Breaking Dance

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Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

Adam Navis and Liz Waid look at breaking, and the dancers who perform it. Breaking is popular in many places, but many people do not understand it.

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1

A crowd of people is standing in a circle. They are watching a young man perform. There is a music player next to him. It is playing loud music with a strong beat. He is performing amazing dance moves. The young man is spinning on his head. He is jumping and flipping with the music. He is wearing a hat and large trousers. The hat helps his head slide across the surface. And the large trousers hide thick pads that cover and protect his knees.

Voice 2

This young man is not performing just any normal dance. This kind of dance is called “breaking” or “breakdance.” A dancer who does this kind of dance is a “bboy” or “bgirl.” Today’s Spotlight is on breaking and the people who perform it.

Voice 1

Breaking began in the United States in the 1970s. A man called Kool Herc liked to have parties at his home in New York City. He played music and people danced. He was very skilled at mixing the songs together and playing the best parts of each song.

Voice 2

Each song had a part where the words stopped, but the music continued. The music had only quick drumming and rhythm. This was called the “break” of the song. Kool Herc played these parts over and over. People danced longer when he played more breaks. They called the dance ‘breaking.’ And Kool Herc called the dancers at his parties ‘bboys’ and ‘bgirls.’

DJ Kool Herc; By Mika Väisänen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Voice 1

Kool Herc’s parties also began a new part of culture. It was based around a particular kind of music. People called it Hip Hop. Breaking is just one part of Hip Hop. It includes different kinds of music: rapping and DJing. It also includes graffiti. This is the art of painting words and pictures on walls, often without permission.

Voice 2

Over time, bboys and bgirls created different kinds of basic steps to breaking. The first is called ‘Toprock’. This is when the dancer jumps around on his feet when he first begins dancing. He listens to the rhythm of the music and first starts moving.

Voice 1

The second kind of step in breaking is called ‘Downrock’. This part of breaking uses the hands and feet on the floor. A dancer moves around on the floor in creative ways. Her hands and feet equally support her movements. She rolls and turns. She moves her arms and legs around into shapes.

Voice 2

The most difficult part of breaking is ‘power.’ This move requires a lot of skill and strength. A dancer’s head and shoulders are near the ground. But his legs are in the air. In this position, he turns in a fast circle. This kind of move often makes the crowd very happy.

Voice 1

The last kind of move is a ‘freeze.’ This is when the dancer suddenly stops moving in a surprising position. She stays very still when the music changes or stops. A dancer may also end her dance with a move called a “suicide”. In this move, a dancer acts as if she is going to fall. It looks painful and dangerous. But she controls her fall so she is not hurt.

A freeze. Image by Zlatko Jankovski from Pixabay
Voice 2

In the 1980s, breaking became very popular. Bboys and bgirls appeared on television. They danced in movies. Suddenly, everyone knew about this special dance!

Voice 1

These television performances were the first time many people saw women dancing in this way. The bgirls flipped and danced just like the bboys. They performed difficult dance moves. They were just as strong and creative as the bboys. This surprised many people watching the performance.

Voice 2

Today there are still many more bboys than bgirls. Breaking takes a lot of strength. It is a powerful dance. Many people see the dance as only for men. But more and more women are learning. There are special groups and competitions only for women.

Voice 1

In fact, competitions are important to breaking. Breaking competitions are called battles. Two groups of dancers compete against each other. Each group stands on one side of a circle. People gather around the circle to watch the competition. A DJ starts to play music. Three judges sit at the edge of the circle and watch.

Voice 2

The first person goes to the middle of the circle and breaks. When he is done, a dancer from the other team dances in the center. She tries to dance better than the first person. Each person from each group dances once in the middle of the circle.

Voice 1

After every person from both groups has danced, the judges choose a winning group. The judges choose the team with the most skill, best attitude, and the most interesting moves. After the battle, the groups often talk to each other. They shake hands with each other. When the battle is over, they often become friends. They have learned to respect each other’s creativity and skill.

Voice 2

Battles like this are one way that breaking builds communities. Sometimes people who do not agree can meet together for a battle. They compete with each other through dance instead of violence. They learn to respect each other. Sometimes dancers even meet together to practice after the battle. They learn from each other.

Voice 1

Breaking has this effect all over the world. There are bboys and bgirls on every continent. The dance is a little different in each country. But the style and basic steps are the same.

