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Breaking Good

We expect to see gymnasts, divers, volleyball players and runners in the summer Olympics. But B-boys and B-girls? For the first time, in the 2024 Olympics to be held in Paris, breakers will be competing for gold, silver and bronze medals.

Says Tatiana Sophia Eriksen, who teaches breaking and other forms of hip-hop dance for the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory, it’s about time that this dance form – known to many as “breakdancing” – was added to the Olympic lineup.

“Dance is now being viewed for what it is. There’s so much more than just the performance. Among other things, there’s the endurance and strength,” Eriksen says, who also performs at Busch Gardens. “You watch and see how much they rehearse and practice. Dancers are competitive, so it’s not just about getting it until it’s right. It’s about the movement becoming a part of them so it’s practically second nature.”

Usually, breaking competitions consist of one-on-one battles. Each battle features bursts of flips, spins, kicks and freezes. Each competitor dances for close to a minute, taking turns for three rounds. Groups of judges decide who goes to the next round. Improvisation and creativity, as well as flexibility and athleticism, are essential in the breaker dance kit.

Familiarity with the breaking lingo could make this new sport more fun to watch. To help you navigate the terrain, here are some terms to know:

• B-boy – a male who breakdances

• B-girl – a female who breakdances

• Breaking – another term for breakdancing

• B-boying – another term for breaking and break dancing, when the dancer is male

• B-girling – another term for breaking and break dancing, when the dancer is female

• Backflip – dancer flips over backwards

• Backspin – dancer balances on the upper back and pushes with the hands or swings legs to go into a spin

• Battle – a competition

• Crew – a group of breakdancers

• Frontflip – dancer flips over frontwards

• Floorflip – Also called “swiping.” Dancer assumes a push-up position and flips over, finishing in the original position.

• Floor Rocking – dancer carries weight on hands and rotates legs in the air

• Freeze – dancer stops dance and holds position

• Gyro/windmill/helicopter – dancer rotates repeatedly on one shoulder with legs parted and feet held in the air

• Hand spin/hand glide – dancer spins on one hand with the body parallel to the ground.

• Headspin – dancer spins by pushing with the hands while doing a head stand

• Heelspin – dancer puts weight on one heel and spins

• Popping – flexing muscles to the beat

• Power moves – breakers propel their bodies into a continued spinning or rotational motion, while balancing on hands, elbows, head, back or shoulders.

• Toprock – when a breaker is dancing while standing, and it’s how they start their throw down before going to the floor.

• Turtle – dancer spins with hands on the ground and legs in the air

• Wack – refers to a move done incorrectly or anything bad

Being that this art form originated in the late 1960s in New York City, will United States dancers have an advantage over those from other countries? Eriksen says probably not. She doesn’t think that the U.S.A. truly has a head start.

“The style of breaking may have originated from the party on Sedgewick Avenue, and other forms of hip-hop/funk dance like popping, locking, electric boogaloo and shuffling grew around the West Coast, but hip-hop dance is not owned by the United States,” Ericsen says. “There are millions of incredible artists and athletes out there of all kinds and in this time right now, they’re finding solace in their practices as well as others. It’s not like we already have the upper hand and the rest of the world is playing catch-up and trying to get on our level. We all learn from each other. Dance is a universal language that we use to communicate to grow closer as artists and athletes but also to grow this incredible art form in the world.”

Climbing, surfing and skateboarding will join breaking as sports new to the Olympics in 2024. To quote Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin’!”

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