By Jewel*

This year's Bumbershoot features four full days of breaking (a.k.a. b-boying), and I'm sure such a prominent spotlight is leading folks to wonder if breaking is making a comeback. The truth is, breakdancing never really went away, it just waned in popularity after 1985. There have always been b-boys and b-girls practicing and refining their skills, and the new generation is way more complex and acrobatic than the last.

The most recent resurgence in breaking's popularity began in the late '90s. Seattle, which I hear is home to some of the best b-boys and b-girls in the world, has been at the center of the storm, and you owe it to yourself to catch these artists in action. What follows are a couple of tips on the action to help you enjoy the performance as much as I will.

First, there are three main elements to b-boying: toprock, footwork, and power moves. Toprock is the initial dance done upright. This is where breaking started, with people trying to imitate James Brown's intricate moves to "Get on the Good Foot." Footwork was added as breaking evolved, and b-boys began to drop to the floor after their toprock and do ground movements. Footwork was always important, but it has risen to a new level in new-school b-boying. Power moves include old-school favorites like the backspin and headspin, as well as the newer stuff like 1990s and flares. Also included under power moves would be freezes, which are used throughout a routine but tend to finish one out. A freeze is just what it sounds like: a position that's held for a few seconds. The goal of freezes, and breaking in general, is to come up with something complex--and, perhaps more importantly, original.

Breaking came out of the Bronx, and the original context for showing off some skill was the battle, where crews battled each other for supremacy. Most competitions now center on the battle. Each crew sends out one member at a time for a predetermined series of rounds, with judges deciding the winner of each battle.

Judges look for a number of things, but primarily focus on two: style (or flavor) and power. Most b-boys respond especially to style, while crowds are more impressed with power. The best b-boys and b-girls successfully combine both elements.

While style informs the entire routine, footwork can be one of the most exciting places to express it. Years of innovation have produced amazing results. One of the most impressive styles of footwork is called origami, where dancers thread their legs through their arms in unreal ways.

Power moves are exciting because of the physical strength involved. Among the power moves you'll see, there are the following:

Windmill: Old-school crowd pleaser. With legs spread wide apart, the dancer rolls around on his shoulders and back, creating a windmill effect.

Air tracks: This is the new-school windmill. Much more acrobatic and gravity-defying, it's a windmill raised several feet into the air, with only the hands touching the ground.

Headspin: This self-explanatory move is very difficult.

Flares: Rare in old-school, a staple move in new-school. This move is the same as the Thomas Flare in gymnastics. The dancer spins her legs around in a circular fashion while holding herself up using only her arms.

Turtle: Imagine a pushup position, but with the elbows tucked into the side so the hands are below the stomach. The dancer lifts his legs so his whole body is elevated and then bounces around in a circle. A variation on this move is the jackhammer--bouncing around on one hand.

1990: This one is hard. Imagine a spinning, one-handed handstand.

2000: Similar to the 1990, except that you can use both hands, placed close together.

It's easy to be wowed by the power moves, so I encourage you to look for the subtler elements of style and be sure to cheer when you see an impressive movement.

All the main crews from Seattle will be present at Bumbershoot. Look for members of Massive Monkeys, Dance Broomz, Fraggle Rock, Battle Reflexes, and BYC battling each other at Center Circle Spin in the Snoqualmie Room all four days. Also, catch Circle of Fire (Mon Sept 2, 4:45-5:15 pm) and Turf!--a stage performance--(Sat Aug 31, noon-12:45 pm) at the Biringer Farm Bagley Wright Theatre. Tell 'em Jewel sent ya, yo!

*Article not really written by Jewel.