Break it Down: Break Dancing

Break Dance Basics

According to Burnim and Maultsby:

Socioeconomic conditions in parts of the Bronx and Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s profoundly shaped the aesthetics and activities of early hip-hop. Youth gangs proliferated and gang violence became common to daily life in the 1960s and early 1970s. Responding to these conditions, Bronx youths, particularly male, developed nonviolent but intensely competitive means of creative expressions. The first of these expressions primarily consisted of graffiti (which preceded hip-hop) and the competitive dance, later known as “break dancing,” performed to music provided by the DJ. (2015)

Burnim V., Mellonee and Maultsby K., Portia. African American Music: An Introduction. Second Edition. 2006, 2015.

The Evolution of Break Dance

Break dancing is not a structured dance in the sense of following a repeated motion, or a certain amount of steps. It is entirely based on improvisation. The quick movements of it are emphasized by the energy of the music playing, which is usually upbeat and unpredictable (when live). The continuation of this style of dancing has continued well into the 21st century, as more and more dancers come to appreciate the art of competition, and the beauty of “on the spot” dancing. Break dancing has evolved into a mainstream piece of art, as more and more performing artists step outside of rehearsed dance moves and “move” based on the energy of the crowd. Break dancing has also been called “pop locking”, “boogaloo”, and is commonly summoned by a “what was that” or a “do that thing again” among black families and in the black community.