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Breaking in the Olympics – the story so far
Date posted: 06 July 2020
In 2019 the World DanceSport Federation successfully got Breaking listed as an Olympic sport. Here, Scottish B-Boy Chaz Bonnar reflects on the Breaking communities divide on the topic and the future within the Olympics
Photo: International Olympic Committee

Increasingly dance is often referred to as, or categorised in sport, but how often are the two aligned with individuals and organisations speaking the same language?

The World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) is in charge of overseeing the inclusion of “dance/sport” in the Olympics and successfully got Breaking listed as an Olympic sport. Some communities cited that Breaking is strictly about culture and not about sport, and that considering Breaking as a sport ruins the cultural fabric of the dance and should remain in the grassroots of hip hop culture.

Chaz Bonnar (Stance Elements), better known as ChazB, is a Scottish B-Boy, international filmmaker, and creative catalyst. He organises the annual Resurgence dance events in Glasgow and works with youth to improve their health and wellbeing through Breaking. Here he reflects:

If you had told me in 2008, when I started Breaking, that there’s a possibility of Breaking being an Olympic discipline, I wouldn’t have believed you. For a Hip Hop dance from the Bronx, USA to be viewed as a sport sounds absurd at first. Fast forward to 2017 and the reality of Breaking having a presence in the Olympics is beginning to take form. Where breakers (Bboys & Bgirls) can represent their country, battle, and potentially win medals. For those that are unaware of this news, here’s the story so far:

For a sport to be considered in the Olympics, there must be a federation or governing body supporting it. The WDSF is the federation in charge of overseeing the inclusion of “dance/sport” in the Olympics. After years of trying without success, they saw Breaking as the most compatible dance form that aligns with Olympic requirements and this proved to be successful. When news had broken out that Breaking would be considered as an Olympic discipline, the community at large were perplexed as there was no word on who was involved. If there were any respected individuals from the community that would give this move any credibility.

This was expected to happen as breakers are naturally protective of their culture. Wanting to ensure any major developments are being led by the right people, and to avoid similar calamities that happened in the mid 80’s – as a result of overexposure. Initially, the announcement divided the community into two core groups. The first group of dancers were delighted by this development and focused on how this has the potential to positively impact the scene. The second group are vehemently against this, citing that Breaking is strictly about culture and not about sport. That considering Breaking as a sport ruins the cultural fabric of the dance.

Both groups are right to take their stance on the matter. To better understand each point of view, let’s delve deeper into the dancers that make up each group.

Many of those that are for the Olympics inclusion are dancers who compete internationally on a regular basis and are actively involved in (and made their living from) the competition circuit. They hold the viewpoint that this increased exposure will get more people excited about Breaking. Which will in turn create more opportunities for current dancers to make a living through organising projects, teaching/coaching, as well as the possibility of gaining athlete status.

What’s special about the second group is they predominantly make their living outside of Breaking and find solace in Breaking as an escape from their regular life. While many from this group are (or have been) active battlers in their respective communities, they put stronger emphasis on the grassroots aspect of Hip Hop culture – where Breaking has its roots. To them, this Olympics inclusion would jeopardise the essence of what first attracted them to Breaking.

With the community strongly expressing their opinions and taking sides, this prompted the creation of an Olympic advisory board solely for Breaking. Comprising of WDSF members, International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, prolific Breaking event organisers, and well-respected Breaking judges. Some of the community members involved at the time of creation included Bgirl AT (Finland), Bboy Moy (USA), Thomas Hergenroether (organiser of Battle of the Year), and Breaking pioneer Crazy Legs (USA). When word had gotten out that familiar faces were spearheading the project, much of the community began to ease up and trust that this would be dealt with seriously. Even though there were still concerns about the legitimacy of the board from certain members of the community.

Many of those concerns were quick to be withdrawn after the success of Breaking at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Where they introduced a 1vs1 Bboy & Bgirl battle as well as a 2vs2 Bonnie & Clyde battle (one male and one female in each duo). In the lead up to the Games they held qualifiers for Asia, Europe & Africa, and The Americas, with a final qualifying battle in Japan.

Given this success, Breaking has been provisionally accepted and is one step closer to being one of the newest disciplines at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. A final decision will be made in 2020.

Will Breaking become an Olympic discipline? Should Breaking stay grassroots and have no mainstream success? Will we see a repeat of the disaster that took place in the 1980s, and the dance suffers from too much exposure? Only time will tell. All we can do is ensure the correct people are involved, and all the right measures are taken to keep the cultural integrity of the dance intact. Doing everything in our power to make the experience as authentic as possible.

Final battle of WDSF Breaking Championship 2019 from Nanjing, China.

Banner photo at top: World DanceSport Federation
Square photo:
 International Olympic Committee