It took nearly 50 years, but breaking is finally being recognized as an official Olympic sport for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. For the women competing in the male-dominated field, this win means so much more.
Breaking emerged in 1970s New York as a rebellious art form, born from disenfranchised Black and Latinx youth. The term is said to have stemmed from the so-called Father of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc. He would isolate the “break” of a track, cueing a second turntable to extend it, and switch back and forth between the two. At the time, “breaking” was a slang term for getting amped up. Herc made the connection, coining the crowd’s reaction to his music “breakdancing,” referring to its participants as “B-boys” and “B-girls.” It became one of the five elements of hip-hop, along with MCing, DJing, graffiti, and beatboxing.
Breaking moved between the streets, nightclubs, parties, and garages via pioneers like Kurtis Blow and Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon from the Rock Steady Crew. Breaking spread to Chicago and California where new styles arose, like the West Coast’s “electric boogaloo” and “popping and locking” (attributed to Soul Train dancer Don Campbell). Since its inception, breaking has made it to the big screen, appearing in films like Wild Style, Beat Street, and Flashdance. And there have always been diehards—those who live and breathe break dance.
The thumping music died to a whisper upon Alien Ness’s request. As the veteran breaker — never “break dancer” — stalked and snaked around the room, his many rings caught the spotlight that illuminated the dance floor.
Ness coached a few dozen amateurs — men, women, Black, white, Asian — during his footwork class before Red Bull BC One’s USA National Final, one of America’s biggest breaking competitions, held in August at the Fillmore Philadelphia.
“They say dance is a vocabulary,” Alien Ness said, exhorting the dancers to contort and pretzel their bodies to spell their names. He added, “If it feels like the letter, if it moves like the letter, then it is the letter.”
Alien Ness, a pioneering B-boy born Luis Martinez, joined the Mighty Zulu Kingz in the early 1980s when breaking, along with lyricism, turntablism and graffiti, were among the distinct elements that coalesced to form hip-hop.
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Necessity is the mother of invention for DIY culture especially in the arts in NYC. Altamura Legacy Concerts is excited to bring that spirit to its living room setting in the heart of Princeton on Sunday, October 15, 2023 at 4:00pm. The gathering kicks off with pioneer break dancer, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia in a talk and a viewing of excerpts from her film "All the Ladies Say." John Cage's prepared piano music follows with New York Times featured pianist Adam Tendler. ALC Artistic Director Cristina Altamura hosts with Adam Sliwinski of Sō Percussion. Coffee bar opens at 3:30pm. Princeton University piano student Otto Trueman will warm up the audience starting at 3:45pm.
Rokafella (Ana Garcia), is internationally known as a B girl, but is also multi-hyphenate, performing in many styles and wearing many hats besides dancing. Her work includes but is not limited to choreographing or writing, directing, and producing as a content producer for BronxNet TV. She is also a poet, designer and co-founder of a nonprofit dance company called Full Circle productions.
WORKS & PROCESS: This long-running series at the Guggenheim Museum pulls back the curtain on the creative process and supports the development of new work. Three events spotlight the visions of new or incoming artistic directors: American Ballet Theater’s Susan Jaffe (Oct. 8), San Francisco Ballet’s Tamara Rojo (Oct. 15) and Dance Theater of Harlem’s Robert Garland (Oct. 29-30).
Others bring social and street dance into the concert space, including the choreographer Sekou McMiller’s salsa-jazz exploration “Shine” (Nov. 5); “Wus Poppin NYC,” with the hip-hop dance stars Kwikstep and Rokafella (Nov. 12), and a free social dance party in the museum’s rotunda with Dance Is Life founders Abdiel and Natasha Diggs (Dec. 4). Further highlights include conversations and showings with the choreographers Raja Feather Kelly (Oct. 2) and Lar Lubovitch (Dec. 3), and a look at the career and life of the Broadway luminary Chita Rivera (Nov. 6).
Emceeing, DJing, graffiti, knowledge and break dancing. These are the five elements of one of the most popular and controversial genres that has influenced generations of young artists around the world. On Aug. 11, 1973, in the Bronx, DJ Kool Herc emceed a party that gave birth to the genre that has since taken over the world: hip-hop.
Breaking, or break dancing, as it’s referred to in mainstream media, is one of the most important elements to the genre.
Breaking was created in the Bronx by Black and Puerto Rican youth during the 1980s and has since expanded worldwide. From the streets of the South Bronx to the international Red Bull competition and now the 2024 Paris Olympics, breaking has truly grown and gained influence all over the world.
