Breakdancing is one of the great gifts of the eighties. A good
breakdancer’s moves are jaw-dropping, gravity-defying, and at times
downright inhuman. They moved in ways that we didn’t even know
the human body could bend. Here’s a great video about the history of the
dance technique, from James Brown’s slick onstage splits to Michael
Jackson’s magical moves:
Back in elementary school in the early 80s, a few of the boys would bring
their jamboxes to school and show off their breakdancing skills on the
playground while we girls line danced to The Electric Slide and
Do The Hustle. Oh, happy times, when we felt so trendy in our
home perms and parachute pants. Those breakdancing boys seemed
impossibly athletic and talented. Well, they still do. These
videos are mesmerizing for me.
In 1983, Michael Jackson started a craze when he glided across the floor
during a performance of Billie Jean for a TV special called Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. The audience was stunned:
What WAS that anyway? It was the Moonwalk, baby, and it took the world
by storm. It was one of the first moves that a fledgling breakdancer was
required to learn.
The 1983 movie Flashdance had a
fabulous scene that introduced much of the country to breakdancing and
helped push the fad into pop-culture consciousness. Alex (Jennifer Beals)
and her best friend Jeanie stop to watch a slew of breakdancers in the
The TV show Fame, about young super-talented dancers, has a great
breakdance scene from a 1983 episode that showcases all the hottest
A young Ice-T rapped back in 1984 for the film Breakin’ (released
in some countries as Breakdance: The Movie). Check out the
testosterone fueled dance-off! Awesome!
This video for There’s No Stopping Us by Ollie and Jerry, also
from the movie Breakin’, is such a blast from the past. This
song is so smooth and fun, as are those sweet breakdance moves:
Alfonso Ribeiro, whom you might remember as Ricky’s friend from Silver
Spoons and Carlton from The Fresh
Prince of Bel-Air, released three songs by the time he was ten
years old and starred in a Broadway musical called The Tap Dance Kid in 1983. All of which
goes to say that young Alfonso was way talented in both the music and
dance arenas. It was natural, then, that Alfonso presented a how-to kit
for Breakin’ and Poppin’.
This commercial aired on MTV in 1985. I covet this set today, especially
the vinyl LP’s and the rap sheet with lyrics. Wouldn’t it be awesome to
read Alfonso’s raps?
Here’s Alfonso dancing with none other than the King of Pop for a 1984
Pepsi commercial, a eighties boy’s dream come true:
Time to get out of your computer chair and give breakdancing a whirl.
Looks easy, right? Let’s start with the Moonwalk:
Watch and learn from this super-clear explanation of the Arm Wave, a vital
component of breakdancing, by Curtis Zimmerman:
Heeee! It’s the Robot! Love it!! Tyson teaches you how:
Ready to up the ante? Here’s a great instructional video for the Windmill
with tips from BBOY ACE. Love how he suggests you wear a beanie just
because it’ll make you feel good, and you must have a slick shirt for
spinning on your shoulder (Alfonso’s foldable breakboard, sold with his
Breakin’ and Poppin’ kit above, would have been helpful for this move.)
Spend some quality time on youtube (there are a gazillion great
instructional videos) and in front of a mirror. Soon you’ll be breakin’
and poppin’ just like Alfonso in the mid-eighties. TOTALLY rad.