How Hip-Hop Dance Turns Counterculture Into Community

Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool/UPROXX

“Hip-hop was the only thing that didn’t look at me like, ‘Hey, he’s poor.'”

That’s a quote from Marlon Lizama, a member of Havikoro dance crew from Houston, and for him, hip-hop was an escape from poverty. But you could insert any adjective instead of “poor.” It’s the inclusivity and welcoming aspect of the artform that has pulled in those who didn’t feel like they fit into other areas of society. In breakdancing, Lizama discovered a community that embraced him. And that’s what I found when I went to the Red Bull BC One Camp in Houston, TX in April, a tightknit community who fell in love with the dance to find their place in the world, and won’t ever fall out of love with it for the very same reason.

Breakdancing is often a forgotten element of hip-hop, but it’s always been a part of the counterculture, a genre of dance that is disrespected merely because of where it began: the streets. The style claimed fame at parties and — because the attendees were a bunch of inner-city kids (listening to music that parents didn’t understand and participating in another one of the “ills” of the inception of the hip-hop era, graffiti) — they were looked down upon. The music, the clothing, the art, all of it was demonized. Even the U.S. Government was trying (and has continued to try) to defame the name of hip-hop by framing it as music that’s detrimental to society.

But even with its detractors trying to minimize its impact, hip-hop has evolved from a style of music to a thriving culture and breakdancing has evolved right along with it.

Carlo Cruz/Red Bull Content Pool

I remember when I fell in love with hip-hop. I always loved to dance and in elementary school my mother agreed to put me in a jazz dance class. That was cool…until I got into hip-hop, at the time called “street dance”. The music spoke to me because it was filled with people who looked like me, people who I could look up to. The posture was comfortable, and I felt free. I was intoxicated, even then, by the pounding 808s and the tick of the snares.

As I got older, I realized that there were some people who I would never be able to relate to, because they looked down on hip-hop culture. We used to have to pass around breaking and locking battle DVDs like we were running drug deals — secretly fighting over whether or not it was an offense to “steal” moves.