This week, while searching for new ideas for breaking and for moves to teach to our club, I came across a student thesis that detailed the history of breaking as a movement and the media’s effects on it. It details the spontaneous origin of the dance style as it evolved along with the beats and music that it was used with. What I found interesting was how its popularity backfired against itself. As bboying grew popular, as a form of expression, method of giving young people a safe outlet, and as a way for rival gangs to nonviolently go against each other, the media caught wind of it.
In referring to bboying, or breaking, as “breakdancing,” the media had already taken from the culture. This name, unfortunately, is the popularized form, and is even part of our own club’s sub-title. Its sudden presence in the media made it something to be commodified and used as a fad as well. Its presence in the media became controlled in the same way media is controlled. Bboys are featured, and used for attention, yet the public slowly pushed against the movement that it brought to light by bringing up articles about bboying injuries or by preventing them from practicing on the sidewalks. Their appearances in TV shows further solidified their media perception, as media controlled the music played or the contexts around them. Breakdance as a term has also been expanded to include most urban types of dance, whereas breaking or bboying still retain their original contexts by virtue of not being used by mass media. The internet, unfortunately, has not fared better. The mass media’s use of breakdance has slipped into the internet’s vernacular as a blanket term, and its sheer amount of use has cemented it as the common term. The use of videos on the internet for new breakers to learn the form has also created a space where the popular videos all become a common branching point for these isolated and non-communal bboys.
I found it interesting how the media has come to shape something whose current form I love so much. While I knew some things like how the journalist use of “breakdancing” hurt the form already, the commodification of bboying and its controlled use in creative media was new to me. I found it interesting how perception came to affect the form, and how bringing it into the realm of existing “traditional” dance and sport altered it further.
“Internet Killed the B-boy Star: A Study of B-boying Through the Len of Contemporary Media” -Dehui Kong