It's impossible to chart the rise of hip hop without coming across Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Gabriel "Kwikstep Dionisio. Along with their break-dance theater company, Full Circle Souljahs, they have dedicated their careers to uplifting New York City's breaking community, challenging the genre's boundaries, and calling attention to its forbears. This month, the husband-and-wife duo will curate an all-styles dance battle at Lincoln Center and premiere a newly commissioned duet at Jacob's Pillow, part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the storied Bronx block party where hip hop was born.
Who run the world: Jacob’s Pillow honors 50 years of hip hop with many leading ladies
When it was time for the hip hop tribute at this year’s Grammys, Black Thought took center stage to introduce his girl:
“Fifty years ago, a street princess was born to be an icon. The art form took the entire world by storm. How’d she do it? Her influence, constantly raising the stakes each generation. Domination by whichever means it takes to go from a spark into a flame that became public domain…”
But the artists there for Lady Hip Hop were mostly men. No disrespect: I enjoyed them all, especially Busta Rhymes and his epic speed-medley. But why weren’t there more women on stage?
There will be...
Joy is not a complicated emotion. Yet, as always, the Fort-Lee-based Nai-Ni Chen company offered more than razzmatazz in this program dubbed “Year of the Black Water Rabbit.” Nai-Ni Chen herself died in late 2021; notably, the show’s program included a revival of the choreographer’s “Movable Figures,” a masterfully constructed contemporary work. The event also featured a collaboration with hip-hop artists Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio and their Bronx-based company Full Circle Souljahs. Appearances by the FA Youth Dance Group and by Chinese pipa soloist Chen Fan rounded out the traditional portions of the program.
In the quarterfinals of Red Bull’s world championship break-dancing competition in Gdansk, Poland, last year, American Flea Rock battled the defending champion, Japanese B-boy Shigekix. After an arsenal of gymnastic moves from Shigekix, Flea Rock responded with a witty retort: making his hands into the shape of guns, he fired off shots as his feet moved to the beat. Then he wiggled down to the floor and army crawled toward Shigekix, guns still blazing. The crowd erupted and a judge jumped out of his chair.
It’s 1988 and the New York breaking legend Kwikstep is on tour. “Here’s this Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn in the middle of an arena in China,” he says, recounting the memory in a thick Nuyorican accent. He recalls popping and locking through his routine and then finishing off his performance with a series of mind-blowing headspins, inciting roars from the crowd. “Then I hear what I think are explosions. So I get up out of my headspins and the explosion was people breaking the barriers to come down onto the arena floor,” he remembers, eyes wide. Naturally, Kwik assumed he was going to have to fight someone. “But then I realize in their eyes is love. They start throwing me up and down and hugging me and kissing me.”
This four-part series spotlights generations of New York City Latine hip hop artists, each of them trailblazers in their respective elements. Featured artists: Kid Freeze, a b-boy pioneer who got his start in the 1970s and the inventor of continuous headspins and a range of power moves; Lady Pink, a legendary graffiti artist known for painting NYC subway cars in the late ’70s; Kwikstep, founder of the Full Circle breaking crew and a mentor to some of the best break dancers in the U.S.; Rokafella, one of the most iconic b-girls in hip-hop history; D-Stroy, an MC from the Arsonists, an underground ’90s hip-hop collective, ; and Jiggz Star, Bongo Roc, and Ken Fury of the world champion break dancing crew, The Supreme Beingz. This eclectic mix of hip-hop leaders inspire their communities and keep the roots of hip hop culture alive through their art forms.
It was the late ’90s, and breaking pioneer Ana “Rokafella” Garcia was in rehearsals for a major theater production with a crew of male breakers. A popular b-boy began making comments dripping with sexual innuendo about the only other woman in the group.
Following the Rise of the B-Girl, we hooked up with the iconic queens and hip-hop heroines who ignited the scene to get their take on its evolution. This time we met B-Girl Rokafella from NYC.
Breaking icon Rokafella talks about her move from dancing in the street to dancing in a theater.
A brief interview with Rokafella and Kwikstep on BronxNet Open BxRx show about their upcoming Hip hop variety show entitled "Kwik2Rok".
The origin story of Kwik and Rok and the ethos of Breakin in NYC.
Rokafella is interviewed by DJ Trails at the 25th anniversary of the Pro Am Dance and DJ Expo Miami June 11, 2022.
A brief interview with Rokafella and Kwikstep on BronxNet Open RX show hosted by Rhina Valentine about grant award and National Vanguard Culture project.
A brief interview with Rokafella and Kid Glyde about the world finals of Red Bull BC One happening in November 2022 in NYC- the birthplace of Hip hop.