The 1970s came, and so did breaking to the streets from the South Bronx and Brooklyn, New York.
It was a powerful cultural revolution, a new dance form also known as B-boying, whose moves were connected by compilations of sampled music from multiple genres, thanks to the rise of dual-turntable DJs.
Athletic, acrobatic and all-out energetic breaking — with its toprock, downrock, power and freeze moves — spread from its inner-city Latino and African-American roots and became an international movement.
In his acclaimed book, “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” author Jeff Chang explained, “During the 1970s, an array of dances practiced by Black and Latino kids sprang up in the inner cities of New York and California. The styles had a dizzying list of names: ‘uprock’ in Brooklyn, ‘locking’ in Los Angeles, ‘boogaloo’ and ‘popping’ in Fresno, and ‘strutting’ in San Francisco and Oakland. When these dances gained notice in the [mid-’80s] outside of their geographic contexts, the diverse styles were lumped together under the tag ‘break dancing.’”
This weekend, Taoseños will get to see for themselves the energy of break dance and freestyle dancing when “Awaken Breaks” comes to FaraHNHeight Fine Art, 301 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The “Awaken Breaks” freestyle dance showdown will take place Saturday (Dec. 23) from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the gallery. Admission is free, but donations at the door of anywhere from $1 to $20 are appreciated. Everyone is welcome, whether they come as spectators or performers. No pre-registration is necessary.
Taos resident Ryan Leon, who is co-producing the event with his wife, Christalyn Concha, is an old-school breakbeat DJ who’ll be mixing flavors with current progressive techniques and creating unique vibes for the audience and dancers.
Adding to the evening’s fun are prizes for the top three dancers, with a first-place prize of $200. Leon said, “Upon entrance, spectators will be given tokens to give to their favorite dancers, and dancers with the most tokens win.”
Local businesses have donated goods and gift certificates for the evening’s raffle. “Raffles will be $5 each or five for $20,” said Leon.
The Dancing Turtle LLC, Albuquerque’s premier B-boy, B-girl and Dance Battle Studio team, will be present to show Taos how it’s done. Sign-up forms will also be available for Dancing Turtle classes that will soon be taking place here in Taos. “Proceeds from the raffle will go toward further growing break dancing in Taos by giving scholarships to students that may not be able to afford the classes,” Leon explained.
“The Dancing Turtle LLC has been committed to serving the youth of Albuquerque with positive empowerment and superior life skills, as have my wife and I here. This is an amazing opportunity for our kids to learn break dancing and, in doing so, build self-confidence in a healthy environment.”
Opening performers for the event are G-Hard, a decadeslong veteran hip-hop emcee who is traveling all the way from Carlsbad, New Mexico, for the evening in his first Taos performance, and Po.10.Cee, a Taos Pueblo hip-hop crew blending soul and hip-hop with a Native American influence.
This inaugural event is one that fulfills a lifelong dream of Leon’s. “I have had visions of break dancing events all over New Mexico,” he said. Sponsored by ZIA Beverages, of which he is co-founder and managing partner, “we could determine who the most talented break dancers are and sponsor them to attend other events in the region, such as Denver and Phoenix, and reach other subcultures. It is a win for all involved.”
Leon first saw the art form as a child in Carlsbad in the mid-1980s as he went down neighborhood sidewalks and saw a group of teenagers break dancing and mixing turntables with break beats. The experience was so profound it would eventually lead him to becoming a DJ and electronic break beat producer.
In response to her young son’s enthusiasm, Leon’s mother promptly bought him a keyboard sampler used in modern break beat production. “I wanted to spread the same feelings and interests that I had from watching someone scratch vinyl records on turntables with style over breaks,” he explained.
“It had a very positive impact on me as a child and I want to spread a similar experience to people here in Taos. And, hence, the name of the event — ‘Awaken Breaks’ — with an intention to awaken the art form in Taos County, and I’m grateful the Dancing Turtle is willing to travel to Taos to teach classes regularly.”
Leon continued, “The art and experience of the B-boy and B-girl culture is a very positive attribute of many communities. In our event, the emcee aspect is also represented with G-Hard coming from Carlsbad. G-Hard has been rapping for a very long time and was the first person to release a rap album from there.”
In addition to their passion for dance and music and the way each can uplift youth, Leon and Concha have found other ways to enhance the quality of life for Taos-area residents. Zia Beverages produces “Cowboy Up,” a craft-brewed natural energy drink Leon hopes will discourage people from “those drinks loaded with sugar and chemicals,” he said.
Leon and Concha are also the founders of Taos Hope, a nonprofit under which Concha established and operates The Giving Tree, a free thrift shop that serves the underprivileged citizens of Taos with quality clothing and household items and a food bank.
Awaken yourself at “Awaken Breaks,” have a great evening and support those who support your neighbors.
For more information, call (575) 779-3440 or visit the event’s Facebook page at facebook.com/events/165445930869257/. You may also get additional information about The Dancing Turtle LLC by visiting thedancingturtlellc.com.