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American troopers introduced breakdancing to South Korea. Now it is writing its personal historical past | CNN


Hong Kong

When hip-hop-obsessed American troopers confirmed their Korean counterparts land headspins and windmills at US navy bases within the Eighties, they most likely didn’t anticipate breakdancing’s eventual explosion within the nation.

Upon reaching Korea’s shores, it was Korean-American hip-hop promoter John Jay Chon who, having handed out VHS tapes of tutorials and competitions to Seoul’s underground dance and membership scenes, was extensively credited for igniting the growth.

Breakdancing entered the Korean mainstream within the Nineteen Nineties by way of Ok-pop trailblazers Search engine marketing Taiji & Boys’ mesmeric music movies, a contemporary phenomenon seemingly at odds with the nation’s conservative tradition on the time.

Then got here the noughties, extensively seen because the nation’s breakdancing “golden years,” when Korean crews received a number of titles at Battle of the Yr, one of many high worldwide b-boy competitions.

As the primary era of Ok-pop – which equally integrated US hip-hop conventions – took over South Korea on its method to international domination, the nation’s tourism board started investing tens of millions of {dollars} into breakdancing competitions, doubtless hoping it could result in an analogous Ok-wave.

The dishevelled denims, boomboxes and tattoos that had as soon as captured popular culture in america – breakdancing even featured at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1985 – skilled an analogous lull in mainstream Korea by the mid-2010s.

But it surely by no means went away – and is now in a resurgence that may subsequent yr take Korean b-boys and b-girls to the Olympics.

This weekend, breakdancing – or “breaking” as it’s identified in official competitions – will make its debut on the Asian Video games in Hangzhou, China, forward of its hotly anticipated introduction to the Summer season Video games in Paris subsequent yr.

Breaking, began by Black and Latino youths within the Bronx within the Seventies, is an assortment of dance types reminiscent of “locking,” “popping,” and “uprocking,” blended into one bodily demanding expression. These within the business favor to not prohibit breaking to a single class reminiscent of an art-form or sport, however check with it as a “tradition.”

Guidelines and judging in a new-era sporting setting are nonetheless of their infancy. In Hangzhou, two medals will likely be awarded within the males’s and ladies’s classes.

Asia’s greatest b-boys and b-girls will take turns to carry out routines in one-on-one battles and are judged on six classes, in keeping with organizers: perfomativity, musicality, character, creativity, selection and approach.

Jeon Jiye, or b-girl Fresh Bella, will feature for the South Korean delegation at the Asian Games.

Although there is no such thing as a official rating by governing physique World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), South Korea has lengthy been among the many world’s greatest.

Kim Heon-woo, often known as B-boy Wing, leads Group Korea’s breaking staff in Hangzhou. The veteran, from the legendary Jinjo Crew, is a a number of world champion and Asian Video games gold medal contender.

Kim is hoping for a “good consequence” on the Video games, in what’s South Korea’s largest delegation in historical past on the quadrennial occasion. There may be added motivation after the nation’s emphatic success in fellow Asian Video games debutant, esports.

“There have been ups and downs however we all the time believed that the prospect would come sooner or later. We’ve labored exhausting for it,” Kim, who has been breaking for greater than 20 years, instructed CNN.

Breaking had seen a glimmer of a return to its glory days by way of its publicity on standard dance survival TV actuality present “Avenue Lady Fighter”in 2021 and “Avenue Man Fighter” in 2022, which Kim starred in.

“You may see the worth of breaking as a sport. I believe this is a vital starting to the longer term,” Kim stated.

“Hip-hop and breaking started within the US. Now every nation is creating new varieties of dances to go well with their very own traits. There’s nonetheless some unfamiliarity with one another, however there may be extra recognition and curiosity in our dances.”

Kim Heonwoo, or b-boy Wing, of South Korea at the 2023 WDSF Asian Breaking Championships in Hangzhou, China in July.

Whereas Kim has an eye fixed on Paris 2024, the Asian Video games is undeniably a milestone for what might be the final batch of first-generation Korean breakers.

“It’s their final dance, basically,” stated Kwon Jang-ho, a Seoul-based journalist who’s producing a documentary on the historical past of breaking in Korea.

Kwon, who began breaking in the UK within the early 2000s earlier than discovering the fledgling Korean scene in his college hole yr, had witnessed its “domination for about 10 years.”

“Korea just about received all the things you could possibly consider by way of international titles. There was by no means actually a single nation that had dominated a scene prefer it had on the time. It was loopy to see. However since then, no actual ‘new era’ has emerged,” he stated.

“With the Asian Video games and Olympics arising, it’s sort of just like the final redemption of the golden era,” Kwon added, saying he hoped for a “revival” of the scene post-Video games.

“It might be fairly the assertion to say, ‘hey look, we’re nonetheless round. We’re nonetheless on the high of Asia’. It was sort of previous its heyday, however these guys are basically attempting for one final massive second of glory – to encourage extra generations, and never simply in Korea,” he stated.

That breaking has transcended into the sports activities realm can solely imply good issues, stated Chen Po Chun, or Bboy Bojin, the Asian Video games’ breaking chair and WDSF’s head of breaking division.

“The world we’re dwelling in now could be shifting so quick. The consequence might not be to the liking of everybody concerned, however it’s about studying,” stated Chen, who has been breaking for 30 years.

“South Korea is de facto necessary, alongside Japan, and even China now. All of those nations have contributed to totally different eras and have put spectacular power into breaking. We ought to be grateful, blessed and appreciative to have what it’s we now have now.

“On the Asian Video games, we’ll see all of this. Legends, younger stars, tremendous athletes, nobodies turning into somebodies, all battling it out. It’s a superb instance for different Asian nations; breaking will hold leveling up and make extra folks fall in love.”

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