I have been thinking about my ‘breakdance’ period a lot recently for no apparent reason, except for that it was triggered by the song ‘Uprock’ from the Rock Steady Crew (DailyMotion video and my own sample on this server in the traditional 30+ seconds). This song actually was the staple song for our (me and my twin) breakdance affairs: it was the song we practiced on and the song we performed on. This was actually the only break dance record we owned: that is besides the many mix-tapes we had (recordings from the radio mostly). Mix-tapes, of course, were frowned upon. A lot, I remember.
Anyway, “Uprock” was released in 1984, a year after the Crew’s breaking hit ‘Hey You’ and (despite the fancy clip that came with it) it hardly made it to the hit charts, much to our displeasure. The song has a more distinct hardcore sample feel to it and obviously, it’s the better song to dance on (compared to ‘Hey You’). The 12-inch record itself came with the ‘extended version’ (7 minutes long?) and the ‘single version. Most likely, there was an instrumental version on the B-side (Just checked “discogs”: looks like I was fairly close).
Good old times right? I’ve mentioned my breakdancing on this blog before (notably here and slightly less here). We used “Uprock” at one time to disrupt a (history) project week where we danced on the ‘extended’ version of that song, much to the pleasure of the classes and teachers (surprisingly). This event led to the invitation for that infamous school night for students 1 or 2 grades below us (mentioned in that first link) where we basically outdanced and shocked the audience with headspins (shocked I tell you), turtles (sideways), handspins and backspins. We were proud breakdancing nerds and fearless dancers with the right ‘I don’t care what you think of us’-attitude.
This school night was also our very last public breakdance performance, which made the event all the better and bittersweet at the same time. Homework was obviously getting more important: when I look back to the days after that night, it’s almost like we shrugged it off. I don’t recall we made a decsion or something and our parents didn’t really care if we were breakdancing or not. However, I guess, we just knew that it was time to grow up and go on with studying. At the age of 14 or 15: that was probably the best assessment teenagers can make.
Via Alfons, I found out that one of my nephews is breakdancing. Better yet, according to sources, breakdancing is actually still pretty popular over in Europe.
I find this hilarious, because over 20 years ago, both yours truly and his bro were pretty good breakdancers (previously on xsamplex). Hey, we didn’t dance on ‘Hey You’ (audio fragment [600K+] ), but we did on ‘Uprock’. I was one of those fearless headspinners. In my top days, I could do a clockwise headspin, stop in the middle, and then go counter-clockwise without a helmet: a feat that appeared to be so shocking to other breakdancers and onlookers. As a kid, naturally, I didn’t care. We did dance on a schoolnight too (we were invited): the stage event was played as a ‘cool guys’ vs. ‘uh-nerd guys’, and I fondly remember how after a couple of Alfons’ backspins and my headspins, the crowd started to pull out their hands for us. I can’t remember being nervous either, I just remember it was a long song we were dancing on.
The good part, is that we lost interest and returned to focus on our homework, school and more important matters, like reading books. Maybe we just tried to prove that there was after all a scientific point to breakdancing. It’s all about balancing, motion and gravity.
Anyways, if you really want to headspin, the first thing you need to learn is to balance on your head. The best way to do this, is with the help of a wall (so you won’t fall): I thought this was the hardest part of mastering the headspin. Having somebody trying to hold your legs is probably a good idea too: if you break your neck, at least someone can call the ambulance. Doing the spin is actually the easiest part: if you move your legs from spreaded to closed position and back (the ‘scissors move’), you’ll notice your body wants to move automatically. The trick is to gain speed by swinging your legs back and forward: while one leg tips, the other leg should move backward to maintain that precious balance. Oooh. Headspin!
After nearly two decades, the Pope has given his blessings to a group of Polish breakdancers. Finally people like the Rock Steady Crew, The Dynamic Rockers, or even better, yours truly (who happened to be a talented headspinner) and his bro (a talented backspinner), can enjoy a bit of recognition. Yo, we rocked: but I’ll never forget those mid-Eighties when religious freaks dared to call Breakdancing, ‘The Dance of Satan’. Breakdancers? Why, of course: They were tools of Satan.
Luckily we knew better: If I think back to those ‘dark days’ of performing breaks, encouraged by music, cheering people (‘Yo, HEADSPIN’), I keep thinking about those uptight religious critics and zealots. And reading back that the Pope John Paul II, the symbol of the Eighties, enjoyed the performance of Polish breakers, proves that we, little teeny and fragile 13 year old breakers, were morally right: after all it was all about having (innocently) plain fun.