In the early 1970s, black and Latinx youth were influenced by a variety of sources – like gymnastics and martial arts – to create a dance known as
‘b-boying’ or ‘breaking.’ The dance that was once a way for rival gangs to fight for turf in New York eventually made its way into the mainstream and is now taught in many dance studios.
Oklahomans looking for a way to express themselves through movement can find a variety of options to learn this form of hip-hop. Jesus Martinez, a seasoned instructor at Everything Goes Dance Studio in Oklahoma City, welcomes anyone to his breakdancing classes … as long as they’re willing to put in the effort. You get out of it what you put into it, he says.
“Breakdance isn’t easy, and it takes time and dedication to learn and grow,” he says. “It takes a fair amount of upper body strength and more stamina and cardio because it’s such a high energy style of dance. I’d say being able to do 15 push-ups, no stop, would mean you’re ready for some breakdance skills.”
That said, Martinez mentions that some breakdance doesn’t require upper body strength. ‘Top rocks,’ for example, is a breakdancer’s way of grooving out, as the moves consist more of footwork.
Martinez has been perfecting the art of breakdancing since he was just 13 years old.
“I was drawn to breakdance because of family history, mainly,” he explains. “My uncle was a breakdancer, and my aunt and mom were hip-hoppers. I wanted to continue that talent.”
Martinez learned his skills by watching YouTube videos and practicing with a crew called Team Swoosh.
“We would get together in Bricktown just behind the Sonic headquarters and just dance,” he says. “We also had meetups at different gyms and centers to practice.”
Teaching others to breakdance, in some ways, is Martinez’s way of paying it forward.
“I teach others now because if it weren’t for mentors who helped me grow, I wouldn’t have grown to where I am now,” he says. “I want to pass on the torch and inspire others to follow what they love. A good teacher can make a difference in a student’s life and perspective.”
Maxwell Hill, a hip-hop dancer and Oklahoma City resident, says it took him about a year to get the hang of the basic moves for breakdancing.
“For someone who has never taken the style before, the movements can be pretty tricky when you’re first learning them,” says Hill. “Everyone’s body is different, and because of that, people perform moves a little bit differently.”
Hill advises beginners to watch other breakdancers to help figure out their own styles. Understanding the importance of stretching beforehand and keeping a routine also help to master the art.
“The most challenging part for me is keeping my stamina up while performing,” he says. “It’s an intense style that needs a lot of endurance to keep going, especially when performing flashier moves.”
Hill, who was drawn to breakdancing because of the amount of freedom he could apply to the style, suggests that everyone interested in the style try it.
“It’s an extremely fun style that can also serve as a great workout,” he says. “I’d absolutely encourage anyone who is considering starting to go for it.”