each one has different philosophies. Some are seeing an opportunity to have a sporting career. Others simply follow the traditional way of living the culture by practicing dance in their environment and nothing more. I’m neutral in the face of these differences, but it too is a highly debated issue within our culture.”
Back in ’84, when we were breakdancing to “Olympic Rap” by 4-Play, our elementary and middle school crew mates wishfully speculated about our dance making the ’88 Olympics. We dreamed of training with Kurt Thomas, a then-Olympic gymnastics champ who influenced some of us with his flairs. He also inspired us to attempt the “Thomas World.” That’s what we called his maneuver in which Thomas’ legs would hover and spin around him as he held up his body with each hand and arm alternating the support of his body weight.
Fast forward to 2021, where breaking has evolved to a mind-boggling level of intricacy, upper body strength, velocity, balance, agility, and style that we old heads can hardly fathom, much less mimic.
“Breaking has changed styles from time to time, but the traditional style of the ’70s is the one that many of us practice in the San Diego and Tijuana area. I practice uprock and footwork a lot, and one of my favorite moves is the combination of windmills and halos, where you are spinning on the floor at high speeds.”
“Is your government supportive since breaking is now a bona fide Olympic event?”
“The government helps in small projects with a budget to cover expenses, but at large festivals, we do not receive support, because it is a dance that does not come from Mexican roots. At least that is what they have told us when they deny our large projects. But in recent years, national festivals have grown, by investments from private sectors such as energy drinks and clothing brands.”