It is widely believed that breakdancing began as a means of rival street gangs to resolve differences or to set the location for rumbles. Others say it was an offshoot of or was heavily influenced by capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art / dance.
Breakdancing was brought into the mainstream through the proliferation of various dance groups, most notably Rock Steady Crew. Soul and funk legend James Brown also popularized the dance style with his high-energy performances. In the 1980s, breakdancing faded from pop culture and went back to being an underground phenomenon. It made a comeback in the 1990s and since then has become a fixture of pop culture.
There are no set routines or structures in breakdancing. Rather, dancers employ basic moves while embellishing them with more complex styles and power moves. Dancers could start off with the toprock, a relatively simple dance made up of any variation of steps performed while standing up. This serves as a warm-up in preparation for further acrobatic moves. The downrock, in contrast, is performed with the hands and feet on the floor. A common downrock move is the 6-step, which looks like walking in a circle while one hand touches the ground.
The basic moves lay the groundwork for power moves, which involve more difficult routines and require physical stamina. One of the more common power moves is the windmill. This requires dancers to spin from the upper back to the chest while twirling the legs around the body in a V-shape. The windmill is a tough move to perform and usually takes two to six months to learn.
Another power move is the flare, which involves swinging the legs around the stationary torso in continuous circles while the arms carry the weight of the whole body. In gymnastics where it originated, the flare is usually performed on a Pommel Horse but in breakdancing, it is done on the floor. The headspin and the jackhammer are also among the popular power moves. The latter is performed with the dancers hopping around in a circular motion while one hand supports the body.
A routine usually ends with a freeze, a full stop in an interesting and often difficult position. This usually means suspending one's body with feet off the ground and supported by the hands or the torso. A suicide is another way to end a routine. This involves a painful-looking drop to the buttocks, back, or stomach. The desired effect is for the dancers to look like they injured themselves.
Today, breakdancing has gained international recognition and has become popular in Europe and Asia. Annual competitions are held in Germany, Britain, Japan, and the United States. It has also inspired fashion trends and has been featured in a number of movies, music videos, TV shows, and commercials.