Also known as breaking, break dancing has grown from its roots in the nascent American hip-hop culture of the 1970s to a “dance sport,” somewhat incongruously related to ballroom dancing, that is notably popular in France. Break dancing got its Olympic start at the 2018 Youth Games in Buenos Aires, where Japan’s Ramu “Ram” Kawai and Russia’s Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev won gold in the girls and boys events.
“There’s simply no doubt about the athletic aspects of the discipline,” French break dancer Mounir Biba said at Thursday’s announcement (via the Associated Press). “I defy Cristiano Ronaldo to do just one of my movements."
Olympic break dancing features “battles,” in which competitors square off either individually or as part of teams. They show off an array of moves that are rated by judges, all while a DJ lays down some beats.
“We are pleased to see that Paris 2024′s proposal for new sports to the Olympic programme is very much in line with the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020, which is striving to make the Olympic programme gender-balanced, more youth-focused and more urban,” the IOC said in a statement.
The head of the Paris organizing committee, Tony Estanguet, said that his group wanted to “connect the Games to their era.” He added that the four new sports would provide a “more artistic” dimension to the Olympics.
“It is an incredible honour and privilege that, for the first time, a dance discipline is being considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games,” the president of the World DanceSport Federation, Shawn Tay, said in a statement. “It is a humbling experience for all members and supporters of DanceSport.”
Left disappointed by the Paris announcement were the governing bodies for sports such as squash, billiards and chess, which had hoped for inclusion. In addition, karate, which will make its Olympic debut next year, was excluded from the 2024 proposal.
“Our sport has grown exponentially over the last years, and we still haven’t had the chance to prove our value as an Olympic sport since we will be making our debut as an Olympic discipline in Tokyo 2020,” World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinos said in a statement. “Over the last months, we have worked relentlessly, together with the French Federation, to achieve our goal of being included in Paris 2024. We believed that we had met all the requirements and that we had the perfect conditions to be added to the sports programme; however, we have learned today that our dream will not be coming true.”
Among the break dancing judges in Buenos Aires was Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, a founding member of New York’s legendary Rock Steady Crew. He told the Guardian that the dance sport “represents many people who come from struggle and have nothing, and now that has translated into an opportunity to see the world, to compete and, most importantly, to build bridges between cultures and break down stereotypes.”
“It’s a victory for us,” Biba said. “Even if it goes no further, we’ll still have won.”