It’s official. Breakdance arrives at the Olympics. Officially named “break” by the International Olympic Committeethe sport will be part of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
And whether or not it’s been on your sports radar until now, breaking competitions have taken place all over the world since the 1990s, popularizing the dance form far beyond urban hip-hop communities to pass. to the general public along the way.
And as Team USA assembles its competitive breakout squad for Paris 2024, one of the Olympic hopefuls is Grace “Sunny” Choi.
Choi is currently the reigning U.S. B-Girls Champion after winning the Red Bull BC One U.S. National Final last month. In the meantime, Choi will also compete in November, for the coveted world championship title, in the event known as the Red Bull BC One World Final, aka “the Super Bowl of the break.”
“It never even crossed my mind,” Choi said, “that breaking would be in the Olympics, let alone that I hope to represent the United States as a competitor.”
She adds that she originally got into the pursuit because of her interest in hip-hop culture and as an extension of her background as a competitive gymnast.
The Red Bull World Breaking Championships will take place on November 12 in New York and will bring together the best breakers from 60 countries.
Choi, who is 33 and lives in Queens, New York, began her B-Girl journey in 2008, balancing a full-time corporate job with rigorous break training.
“Compared to other Olympic sports, one of the unique things about breaking is that a lot of what you see is freestyle,” Choi said during our interview last week. “But break racing definitely requires more creativity and adaptability, adding an element of difficulty that a sport like gymnastics doesn’t have.
In addition to her recent win, Sunny has a number of international victories and competed in some of the world’s biggest battles including Outbreak Europe B-Girl Solo Battle 2015, FISE Hiroshima Japan and WDSF World Championships 2019 in Nanjing. , China.
VIDEO: Sunny Choi clashes on the floor with B-Boy Madmax
Breaking made its Olympic debut at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018. And following its outstanding success, breaking was chosen to be on the Paris 2024 Olympic program as a new sport, alongside surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing.
Last week, I asked Sunny Choi about his quest for a spot on Team USA, and more about his breakup career so far.
Andy Frye: So, serious question: Did you ever think breakdancing could take you to the Olympics? And when did you start breakdancing?
Sunny Choi: I started dancing in my first year of college, towards the end of 2007, after I quit gymnastics due to a knee injury. Honestly, I started to come out of boredom more and needed to do something physically demanding to keep myself fit.
It’s definitely a very exciting time for us, and I’m grateful that the community has the chance to show a whole new audience what we do.
AF: Obviously every Olympic sport is different, but describe the training regimen for competitive breakdancers and the level of athleticism involved. Talk about athletics versus performance skills.
Choi: I can’t speak for anyone else’s workout schedule, but I work with a strength and conditioning coach several times a week, I go to my typical breakout workouts the most days and I do hot vinyasa for active recovery.
The discipline required is what makes (breaking) so difficult. As a former high-level gymnast, I cannot say which of the two disciplines requires the most physical capacity. Unlike many other sports where athletes train their bodies to perform a very specific set of moves, our bodies have to be ready for any song the DJ might play and react to it with whatever moves feel best.
AF: As with Olympic figure skating, one would assume that judges can be subjective. What constitutes top performance in your sport?
Choi: The breaking judging system separates each battle into three main criteria: physical (body), interpretive (soul), and artistic (spirit). Within these categories, there are subcategories that take into account everything from technique and variety to musicality and creativity.
It’s a comparative system, so rather than giving people a score from 1 to 100, the system has faders that allow the judge to compare each breaker to their opponent against each of these subcategories, providing a relative score by percentage. The dancer with the most wins based on percentages wins the round. Of course, there’s still room for subjectivity, but I think the system does a great job of capturing the many complicated facets of the breakup.
Breakdancing originated from the New York hip-hop scene of the late 1970s. As an insider, would you say that music is still influential on the scene?
Music is incredibly influential on the scene in so many ways, and as music has changed over the years, so has breaking. Breakers started dancing to the “break” of a record in the 70s, and DJs used to loop this section repeatedly so that it was long enough for people to dance to.
The scene and the music have changed a lot since then, but even today the DJ plays an extremely important role in breaking battles because he sets the tone for the whole event and the way the breakers dance. For example, around 10 to 15 years ago, NYC was known for its more aggressive and fast-paced style that reflected the music played by DJs like DJ DPOne and DJ Ex. Meanwhile, Philly, just 2 hours away, was known for having a more traditional and fundamental style which was reflected in the breaks and funk music that DJ Skeme Richards played.
One can even see the influence of music on individual breakers today and how they developed their styles based on their musical preferences.