The term breakdancing refers to a style of hip-hop dancing that first appeared in the 1970s. Sometimes known as b-boying, b-girling, or breaking, this style was made popular by African American and Latin American teens who used the activity to provide a more constructive alternative to the dangerous influences of street gangs.
Coordination, style, flexibility, and rhythm are the keys to successful breakdancing. It is one of the most improvisational dance styles, allowing for each dancer to customize his or her routine with athleticism and imagination. However, since many dancers have created moves that borrow from gymnastics and martial arts, upper body strength is often considered a necessity.
Music is an important element in breakdancing. Typically, a DJ compiles short samples from a variety of different songs into a unique composition that suits this fast-paced dance style. The music is often an impressive fusion of rap, disco, jazz, funk, soul, electro, and R&B. However, some dancers have even experimented with adding snippets of opera songs into their dance music.
Like other types of dance, breakdancing has developed its own costuming style. Baggy pants, bandannas, wristbands, nylon tracksuits, and low-weight sneakers with a good grip are often key elements of the fashion. Puma and Tribal remain the most popular clothing brands in the breakdancing community, although some small groups of dancers have adopted a goth rock style in an attempt to distinguish themselves from their peers.
The culture of breakdancing is very informal. Moves are often passed on by word-of-mouth and many dancers are largely self-taught. However, some larger cities do have clubs and organizations that provide a more structured approach to mastering this unique dance style.
Since breakdancing is a skill that requires a great time commitment to learn, dancers have created many opportunities to showcase their talents. Battles are competitions that allow dancers to perform quick-paced routines in either head-to-head duels or as part of a larger competition between opposing crews. Winners are determined based on technical proficiency and the complexity of the routine. A cipher is similar to a breakdancing battle, but the competitive aspect is less emphasized.
Today, breakdancing is an important part of pop culture, often appearing in popular movies and television shows such as South Park, Zoolander, Save the Last Dance, and You Got Served. It is also an element of video games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even professional wrestlers such as Booker T frequently incorporate the moves into their performances.