Photo: Handout / Handout via Getty Images
  /  08.10.2023

When hip hop first came into existence on the streets of the Bronx, it introduced itself to the world through four distinct categories: the rhythm of the MCs, scratching of the DJs, strokes of graffiti artists, and the spinning, popping, and locking of breakdancers, who later became known as b-boys and b-girls. While the first three have skyrocketed, enjoying mainstream and commercial success, breakdancing, the rawest physical embodiment of hip hop’s spirit, has often been pushed to the sidelines. A slight that’s hard to comprehend, especially when the dizzying footwork and gravity-defying moves of b-boys and b-girls communicate stories more vivid than words ever could. However, as fate would have it, change is finally on the horizon for hip hop’s oft-ignored child.

In 2024, the Olympics, an arena traditionally reserved for the most elite athletes, will welcome breakdancing into its prestigious fold. Suddenly, the world will be a stage for these underground heroes, and the spotlight is about to get a whole lot brighter.

At the Red Bull BC One Regionals in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the work these dancers put in was nothing short of inspiring. Amidst the adrenaline, sweat, and beats, it wasn’t just competition, but a true celebration of hip hop and all of its children. And if the regionals were any indication of what’s to come, the world should prepare itself; hip hop’s breakdancing pillar is about to rise, and it’s coming with an intensity that’s impossible to ignore.

Joseph “MN Joe” Tran is a hometown hero in the world of breaking and a testament to the evolution of the art form. He began his professional journey in 2007 when he co-founded the BRKFST Dance Company and solidified his reputation with the innovative crew Knuckleheads Cali. Tran’s distinct and creative movements have led him to countless victories in international competitions, but beyond that, his choreographic contributions to academic institutions and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves have truly spotlighted his versatility.

While speaking with REVOLT, Tran gave his thoughts on how breaking has taken its time getting to the mainstream. He said, “I think it’s because it’s kind of hard to access… and I think that the moment one person feels really awkward in their body, it’s like, ‘I don’t like that feeling… I don’t like feeling like an awkward dancer or something,’ you know? Honestly, that’s kind of a superficial first-layer approach; breaking is hard. It’s very difficult. And those that stick with it, it’s like they’re so good. You’re almost like, ‘How the hell do they do that?’ It’s very [magical], I don’t even understand. But, you know… I don’t think it’s forgotten.”

Tran continued to talk about the growth of the sport worldwide. He said, “I just think it’s taken off to such a crazy level, in terms of the influence. Everybody in the corner of the world does it. I see clips of kids practicing [in] dirt in other countries. And they’re killing it. So it’s almost taking this kind of amorphous — yes, of course, hip hop… because it came from that. It is the first hip hop dance. But it’s kind of taken off on this crazy journey of its own. It’s developing as its own really unique subculture, if you will, of hip hop. It will always be hip hop — it started here.”

Since its inception in the ’70s, breakdancing, or b-boying as it’s often referred to, has experienced an astronomical rise from the streets of the Bronx to global platforms. What began as an expressive dance form amongst Black and Puerto Rican kids in New York has truly transcended borders. Breaking was more than just a dance; it was a voice for the marginalized, reflecting the sociopolitical unrest of the ’70s and ’80s.

By the ’80s, the art form was being showcased in mainstream media, paving the way for international competitions in the ’90s and early 2000s. Red Bull’s BC One, being one of the largest, launched in 2004 in Switzerland. The digital age has helped accelerate its reach with social media and YouTube tutorials making it easier to learn and showcase breakdancing. But the crowning glory came when the art form was announced as an official sport for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

As the hip hop pillar makes its way into the mainstream spotlight next year, it prompts those who’ve witnessed the evolution of the genre’s other offshoots to wonder: Will this level of commercialization and success come at the expense of authenticity?

RoxRite, whose real name is Omar Delgado Macias, is an iconic figure in the world of breakdancing. With over 100 individual championship titles to his name, his contributions to the b-boying community span both competition and mentorship. Known for his precision, musicality, and a distinct style that merges tradition with innovation, his journey from a young enthusiast to a celebrated maestro has served as an inspiration to many aspiring dancers around the world and at the Red Bull BC One Regionals.

The very inclusion of breakdancing in the Olympics speaks to its evolution and the constant push and pull between its underground roots and mainstream success. RoxRite’s sentiments reflect this tension. He told REVOLT, “It’s difficult to say the future of breaking. I mean, the dance will always be here, it’ll always evolve. So whatever happens, whether we blow up and everything goes back down, again, breaking, I’ll still be there. So the end of it all is just… I want to still see breaking be represented at its core for what it is. And that’s a dance, not just moves, and tricks and head spins. It’s more than that. And I just hope that it continues to preserve that identity, which everybody is doing a great job at. And even at the Olympics, where they consider it a sport, it’s still about having a style, and being unique and innovative. So I just want to see it continue to evolve in that sense. And [actually seeing it] become more established on a higher social scale, where people will start being compensated for their work and what they’ve done in the dance.”

Breakdancing has experienced crescendos and declines, hits and breaks, spins and freezes. The journey, mirroring the dynamics of its dance moves, has seen moments of quiet introspection and explosive global attention. Competitions such as Red Bull’s BC One have only contributed to providing more opportunities for b-boys and b-girls worldwide.

Today, as it readies itself for the spotlight of the world’s most significant sporting stage, breaking is at a crossroads. Commercial success and mass recognition offer platforms, audiences, and opportunities, but with them come the pressures of changing trends, branding, and the risk of losing authenticity. As breakdancing slides into a new era of unprecedented attention, a question arises: Will it dance to the beat of commercialism or stay true to the rhythm of its roots?



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