BREAKDANCE STEP BY STEP

2004, $2.99, at Goodwill on San Fernando in Glendale

First Impression: Fresh!

Second Impression: Illin’!

This takes me back to middle school. We stayed up past our bedtime watching MTV in our neon clothes, our hair in those twisty rubber curlers. By day, the cool kids (i.e. not me) would do The Worm in the hallways.  Breakdancing was one of those things that if you did it badly, you just looked silly. But if you were good at it, you got to show it off at the seventh grade talent show and everyone would chant your name.

We start with a warmup led by Break Easy. He greets us with “peace and blessings,” crouched down the way I do when I’m coaxing a shy kitten to eat. 

As he leads us through a series of stretches for our wrists and arms, a neighborhood toddler wanders into frame, picking up plastic bottles to recycle. An ice cream vendor arrives, honking a little horn.  Unfazed, Break Easy keeps going with what he calls Bridge, but turns out is full Wheel, a yoga pose that has always been difficult and scary for me. Break Easy zips in and out of the pose effortlessly, which is my first clue that the dancing in this video might be beyond my depth.

Each move is carefully explained and demonstrated by professional breakdancers. There isn’t a Play All function, and each clip takes about a minute to load, so impatience becomes my constant companion.

The most basic move is the Toprock, which is sort of like a Charleston stepped out at an angle.

I know this step from the hip hop videos I’ve reviewed, but the instructor is adamant that it be performed with an extreme body lean forward. As for the lazy-looking backward lean that is so often taught, he stares down the camera and intones, “We don’t break like that.” Noted!

From the Toprock, we transition to the floor for some Footwork, that signature spin-around move:

Now for some Freezes, where you nonchalantly balance on your forearm:

If you were to guess that this is where I stop attempting the moves, you might very well be correct.

The most impressive thing they showed was a Bronco, leaping back and forth from hands to feet while doing a backbend. Le Nope.

The DVD also includes a 90 minute class taught by Zulu Gremlin, where he explains the history and cultural influences behind all the moves. There’s a lot of vocabulary borrowed from gymnastics, the Hustle, and jazz street dances. 

It’s clear that breakdancers are athletes as well as artists.  They pull from their repertoire of moves and flow one to the next effortlessly, in a way that is rehearsed and still improvisational. I applaud from the sidelines, because this broken-down doll is no b-girl.