Diablo and Stalamuerte at the Juste Debout 2018 final
© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool
5 big breaking and hip-hop dance misconceptions you should know about
There are a lot of myths, misunderstandings and incorrect facts spouted when people try to explain the differences between breakdance and hip-hop dance. Here are five of the most common of them.
By FraGue Moser-Kindler
Published on

1. Breaking and hip-hop are the same

The first misunderstanding is a tricky one. It's the result of a neverending argument about the terminology of hip-hop, and a lot of hardliners stating 'Breaking is hip-hop' without giving the context that's needed to understand it.
The term hip-hop in its original meaning stands for a cultural movement that consists of the traditional four elements – breaking (widely known as breakdance), writing (graffiti), MCing (rap) and DJing.
When we look at the statement above from this perspective, it's entirely true. But for everyone who isn't aware of the heritage of hip-hop culture and asking about the difference between breaking and hip-hop, while meaning hip-hop dance, it only adds to the confusion.
Hip-hop dance, like breakdance, is a term created by people outside the hip-hop scene to describe something they didn't fully understand. The name was used so often that it now sticks, even inside the scene. Hip-hop dance is a dance style based on the social dances that originated in the '70s and '80s. Alternative names you might hear, depending on where you live, are hip-hop freestyle, freestyle, hip-hop newstyle or just newstyle.
Hip-Hop dancer Kyoka and b-boy Neguin perform in Paris.
Kyoka and Neguin

2. Breaking is acrobatics and hip-hop is dance

This is a half-truth that can make you look like an expert in front of the wrong audience, and a fool when talking to people who know what's up.
Generally speaking, B-Boys and B-Girls do a lot more acrobatics because the main part of breaking (the original name of breakdance) is on the floor, while hip-hop dancers are mostly on top. However, nowadays hip-hop dancers are doing a lot of moves on the floor that can't easily be distinguished from breaking material. This is especially true in competitions.
For the second part, telling B-Boys and B-Girls they aren't dancing will be considered a serious insult in most cases. The reason for this myth is that the dynamic nature makes it less obvious that they're dancing as well.
Bboy Noe performs a headspin at the Red Bull BC One Cypher in Paris, France on July 5th, 2014
The headspin is probably the most famous move in breaking

3. You can tell the difference by listening to the music

Back in days past, you could tell the difference between dance styles by checking out the music. The different styles originated to different music and therefore have a distinct different vibe and vocabulary.
Over the years, both dance styles evolved so far that skilled dancers can dance to all different kinds of music. It also happens that dancers can do multiple styles and flow seemless between them.
Buddha Stretch performs his judge move at the Hip Hop 1 On 1 Battle "DO OR DIE" during the Red Bull BC ONE Camp in Hirosaki, Japan on June 30, 2017
Buddha Stretch performing a judges showcase

4. Hip-hop is all about choreography

This one is just wrong. Hip-hop dance and breaking are first and foremost freestyle dances. This means that the dancers improvise to the music being played without a fixed routine of moves. You can do chorepgraphy within hip-hop and breaking, but it isn't a defining aspect.
This misunderstanding comes from the fact that a lot of commercial dance studios picked up and used the term hip-hop because it sold well. They created choreography classes, where teachers from jazz dance created hip-hop-like choreography to hip-hop and R 'n' B music. In this process they created a style that should be labelled street-jazz, but hip-hop sells better.
Greenteck teaching a workshop about popping at a dance studio in Zagreb, Croatia on March 25th 2018
Greenteck teaching popping in a workshop in Croatia

5. B-Boys and B-Girls don't listen to the music

The last one is related to the 'breaking is acrobatics' attitude. In the same way that people watching breakers dance may overlook the dance aspect due to the flashy acrobatics, new b-boys and b-girls can over focus on the acrobatic aspects and the difficulty of the moves if they have a teacher who doesn't tell them the importance of the music.
As like everywhere in life, there are good and bad teachers. This might result in some B-Boys and B-Girls lacking knowledge regarding the importance of music for this dance. Luckily, almost every dancer learns this aspect as soon as they go to their first jams and see the beauty of our dance forms outside of the studio.
Cloud and Neguin perform in the streets of Bucheon, South Korea on September 23, 2017
Neguin and Cloud performing on the streets of South Korea