A Brief History of Breaking, to Celebrate Its New Status as an Olympic Sport

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B-boy Soso dancing in Paris on November 9, 2016.  (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Dec. 20, 2020 Update: The International Olympic Committee has officially announced it will add breakdancing—or "breaking"—to the Games.

This week, the International Olympic Committee unanimously advanced a proposal to bring breakdancing to the Paris 2024 games (the idea still has to pass one more vote in 2020). Somewhere in New York City, one or more of these men in matching leotards just fell over.

If you're wondering how this is going to work, a practice run for Paris happened last year at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics. Breakers were scored by five judges on technique, variety, musicality, creativity, personality and performativity, in male, female and mixed categories. Here's a highlight reel:


In the end, Japan's Ramu "Ram" Kawai took the b-girl gold, while Sergei "Bumblebee" Chernyshev took the men's home to Russia. When you see them in action, their wins are not at all surprising. Here's Bumblebee competing at the WDSF World Championship in Nanjing just this week:

Breakdancing was first popularized in the '70s when DJ Kool Herc started throwing block parties in the Bronx. African American and Puerto Rican breakers in attendance came up with the toprock, downrock, powermove and freeze dance moves, and by 1983, breakdancing was famous enough for its most popular squad, the Rock Steady Crew, to release an album. Their first single, "Hey You", went Top 10 across Europe, thanks to the fact that it is, by all mensurable standards, A Bop.

Back then, breakdancing was widely considered a passing fad, and by the '90s—save for Run DMC and Jason Nevins's rad 1997 video for “It's Like That”—it had pretty much disappeared from the mainstream. On the underground though, breaking continued to thrive with major competitions like Battle Of The Year, Floor Wars and the International B-Boy Championships. And flourishing scenes popped up in places as far flung as Denmark and South Korea.

The final decision about breaking's inclusion in Paris 2024 will come at the end of next year. While we wait, let's celebrate how far the dance form has come by watching this special moment from 1984 movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Yes, that is Ice-T rapping and no, nunchucks are no longer allowed in breaking battles. We've come a long way, baby.