We’re Still Here: Legendary B-Boys Discuss Breakdancing’s Importance In Hip-Hop
Many seem to forget that breakdancing is an integral part of hip-hop. One of the four elements of the culture, its impact on the genre reaches further than just flares and six steps. During Red Bull’s BC One Dance Camp in Houston, TX from April 26-28, breakers, artists and dancers from all over united through the importance of the element and the power of performance.
The inaugural camp was designed to supply both amatuer and serious dancers with workshops, lectures and interactive events, in order for dance fans to gain professional insight on how to take their skills to the next level. These events ranged from a B-girl cypher and an all styles battle.
Even more exciting, the camp featured a jam-packed breakdancer battle on the final day, where Jay Brandon “Zebra” Figueroa, a New York bred B-boy, won the coveted cypher and the opportunity to represent the country and his crew (Supreme Beingz) at the Red Bull BC One World Finals in Switzerland this upcoming September.
Veteran breakers RoxRite and “B-Boy Ronnie” Abaldonado are no strangers to the competitive dance world. At BC One Houston, they led workshops and lectures centered around educating eager dancers on the classic art form.
RoxRite, who began his breakdancing journey in 1995 and has won over 100 breakdancing titles in his legendary career, explained the evolution of breaking with iconic B-boy Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew, from basic breaking freezes (chair, reverse chair, baby freeze) to the mechanics of swiping. The duo also discussed how to preserve the culture and emphasized the importance of the element.
During VIBE’s conversation with RoxRite and Ronnie, the discussion arose that although it’s one of the truest forms of hip-hop, a “stigma” placed on the craze of breakdancing has seemingly allowed it to disappear from mainstream conversation.
“I’ll go through immigration, and they ask me what I do, and I say breaking, and they’ll go ‘they still do that s**t?’” RoxRite laughs. “For me, it was put under this category of ‘80s dances,’ and it’s hard to go over that hump,” he continues. “We’re doing it slowly now, and we’re really thankful for Red Bull BC One for giving us this platform to really put our stories out there. It’s helping us change a lot of the views on it. It’s been a hard road and it’s a constant fight with that.”
A Red Bull BC One All Star, Ronnie started his journey in 1993, and currently, he runs a Las Vegas hip-hop culture center. He may also look familiar to dance fans, as he is a member of both Full Force and Super Cr3w, the winners of the second season of America’s Best Dance Crew, and he often collaborates with the Jabbawockeez. During his lecture, he discussed how he’s been able to balance his career and his love of breaking, and also explained how to approach different performance opportunities, from competition battle to theater performance. In order to preserve hip-hop, he suggests that we need to continue educating those who appreciate it.
“I think that’s how we can really reach a higher level on the breaking scene, educating the future generation on where it came from,” he says. “You have to understand where it came from in order to know where it’s going.”
There are numerous ways that breakdancing has impacted the diaspora of hip-hop culture, and although it’s still relatively underground, Ronnie says that this helps to capture the “essence” of where it all began.
“People affiliate hip-hop dance with hip-hop music and not hip-hop culture,” he explains. “Obviously, if people know the history of the hip-hop culture, then they’ll know that we are the original hip-hop. That’s why it’s important to have the camps like [Red Bull BC One], we’re here not to just teach people how to dance, but also to educate them on hip-hop and breaking.”
“We come from a different generation,” says RoxRite of how he aims to educate people about breaking. “I come from California, so I have a different understanding of the style that came at a certain time. My job is to go around the world and share that, and what it represents, and hopefully it inspires new kids to try this and evolve with this and pursue higher things with breaking. I think our job is to really go on and educate. Without us sharing what this dance is about, it’ll fade, because then there’s no understanding of what is, what was, and the foundation of the dance and its history.”
During their lectures and workshops, RoxRite and Ronnie made sure to give solid advice on what dancers can do to stand out from the pack. Some of the key characteristics of a great breaker include strong execution and athleticism. However, it takes a lot more than just skill to get someone’s attention on the floor.
“I think at this point, it’s over 40 years of hip-hop and breaking,” RoxRite explains. “The B-boy ideology and the idea of a B-boy, there’s a certain mindset, persona and character. I think once you understand that, that helps you grow more in your dance. That’s one element I think that outside of the skills here, if you’re able to understand that, the fashion, the form, the technique, the hand gestures, all that…it defines a breaker as well.”
“As far as having it in the battle, it’s originality, having stage presence and charisma,” Ronnie says. “You could actually tell by watching someone’s style how much they know about dance. You see some of the inspiration that’s drawn from their styles, and you go ‘okay, this person knows their fundamentals, they definitely studied the dance.’ Then, you can tell when someone is just all about the flashy moves, or the moves within a fad. There’s an identity, and it describes a B-boy. It’s the way they carry themselves. I hate using this word, but it’s the swag of it all.”
“The steelo!” RoxRite laughs.
Hopefully, there will be an onslaught of aspiring breakdancers who not only can tear up the dance floor, but are eager to learn and appreciate the history of the element, while building their own.
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