Of the main four components of Hip-hop, also including graffiti writing, DJing, MCing and rapping, breakdancing is an essential “language, embodying an urban street consciousness” and part of the African American culture and expression. Transmission of dances and storytelling from West Africa, the Caribbean, and New York led to the origin of hip-hop in the 1970’s. According to OnMusic, “The four foundational elements of hip-hop culture… are manifest[ed] in youth culture around the globe, including Ghana, India, Japan, France, Germany, South Africa, Cuba, and the UK. Hip-hop’s global expansion and recognition are unique…” (Origins of Hip-Hop Culture). The international allure of breakdancing, from the United States to the Soviet Union, speaks to its universal messages and desires of freedom, expression, and self-discovery.
International Appeal and Influence of Breakdancing
The elements of hip-hop are infectious, as they are integral to the human spirit of creation and creativity. The most physical component of the genre is breakdancing. The influence of American, specifically African American, culture on the media and entertainment industry of other nation’s has always been apparent. Exceptional technology with the best access to it to disseminate our films and music, as well as our domination in nearly every innovative field enables the United States to be a global super power when it comes to instating our ways and practices. Breakdancing is no exception!
The evidence of breakdancing in the United States is obvious, from New York to Los Angeles. In the clip of the documentary “Breakin’ and Enterin’” below, a breakdancing routine set to the Radio Crew’s Breaking and Entering is filmed, as artists like Ice-T break down the hip-hop scene in LA. As seen in the video, people of all races are enjoying the practice. Further out in, Tokyo, Japan, breakdancing was extremely popular. Many different breakdancing techniques can be seen like the 3, 6 , and 12 step, shuffles, shoulder spins, flares, and windmills, as broken down in this article ( https://citydance.org/breakdance-moves-with-names-pictures/). The agility and flexibility of the performers demonstrate their athleticism which accentuate the moves. By far the most surprising demonstrations of breakdancing were in the Soviet Union, the opposition of the United States’ in the long-standing Cold War. For five decades, these two empires competed for dominance of their ideologies and opposition, racing to the moon, bolstering propaganda, and sabotaging the other through political maneuvers and espionage. Yet, despite it all, hip-hop permeated from the United States to the Soviet Union and inspired the newest generation of Soviets as communism fell. In the 1986 Soviet film Courier, children are enjoying the fun of breakdancing amidst the Afghanistan War. Freedom, expression, and self-discovery are practically personified in their dancing.
Breakdancing is the physical art of hip-hop. Its origins are a conglomerate of many cultures, and so too was its influence. The artform was a global phenomenon, and an excellent example of how pervasive African American culture is. Universal truths arise from those with a message and the vulnerability to share that message, as it touches everyone around and inspires them to live authentically.