May 4, 2009

Breakin' New Ground

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the seminal street dancing movie, Breakin'.

Though today its often mocked on pop culture "nostalgia" shows like I Love the 80s, Breakin' was a very important film. Prior to its release, there had been small, independent productions that had explored hip-hop culture, but Breakin' was the first mainstream Hollywood film to do so. Significantly, the film's low budget and the tidy profit it earned led to the birth of a new sub-genre of American film -- breakdancing/rap/hip-hop movies, which included the likes of Beat Street, Body Rock, Rappin', Krush Groove, the House Party movies, and the oft referenced, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, which, in an effort to capitalize on the success of the original Breakin', was scripted, shot, edited and readied for release in barely 5 months. Without Breakin', there would have been no Stomp the Yard, no Honey, no Step Up.

Intended merely to capitalize of the breakdancing craze that was peaking in 1983-84, Breakin' starred Adolfo ("Shabba-Doo") Quinones, who was already a street-dancing legend and had been an original member of The Lockers, an LA-based "pop-locking" dance group that also counted singer/choreographer Toni Basil as a member. Quinones would go on to other movie roles (Tango and Cash, Lambada), music videos (Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You"), but found his greatest success as a dancer and choreographer for major artists, including Madonna on her "Who's That "Girl" tour.

Breakin's other two stars were Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers, who had been featured in the street dancing documentary,
Breakin' and Enterin'; and Kansas-bred Lucinda Dickey, who (like her character in the film) was a classically trained ballet, tap and jazz dancer. The film also introduced us to many other less famous but equally talented b-boys (i.e., breakdancers) along with rapper Ice-T, actress Lela Rochon, who appears briefly (wearing a red jacket) in the film's opening sequence (below), and even Jean Claude Van Damme.

But above all else, Breakin' provided American film's first acknowledgements of hip-hop culture and that culture's artistic expression through dance, graffiti art, DJ'ing and MC'ing.

Here's another clip and also, The Black Hollywood Files has some great pictures and outstanding interviews with the film's stars.

Breakin at
The Black Hollywood Files Tribute to Breakin'

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