B-Boy Lil G at Cypher Pakistan workshop in Karachi on March 24, 2022.
© Saad Saeed / Red Bull Content Pool

All you need to know about breaking

Want to dive deep into the world of breaking but don't know where to start? We've brought everything you need to know together in one place, so you can begin your breaking journey.
Written by FraGue Moser-Kindler
5 min readPublished on

What is breaking/breakdance?

Breaking is an acrobatic dance form born in the streets of the Bronx in the '70s. Breaking is easily distinguishable from other dance styles as a big part of the dance is happening on the floor and the dancers may even spin on their hands, back or heads. Practitioners of breaking are called b-boys, b-girls, or simply breakers.

25 min

ABC of... Breaking

Breaking legend Ronnie fills you in on all you need to know about this incredible dance form.

English +5

Other terms that are used to label breaking are b-boying or b-girling, which are used within the scene. On the other hand, we have the media-coined term breakdance or breakdancing, which is an outside label, that's usually not used by those in the know. Some people consider the use of the term breakdance insulting and might call you out for using it.
There are a lot of discussions about the terminology of breaking. That's a result of it being young, alive and not yet codified. It can happen that dancers in different areas use the same word to label different things.

History of breaking

Breaking is part of a subculture called hip-hop, which emerged from the African-American and Latino communities in New York. Together with MCing, DJing and Writing, which is commonly known as Graffiti, it's part of the so-called 'four elements of hip-hop'.
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Breaking gained worldwide popularity when the movies Beat Street and Breakin' hit the cinemas. Since then it's been on an unstoppable rise and it's become a global phenomenon that's spread all over the globe. Competitive breaking is bigger than ever and will debut as part of the Games in 2024.
Want to know more? Check out our article about the history of breaking.

Elements of breaking

Breaking has a rich vocabulary of moves, which are categorised into Top Rock, Go Downs, Footwork, Freezes and Power Moves. Many breakers enrich their dance with Tricks and Flips.
Bgirl Ami footwork at Nordic Break League in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 22, 2021

Ami doing the Footwork

© Bahadir Berber / Red Bull Content Pool

You can find out more about those basic breaking moves here.

What is style in breaking and are there different styles?

Style is the individual interpretation and representation of the dance by the dancers. It's about how they show the moves, how they gesture, how they work with the music and also how they present themselves while they dance.
When people from within the scene talk with outsiders, there's often the misunderstanding that style refers to fashion only. When it's about dancers, style mostly refers to the way they dance, not how they dress. Context is the key to understanding if someone is complimenting your moves or your gear.
Back in the day, a dancers' style was influenced by their peers, teachers and event experiences. Styles were regional and you could tell where a dancer came from, sometimes down to a city or even crew level. Today people can watch dancers from all around the world and try to emulate any style they want. Also, some traditional dances had a huge impact on breaking.

What is a cypher in breaking?

A cypher in breaking is when b-boys and b-girls form a circle and, one after another, enter into the middle to dance. To dance in a cypher is to cypher, or to be cyphering. The cypher is a place to share, exchange and dance freely.
Jazzy Jes is doing footwork on a branded floor. People are standing in the background.

Jazzy Jes in the cypher

© Etien Photography

However, there are some unwritten rules, that you should know before making your debut inside the cypher.
The national qualification events for Red Bull BC One are also called Red Bull BC One Cypher.

Movies, documentaries, videos and series about breaking

If you want to take a look at how breaking looks in action, you've come to the right place. There's plenty of binge-worthy stuff on Red Bull TV.
For a start, we recommend you take a look at the ABC of ... Breaking, to expand your knowledge about breaking itself. From there, you can dig deeper into breaking documentaries, series or dance clips.

The music of breaking

The main music genres that breakers dance to are breakbeats, funk, rap and soul. Original breakbeats and samples can be found in every genre and finding them is an art that the DJs work hard to perfect.
DJ Fleg behind a Red Bull-branded DJ desk.

DJ Fleg on the wheels of steel

© Ulrich Aydt/Red Bull Content Pool

Two of them are Lean Rock and Fleg, whose views on finding the right music for breaking are here.
As a dancer, you want to have the ability to visualise the music as well as possible, which we call musicality.

Biggest events in breaking

Nothing compares to seeing breaking live in a cypher or on a stage. These are some of the biggest and longest-running events that you should take a look at, if you want to see the top of the breaking world in action.

Meet inspiring breaking artists and read their stories

The breaking scene is full of powerhouses who push the boundaries of what's possible and artists who have inspiring stories to tell. Read about them at the links below.

Learn how to break or improve your breaking

If you want to level up your breaking skills, we collected advice from world-class breakers to support you:

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