© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool
This is how the global breaking community got online and got busy
Once underground and hard to find, the internet brought breaking to the masses. We look at six ways breaking changed after it went online.
When breaking first spread across the world in the '80s the kids outside of America who saw the art form were limited in the access to information they had on the dance and culture. When the internet came along it changed things immensely. Here are six ways the scene changed with the explosion in popularity of the internet.
1. The end of VHS tapes
Before the internet, one of the few ways you could get footage of breaking was by getting your hands on VHS tapes. This wasn’t easy, as B-Boy Yann, from Russian, explains: "To get VHS tapes, especially of B-Boys from Europe and the US, you really needed to know guys and beg for the tapes because they weren't likely to share them with you. You mainly got them from your really good friends."
In many countries, breakers waited more than a year to see footage from breaking events, as Red Bull BC One All Star, Lilou, reveals: "When one jam happened in 2000, Paris got it on tape in 2001 and in my city, Lyon, we got it in 2002. This was because at that time if you had some information, you wanted to keep it so you could progress."
In Finland, B-Boy Focus would trade tapes by mail with breakers in other countries, but would always have his “fingers crossed that breakers kept their promise and a tape would return".
Now, thanks to the internet, B-Boys and B-Girls can share footage of breaking with a simple click of a button. There are thousands of videos online, events are live-streamed so you can watch them as they unfold and competition footage can go online just minutes after an event ends.
2. Discovering breakers by word of mouth
Before the internet it’s was hard for B-Boys and B-Girls in Europe to find other breakers, even in their own cities. Breakers had to go off rumours of other kids breaking somewhere and then search them out. It was especially hard to find other B-Boys and B-Girls when the dance went out of fashion in the '80s, as Thomas Hergenröther from Battle of the Year, explains. “From one day to the next the scene collapsed and you really thought nobody was dancing anymore. I think it took like half a year to find two or three people, then we heard a rumour there were one of two breakers in Hamburg." He then heard about Swift Rock and Storm, but Thomas says, “we were not connected, we did not know where they lived, we just heard the names".
Every week you would meet somebody else on the internet from a different country. It was magic
But when the internet came in, Thomas says that suddenly breakers from all over the world would contact him regularly: “Every week you would meet somebody else on the internet from a different country. It was magic.”
The hardest thing today about finding other breakers is knowing their social media handle. However, most well-known B-Boys and B-Girls have thousands of followers and no matter where they are, one post on social media will connect them to breakers around the world.
3. You don't have to travel to learn from people
If you wanted to learn about breaking in the '80s and '90s you either had to hope that someone from America came to your country to teach, or you had to fly to the states yourself to seek out the OGs to learn from. Today, people have online courses and teach worldwide sessions over Zoom. There are hundreds of interviews with old school breakers available to watch and people have the ability to message any dancer, in any country, for information without the need to travel.
4. Bboyworld.com: a forum that changed the game
Before breaking truly exploded on YouTube and across social media, there were many forums that popped up, through which local breakers could connect and share information and footage. The biggest one of them all, which truly helped connect the worldwide breaking scene, was bboyworld.com: an online forum that became the go-to place for the worldwide breaking community. On the forum, you could find threads on everything from information on events around the world, uploads of battles, cypher footage and highlight reels of breakers to information and discussions on the history of the dance.
Bboyworld.com was arguably the first online platform that utilised the power of the internet to connect the breaking scene like never before.
"Now you have YouTube, Facebook and more," says B-Boy Yann. "But before breakers went only to the bboyworld forum because all the breaking videos were there."
5. Event footage, viral clips and invites
With the ability to upload videos of battles to the internet, it opened the doors for events to become more well-known through putting up trailers and battle footage.
Promoters gained the ability to discover high-level breakers in other countries and then invite them to their event, based on seeing highlight reels or battle footage.
Many breakers had their names spread worldwide through clips of them going viral and being shared throughout the scene.
“Someone put together a highlight reel for me that ended up being posted on bboyworld.com," says Omar. "The clip got a lot of views and Tyrone from the Notorious IBE, in Holland, saw it and invited me to Europe.”
Katsu One had a similar experience, saying: “When I won a battle in New Zealand somebody uploaded the footage to bboyworld and I was getting famous from that.”
6. From secret training to showing your moves on social media
The internet has also made people more open about sharing their training sessions, as footage now equals likes and followers, and maybe even an invite to competitions. But as Jayrawk, from Style Elements crew, explains: “We didn't grow up like that, we were like 'you ain't seeing nothing from what I've got'. It was very secretive. Now everyone's on social media showing their regular practise and no one cares.”
Don't forget to respect the culture and always remember why you're into breaking
Ultimately, the internet has provided the scene with more exposure, communication and sharing of information that has helped it flourish. For the new generation of breakers, the benefits are too many to count, as Pelezinho points out: “When young kids start breaking, now they can just go to the internet, find information, talk to other breakers and learn fast."
However, despite the accessibility, he reminds young breakers to never “forget to respect the culture and always remember why you first got into breaking.”