Voice 2

Often, people combine breaking with other kinds of performance. People in Japan and South Korea combine breaking with martial arts. These fighting sports include karate, kung fu, and taekwondo. Breakers add kicks and punches to the dance. They move in short, quick motions. Their clothes also show an influence from martial arts. These dancers may wear traditional breaking clothes and martial arts clothes together. They may wear white pants. Or they may wear a colored piece of cloth around their heads.

A man breakdances
Image by Shaun Stanich from Pixabay
Voice 1

In Brazil, dancers add the fighting sport of capoeira to their breaking. They move around the floor with straight legs. They create shapes in the air with their arms and legs. They move very smoothly when they dance.

Voice 2

In South Africa, dancers add traditional tribal dance steps to their breaking. They pump their hands in the air. They step their feet hard on the ground. They dance with strength and energy.

Voice 1

In the United States, bboys and bgirls add the sport of gymnastics to their dance. They balance their bodies on their arms. They jump and flip in the air.

Voice 2

Breaking is more than just a dance. It is an important way to build community. Around the world people have discovered how this dance can bring people together.

Voice 1

The writer of this program was Johanna Poole. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called ‘Breaking Dance’.

Voice 2

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Have you seen breakdancing? What is your favorite form of dancing? Write your answer below.

Join the discussion

  • I love to dance to the whole world. Because it is the culture of countries
    And every day I dance with my daughters, dance is a positive energy.

    Thank you

  • No I didn’t see beeaking dance live.But I can see like this kid if art in youtube .i’s fun and I want to try it.Thank you

  • Yes!I’ve seen this dance mainly throught TV!I am from Brazil and I admire the way that this dance is practiced here, but when I traveled to Colombia I saw a lot of boys and girls dancing breaking on the streets and I was amazed! Their steps, their colorful clothes,their songs,I loved all of them!Dance and music can save the world!

  • Yes, I have seen on some streets of London really interesting they have incredible skills,
    Thanks a lot hope you doing great.

  • I dont see breakdance, but Itsvery interesting because to development the social habilities, the respect, the tolerance, the music to have happy the people.

  • yes i know what is breakdance but i didnt know that there is alot of parts and names for it i thought its one type of dance , this kind of dance is very powerful and interesting and how people combined it with their culture and traditions is more and more interesting, one of my favorite arabian dances is dabke , it completely depends on footwork , it has many styles and patterns , the main skill in it is focus and strength of the legs

  • Uhm in the real life? At all but in the TV ofc! every time I see breakdance in the TV it shows that this type of dance very difficult and no one’s can do it easily..and you need a lot of practice and flexibility in my it my favorite type of dance ? Nah I like dancing hi – hop more ..idk really but ever time that I feel bad I just go to dance in my room

  • – Yes I saw
    – breakdance is amazing and difficult, nobody can dance this type of dance, but for me, I like belly dancing more.

  • Thanks for this podcast it is amazing. Actually i saw the break dance in television and I love it and when I have free time i try to doing like them

  • – yes , I have seen breaking dancing in movies and series on TV most of time .
    – I love seeing the ballet and Salsa. The ballet makes you feel you are like butterfly , free . The Salsa for good time and fun .

  • thank you for the special subject, I saw lately a movie there was a breaking dance, so I imagine What exactly you are talking about

  • yeb, i have ever seen breakdancing. I don’t dance but I like to watch other people dance. My favorite form of dancing Kpop. Before I am a big fan of group T-ARA. This is a band very famous and having many young fans. I am not only as of the voice but also the dance of them. The perfect combination of both makes a contractive viewer. Although I don’t dance like them I admire dancers. I know there is a dancer pretty chubby. Contract, she is dancing is very good and so nice. Since I have seen her, I gave up thinking is the person fat that can’t dance. Besides, dancers usually have a lot of energy. A song will better if it has a combination between dance and voice. Therefore, listeners usually choose the type of this song.

  • I used to watch breakdancing at street entertainment venues in Nguyen Hue pedestrian street.
    The dance genre that I like is the fresh and dynamic modern dance.
    I’m really into dance but I don’t dance.

  • I haven’t seen breakdancing. I can’t dance but I like to see other people dance. Where I live, there are around ten womens aerobic dance every morning. They gather to do exersice.Aerobic is my girl favorite of dancing. She likes to dance with friends at her school. She says” want to become dancer in the furture”.

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