A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 7 Break Dancing

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

In 1962 James Brown recorded his historic Live at the Appolo. His sound and performance really introduced a new form of dancing. In 1969 he recorded two songs that have had quite a lasting influence on hip hop culture; Sex Machine and Funky Drummer. His records emphasized the break down, the part of the record that is stripped down to the drums and only basic accompaniment.

James Brown would put a lot of energy into his shows. He would shift his feet so that it looked as if he was gliding across the stage. This style of dance was known as The Good Foot.

The Good Foot became quite popular and took on the name B-boy. It soon started being referred to as break dancing because DJs would extend the breaks using two copies of the record on two turntables. When this dance first started, there were no headspins, or aerial manoeuvres. It consisted of footwork and was actually quite complex.

Afrika Bambaataa saw the dancing as a way for young people to really accomplish something and, as such he started one of the first crews, The Zulu Kings. Soon after a number of crews were created. The crews practiced together and became quite dedicated to the craft. Break dancing battles were common. Crews of dancers would compete and try to out do each other.

In 1977, probably the most recognizable name in break dancing, even today was born, The Rock Steady Crew. They took the dance to new heights, quite literally. Their style included aerial manoeuvres and we started to see backspins, headspins, handglides, and windmills.

Break dancing wavered in popularity of the years but it has never gone away. Today’s break dancers are performers who are just captivating to watch. The routines that some of the crews do and intricate and quite complex.

Of course, we need to remember that hip-hop started with the DJ. The dancing was the whole impetus behind the birth of the culture. Break dancing clearly started in 1960s and was heavily influenced by James Brown. This is an important part of our history and culture.

Next up

Part 8 – Rap Gets Political