New generation puts its own spin on 1980s dance craze
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
The 1970s underground cultural movement that turned early-1980s hip-hop dance craze isn't quite "in" to the point where film studios are seriously pondering humankind's need of another "Breakin'" or "Beat Street" sequel. And Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five are still pretty much persona non grata on corporate radio.
Still, there are signs of a mini-resurgence of sorts for the much-maligned art form.
Cruise down Kalakaua Avenue on just about any Friday or Saturday night (say, between 9 p.m. and midnight) and you're bound to find one or two O'ahu breakdance crews throwing down windmills, backspins, headstands and caterpillars for appreciative crowds in front of Duty Free Shoppers' Waikiki shopping arcade.
Given enough floor space, it's not unusual to find breakdancers polishing off their best moves on the freshly waxed floors of Pipeline or World cafés. High school students have again taken to laying down the cardboard in the halls and patios of their campuses. Still others have begun taking breakdance lessons from a handful of local dance studios, such as Hypersquad Dance Co., offering multi-level instruction.
Oh, and just so you know, breakdancing is now called b-boying (or b-girling, depending on who's doing the b-ing) all the better to help drive home the turn-of-the-millennial movement's separation from its old-school Adidas, sweat suit and "Pac-Jam" remains of the day.
"I first got into b-boying when I saw my brother doing it in the garage, so I would always go and watch him," said Evan Balmilero, 13, on a water break from his Hypersquad b-boy class. His older brother Ian a toddler when Bambaataa's seminal b-boy jam "Planet Rock" first hit radio in 1982 is Hypersquad's lead b-boy instructor. "One day, I just tried it out. My brother said I was good and I should just keep doing it."
The Waipi'o-based Hypersquad has been offering b-boy instruction since opening in 1996, but owner/instructor Jason Ulep noticed a subtle surge in teen enrollment last year that has yet to subside.
"The media was kind of hard on it in the past, but it's different now," Ulep said. "Nowadays, b-boy is turning up in videos and TV ads on MTV." Missy Elliott, Limp Bizkit and Christina Aguilera are a few music artists who have included b-boys and b-girls in their recent video or stage work. Annual Honolulu events and "battles" such as B-Boy Reunion essentially a multi-day lecture, competition and clinic-filled celebration of b-boy culture's past and present, featuring guest MCs, musicians, dancers and spray-can artists from around the world have attracted larger Gen-Y than Gen-X followings.
Enrollment in Hypersquad's current mixed-skill-level Friday evening b-boy and Saturday afternoon locking and popping classes mostly ranges from ages 12 to 18. Still, much of the music preferred by instructors for b-boy moves are original or remixed old-school beats.
"I still love James Brown. His music just moves me," said Larry Ganiron, 19, another Hypersquad instructor. Brown's 1973 hit "Get On the Good Foot" and the steps he invented for its on-stage performance are among b-boy culture's first significant touchstones. "But the music doesn't just include hip-hop. It also ranges from techno to drum-n-bass."
Another change from b-boy's last above-ground incarnation is an increased number of moves and levels of difficulty for those moves. A "B-Boy Dictionary" we found online included more than 60 moves, from the Bellymill and the Munchmill to the Double 99 and the Rubber Band. Many moves carried four- to five-star difficulty ratings related to the acrobatics necessary to perform them. A move called the Nutcracker didn't exactly get its name from Tchaikovsky's holiday suite.
Our favorite, though, was the Boomerang, which requires its practitioners to "start (by) sitting on the ground, with your legs out in front of you in a V position ... stick your hand between your legs and lift yourself up, to where only your hands are touching the ground."
Then you turn yourself around in circles. Uh-huh, sure.
Evan Balmilero's twin sister Erin couldn't help snickering when the colorful fashions, music and uneven acting of "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo" and "Beat Street" entered our conversation. (She confessed a preference for b-girling to "newer stuff ... like techno ... and stuff with a beat," after all.)
Still, Erin said that current b-boy and b-girl culture shares some similarities with its surface-dated cinematic past.
"I think the similarities are ... how everyone is so into it in those movies," she said. "There's still that same interest and enthusiasm from everyone who does it now."