Breaking Breaks into the Olympics: A Journey from the Streets of New York to Paris 2024

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Breaking, a hip-hop dance style originating in the Bronx in the 1970s, has been announced as a medal event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, following its successful debut at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Breaking has evolved from a street dance to an international phenomenon due to the efforts of pioneers like Michael Holman, who formed breaking crews like the Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers to elevate the art form's skill level and popularity.
The Olympic format for breaking will involve head-to-head battles between pairs of breakers from around the world, competing for medals in both men's and women's competitions.
The Olympic inclusion has sparked mixed reactions from the breaking community, with some fearing that it will dilute the art form's authenticity and cultural roots, while others see it as an opportunity to gain recognition and respect for breaking as a true form of dance and expression.
Despite controversy, breaking's popularity continues to grow, and the inclusion of the art form in the Paris 2024 Olympics is a testament to its power to bring people together in peaceful competition and inspire new generations of dancers.

 

Breaking, a hip-hop dance style characterized by acrobatic movements and stylized footwork, has officially been announced as a medal event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The art form, which originated in the 1970s in the Bronx, has evolved from street dance to an international phenomenon.

The decision to include breaking in the Olympics came after its successful debut at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Origins and Evolution of Breaking

Breaking emerged as a form of dance combat following a shift in gang tensions in 1970s New York.

The diverse cultures of the city contributed to breaking’s creativity, with breakers incorporating elements from Kung Fu, African cakewalk dance, and Puerto Rican gymnastics aesthetics. Pioneers such as Trixie (Lauree Myers), RIP Wallace D, Dancing Doug (Douglas Colon), and The Zulu Kings played crucial roles in the early days of breaking.

Michael Holman, a writer, producer, artist, and hip-hop pioneer, formed breaking crews like the Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers, which elevated breaking to a new level of skill with their innovative moves and powerful performances.

Holman’s vision and dedication to the art form have been fundamental in breaking’s journey from the streets of New York to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

From Gritty New York to International Sensation

Holman’s involvement in the breaking scene began when he ran a weekly hip-hop revue at a downtown Manhattan club.

The New York City Breakers caught the attention of international media, spreading hip-hop culture around the world.

Holman created and presented Graffiti Rock, the world’s first hip-hop TV show, featuring the New York City Breakers, Run-DMC, Kool Moe Dee, and Special K.

Breaking’s global revival eventually led to its Olympic inclusion. Holman received invitations to hip-hop conventions worldwide, sharing his knowledge about the breaking movement and witnessing its global resurgence.

He hosted panels and lectures, watched breaking films, and participated in dance workshops where the original dancers had been asked to make an appearance.

Breaking’s Olympic Format

Breaking will be fundamentally different from ice dancing or gymnastics at the Olympics. Instead of performing one-by-one, breakers will compete in pairs, “battling” head-to-head to take home a medal.

The Olympic format will include both men’s and women’s competitions, with breakers from around the world representing their countries.

International breaking organizations have emerged to provide support and guidance to aspiring Olympians, ensuring that the highest level of talent and artistry is showcased at the Games. 

Preparing for the Olympic Stage

In the lead-up to the Paris Olympics, breakers have been working tirelessly to perfect their craft and prepare for the competition.

International breaking organizations have emerged to provide support and guidance to aspiring Olympians, ensuring that the highest level of talent and artistry is showcased at the Games. 

Many breakers have sought out professional trainers and specialists to help them improve their strength, flexibility, and endurance.

The Olympic inclusion has also led to a renewed focus on the cultural significance of breaking. Many breakers have taken it upon themselves to learn more about the history of the art form and its roots in New York City.

They have sought out the pioneers of breaking and engaged in conversations to better understand and preserve the essence of the art form while adapting it to the competitive format of the Olympic Games.

Mixed Reactions from the Breaking Community

The breaking community has had mixed reactions to the Olympic inclusion. Some breakers criticize the idea of breaking becoming a sport, fearing it would dilute the art form’s authenticity and strip it of its cultural roots.

Others see the Olympic inclusion as an opportunity to elevate breaking to a new level of recognition and respect.

They believe that showcasing the athletic prowess and dedication of breakers on an international stage will help the art form gain the respect it deserves, legitimizing it as a true form of dance and expression.

Controversy and the Future of Breaking

Critics, such as Australian squash player Michelle Martin, argue that breaking’s inclusion in the Olympics makes a mockery of the Games.

Despite these criticisms, breaking continues to gain popularity and has become a multi-million dollar business with an estimated 30 million practitioners worldwide.

As the 2024 Paris Olympics approach, top breaking crews and countries are gearing up to compete for gold.

Among the contenders are South Korea’s Jinjo Crew, ranked World No. 3, and the United States, currently holding the World No. 1 spot.

With the spotlight on breaking, the sport is poised to captivate a new generation and showcase the incredible talent of b-boys and b-girls from around the world.

A Lasting Legacy

The inclusion of breaking in the Paris 2024 Olympics marks a significant milestone in the journey of an art form that began on the streets of the Bronx.

It is a testament to the power of cultural fusion, creativity, and the ability of dance to bring people together in peaceful competition.

For Michael Holman and the pioneers of breaking, the Olympics represent the culmination of decades of hard work, dedication, and passion.

The global stage will undoubtedly introduce a new generation to the rich history and vibrant energy of breaking, ensuring its legacy will continue to inspire and captivate audiences for years to come.

In conclusion, the inclusion of breaking in the 2024 Paris Olympics highlights the art form’s incredible journey from the streets of New York to the world’s grandest stage.

As the breaking community navigates the challenges and opportunities presented by this historic milestone, the spirit of breaking will continue to evolve, inspiring new generations of dancers and solidifying its place in the annals of dance history.

Craig Miller

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