|Even before the competition started, the b-boys were
flaunting their top rocking, footwork, freezes and power
DJ spinning, beats pounding, they showed off for each
other and the audience -- about 200 people from all over South
Florida gathered at the Greenacres Community Center.
dancer with a baseball cap dropped into a one-handed handstand,
kicking toward the ceiling again and again with the rhythm. Another,
with bright red sneakers and dreadlocks, matched the move and held
it for a few seconds longer. Hands slapped; smiles flashed; they
Break dancing, the dance form they were
practicing, grew out of the streets of the Bronx in the late 1970s
and gained mainstream fame in the 1980s. It started out as much a
part of hip-hop as rapping, D.J.-ing and graffiti. Then it faded
from the public eye, kept alive only underground.
recent years, break dancing -- or b-boying -- has been creeping back
into the spotlight. Revitalized and repackaged, it's appearing in
dance clubs, television commercials and music videos.
moves are basically the same as they were 20 years ago: stand-up
dancing combined with floor-based acrobatics such as the classic
But other things have changed. In the beginning,
b-boys battled for respect and status on the street, said Bronx
b-boy pioneer Louis "Trac2" Matteo, 40.
These days some
promoters are marketing b-boying as an "extreme sport" -- like a
distant cousin of skateboarding.
Neighborhood b-boy battles
and grudge matches largely have given way to structured competitions
put together by promoters and sometimes sponsored by major
Mainstream America again is starting to take
notice. ESPN2 decided to televise a b-boy competition for the first
time. The network picked an August New York competition, The
Ultimate B-Boy Throwdown, sponsored by Fila. Rather than just
respect or ghetto celebrity, the b-boys competed for $5,000 in prize
"Breaking on a competitive level is worldwide now,"
said Throwdown promoter Mitchell "Speedy" Martinez, 35. "Back in the
'80s you didn't recognize it as a dance, so now we're going to bring
it to you as a sport."
In South Florida, the godfather of the
b-boy scene is Richard "Speedy Legs" Fernandez, 37, of Miami. A
professional dancer originally from Havana, he teaches b-boying,
sets up and judges competitions and sometimes acts as spokesman for
the b-boy community.
About seven years ago, Fernandez helped
found a major competition in Miami -- the B-Boy Masters Pro-Am.
About the same time, he started an annual competition at the
Hollywood Police Athletic League gym. Last year he organized the
first of the annual competitions at the Greenacres Community
Others are doing their part to boost the scene. David
"Max One" Alvarado, 21, and the group he dances with, the Unique
Style Crew, are planning a competition later this month in Pembroke
"It's getting bigger and bigger nationwide," Alvarado
said of b-boying.
At the Greenacres competition, DJ Safe
Stadick spun beats from Mongo Santamaria and Ray
B-boys -- and one b-girl -- battled individually
and in crews. The contests were almost as much about attitude as
they were about moves. Dancers taunted each other, showing off their
best moves and daring opponents to try to do better.
one battle, Deimos "Indelible" Del Nodal, a 25-year-old Miami
resident, was out of breath, dripping sweat. He said he'd been
b-boying about six years.
"It keeps me in shape, keeps me
away from other things," he said.
The scene in Palm Beach
County is young, so b-boys there are a little behind crews from
Broward and Miami-Dade counties, said 19-year-old West Palm Beach
resident Marvin "Marvelous Marv" Norero.
"We're trying to get
a scene going up here," he said.
As b-boying spreads through
South Florida and gains mainstream momentum nationwide, Fernandez is
cautious. He has been through this before. He watched b-boying blow
up and then fade away.
"It's a good thing that it gets us
exposure," he says. "But the media, the corporations know that it
attracts youngsters so they just want to use it to make money on
Sam Tranum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or