How break dancing made the leap from ’80s pop culture to the Olympic stage

How break dancing made the leap from ’80s pop culture to the Olympic stage

“I just thought: ‘My kid loves it. I work in sports. I’ve created associations. Why not? This is what I do,’ ” Zavian said.

That was a full decade ago. The result was the United Breakin’ Association (UBA), an early step in organizing a sprawling, disorganized collection of young dancers, known as b-boys and b-girls, many of whom had no interest in formalizing and codifying their preferred form of self-expression. They were part of an anti-establishment counterculture that feared being co-opted by people who didn’t understand the dance or its dizzying band of denizens.

The story of breaking’s meteoric rise to the Olympic stage — it’s set to make its debut at the Paris Summer Games in 2024 — involved an unlikely and reluctant partnership between street-savvy breakers and traditional ballroom dancers, an evolution of an urban art form into a competitive endeavor and a lightning-fast education campaign to sell Olympic officials and a curious sporting public that breakers are very much athletes. …

Breaking’s quick ascent as an Olympic-level competition has complicated its governance issues and stirred mixed feelings across the sprawling dance community.

It’s an awkward marriage to be sure, non-breakers suddenly charged with championing an unfamiliar discipline, still holding out hope their preferred style of dance will someday impress Olympic organizers. Graham remembers a quarter-century ago when snowboarders made a splash on the Olympic stage but found themselves under the organizational control of ski-centric bodies.

“We’re talking about a completely different demographic,” Graham said. “The breakers aren’t ones who you can just regulate. That doesn’t mean they won’t collaborate, but it’s going to be a challenge for the ballroom dancers.”

By Rick Maese, The Washington Post

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