The distinctive and dynamic style of break dancing was first introduced to the world by young street dancers in New York City in the early 1970s. B-boying eventually made its way to Korea about a decade later after being introduced by American soldiers. However, for decades, break dancing was far from being a mainstream style of dance as it enjoyed only a small following among young, amateur dancers.
“When I first started getting into the b-boy scene in the late ’90s, b-boying itself didn’t have the greatest image,” said b-boy Kim Hun-woo, who goes by the stage name Wing. “When b-boying was still relatively unknown in Korea, most people just thought of it as a type of low-class street dancing; it wasn’t something you would go boasting about, rather is was something that the general public didn’t take too seriously in terms of it being a form of dance.”
B-boy Wing of Jinjo Crew poses at the group’s studio in Songpa-gu, Seoul. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
However, over the past several years, the b-boy craze in Korea has skyrocketed and is now not only a well-recognized type of dance, but a popular form of entertainment enjoyed by both younger and older audiences.
Wing, 26, is a world champion b-boy who took the crown at the Red Bull BC1 in Paris six years ago and is currently a member of the local 16-member b-boy dance group Jinjo Crew.
“I was actually first introduced to b-boying after watching my old brother dance,” Wing explained. “Back then we didn’t have easy access to the Internet, but we did have videos, so people basically learned by watching other people and reading books. There was this hip-hop comic book series that we used to reference a lot.”
After witnessing his brother’s growing interest in the art of break dancing, Wing, 12 at the time, thought he ought to give it a try. The move he attempted was the “rainbow” (an advanced cartwheel-like move), and he surprised himself when he nailed the stunt on his first go.
“So I thought to myself ‘Wow, I’m pretty good at this,’” he said with a big grin on his face. “So ever since then I was hooked. ... I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t practice.”
Despite being a virtually unknown culture in Korea less than a decade ago, both Wing and his brother continued to pursue their passion for break dancing. Today, the two are both members of the popular JinJo Crew, which has won countless world titles including the Battle of the Year in 2010.
Between the mindboggling intricate footwork, the pops, locks and body contorting freezes and the high-flying acrobatics, it is no surprise that the once-small niche of b-boy dancing culture finally began to spread across the country.
“Around the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, there was just this huge boom in the b-boy movement in Korea,” Wing explained. “And nowadays, even your grandmothers know what b-boying is. ... It’s crazy when you think about it.”
Today, there are countless nonverbal plays with plots based entirely on b-boy dancing or, at the very least, featuring some flared break dancing interludes such as the daily open run shows “Ballerina Who Loved a B-Boy,” “Jump,” “Kung” and “B-boy Musical Marionette.”
“It’s a great feeling to think about how much the perception of b-boys has changed in Korea,” he added. “It wasn’t that long ago that I would introduce myself to people, telling them that I am a b-boy and would get either blank stares or less-than-pleasant responses.”
The country continues to make great strides in promoting the local break dancing culture and creating an internationally recognized reputation for its talent pool of b-boys and fiercely competitive dance crews. In 2007, Korea established the R-16 Korea ― an annual international b-boy competition hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Last year, Seoul also hosted the 2013 Red Bull BC One World Final, the event’s 10th anniversary competition, with local b-boy Hong10 stealing the win.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)