Let the Poppers Pop and the Breakers Break

On October 26, students explored the art of Breakdancing through the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. We also linked elements of physics to the athletic, high-energy dance moves of breakdancing commonly referred to as “b-boying” or “b-girling.” Like always, the class started with our afternoon cypher. The greeting of the day was “Let’s Battle.” The students understood from exploring the other elements of Hip Hop that battling has nothing to do with violence. Battling in Hip Hop has everything to do with showing your skill level and your art form, but never about violence. After the greeting, our group activity was popping and locking. The message of the day was “Dancing is Art.”

After the afternoon cypher, I presented the history of breakdancing using the three videos below. The first video is of James Brown on Soul Train performing his hit “Get on the Good Foot.” Brown’s high-energy performance shows him doing elements of early floor work, or toprock routines, of b-boying. In the video, James also does the “Robot.” The video shows students some of the early moves of breakdancing before the incorporation of windmills, backspins and headspins. The second video was of Capoeira. The students were amazed by the moves. We discussed how enslaved Africans created Capoeira as a form of self-defense. By combining elements of dance, music and fighting, they established quick and complex moves using power, speed and leg sweeps. We discussed how ingenious these enslaved Africans were to create a fighting style that helped them survive their harsh and inhuman conditions of slavery.

The third video, a Yak film on breakdancing, brought it all together. The video showed b-boys doing high level spins and floor work that were similar to the moves of Capoeira. Thus, the students could see the direct link between Capoeira and breakdancing.

Next, I introduced the students to the physics of breakdancing. First we defined physics as the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion, along with concepts of energy and force. Then we explored three terms: velocity, momentum and force. After defining the terms, we discussed how the dance form of breakdancing involves all three terms.

After that, we had two b-boys join us, Cloud and Kyle. First, Cloud put on a three-minute show for the students to demonstrate a variety of moves. Then I asked Cloud to slow his moves down so I could show the students how he used velocity, momentum and force to perform power moves.  I then asked the students more particular questions to explain how these elements of physics in the context of his moves.

After linking b-girling to physics, Cloud taught the students some basic moves. He also explained and showed the students the four primary elements of breakdancing: toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes. After Cloud’s tutorial, we had an old fashioned battle. As you can see in the video, I gave it my all, but the students were amazing!

The feel of the class was just dope. For me to have the opportunity to teach the students the history of b-boying and how it can also be linked to physics is the best feeling a Hip Hop educator can have. Loving Real Talk.

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