Breakdancing tries to catch on as an Olympics sport

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

LOS ANGELES -- A thudding beat fills the nightclub, music so loud it rattles your bones. Emerging from the crowd, a guy in white sneakers and a bright yellow hoodie skitters onto the empty dance floor.

With plenty of room to move, he drops suddenly, catching himself on one hand and kicking his legs in the air. The next thing you know, he flips upside-down, spinning on his head.

"I'm a little bit anxious," he says later. "When I get like that, I'm making it up as I go."

The nerves get to him because this b-boy named Yuri isn't just breakdancing. He has reached the final of a regional qualifier with a spot in the national championships at stake.

"Freakin' crazy," he says.

To the dancers who competed in the recent Red Bull BC One contest in Hollywood -- and hundreds of fans who came to watch -- "breaking," as it is correctly known, is no less athletic than gymnastics or figure skating.


Through round after round of one-on-one "battles," competitors must execute basic footwork and perform the sort of power moves and airborne tricks that score extra points. Judges watch from the side, scribbling notes, scrutinizing each nuance.

Outsiders might scoff, but the International Olympic Committee has recognized breaking as a high-level competitive sport with a network of contests held worldwide. Earlier this year, organizers of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris proposed adding it to their program, citing an "unmissable opportunity" to attract young fans.

The possibility causes Yuri to grin, thinking about validation in the form of gold medals and television coverage. The 28-year-old from Brazil says: "Maybe a lot of people are going to look at us in a better way."

Go back to the early days, to the streets of New York City in the 1970s.


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