In the early 70's, African American and Puerto Rican teens developed a new style of dance called breaking in South Bronx, New York City. Breaking is a main component of hip-hop culture, and is represented by its practitioners known as b-boys. This dance form was introduced to Korea in the early 90s as hip-hop music fused with Korean pop. Younger Korean generations became wildly excited at this new aspect of culture. Such movement expressed by the human body managed to transcend borders and appeal to Korea's image-sensitive youth. Languages also did not matter to them, because the dance moves alone conveyed universal emotions and ideas that were easily interpreted by all. Because break dancing conveys the dancer's thoughts and feelings, it has become a new medium of expression for this young generation.
Although the idea of b-boy dancing originated in New York City, it has traveled across the globe to Korea and transformed into a new form of art. Keeping pace with Korea's changing culture and society, b-boy dancing co-evolved into a new mode of expression and language; younger generations have begun to realize their Asian version of the b-boy flair. In Korea practitioners showcase their skills and capabilities for the public at popular youth-central meeting places like Hongdae (the area located around the borders of Hongik University), and have demonstrate their skills at the international competition Dance of the Year in Germany. Since 2001, Korean teams such as Gambler, Last for One, and Extreme Crew have won the first place title, creating for themselves a new reputation in the dancing world.
This American derived hip-hop culture captivated the Korean pop market of the 90s. Many singers, rappers, and dancers earned notice and established their fame during this period. Hip-hop dancing in particular is beloved by young people. As it has settled into its place in culture, Korea's break dancing has become "Koreanized" showing touches of native culture.
As a new type of communication, the movements of Korean b-boys express Korea today. Every move the dancer makes reflects his identity as a Korean. Even the small movements from Korea's top b-boy dancers bear distinctive cultural characteristics, and contain unique aspects of Korean life. Through these contributions to the genre, break dancing has begun to communicate to the world about Korea.
These Koreanized b-boy dances have become increasingly popular in Korea. It is now commonplace to see Koreans breaking at youth gathering areas in Seoul. Street dances even developed into theatrical performances. The most popular plot for these portrays a ballerina who loves a b-boy. The original version has been running more than two years in its own exclusive theatre at Hongdae, receiving strong support from the younger generation. As it becomes more and more popular, it continues to draw diverse demographics. Many celebrities and VIPs including Korean President Lee Myung-bak have attended performaces.
Break dancing has earned its place as a new element of the Korean Wave for its ability to surpass language barriers though expressive movement. PMC Production's president, Seunghwan Song, has already introduced theatrical Korean pieces to Broadway and is planning a U.S. debut of B-boy Korea, the break dance performance accompanied by traditional Korean music. Although break dancing did not originate in Korea, it has become a window into contemporary Korean culture.
By Lee Ju-won