Breakdancing Marines trade their boots for Pumas

10 Aug 2004 | Lance Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

The 1980's urban art form of breakdancing is not dead, contrary to popular belief.  Not too long ago, a small group of "breakdancing" Marines based here-calling themselves the Rythmaddicks--posted notices on bulletin boards inviting other like-minded breakdancers or "B-Boys" to meet.  Their efforts resulted in a couple more participants of a dance genre thought to have disappeared along with disco dancing and the latter-day Macarena. 

Adherents of the dance form, known for its body and head floor spins, say the genre has gone "underground" within the American subculture.

"Back in the 1980's, breakdancing got too big because everyone was trying to market it," said Cpl. Gabriel Nunez, a Miami native and personnel clerk assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF.  "Today, we avoid the mainstream."

Breakdancing is an assorted collection of several styles of dancing genres dating as far back as the 1970's according to its participants here.  It samples from 'old school' rap, soul, funk, some disco and rhythm and blues all corralled under the subculture known as 'Hip-Hop.' 

"Pretty much if it has a good beat to dance to, we can dance to it," said Nunez.  "Breakdancing is about self expression and self satisfaction."

The dance genre is best recognized by its physically coordinated dance moves on the floor.  The Rythmaddicks meet three times a week at a base recreational center to practice their moves and, when they can, go to dance clubs on the weekends to show off their stuff.

"Learn the basic rules and develop your own style from foot work, freezes, poses, air moves and gymnastics," said Nunez.  "You mix it together, and with whatever combination you got, create your own style."

Breakdancing today is most popular on the west coast and in major urban areas throughout the United States.  Nunez and his fellow breakdancers claim there are even national and international competitions and 'free style sessions' for breakdancers to show their mettle.  Battle of the Year, is considered the Olympics of breakdancing, and attracts contestants from as far as Japan and Eastern Europe.

"We tried to go to a competition not too long ago," said Lance Cpl. Luis S. Martinez, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., assigned as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force planner with the II MEF plans section.  "But many of our people were deployed at the time."

The Marines with the dance group, or "crew" as they prefer to be addressed when together, emphasize breakdancing is physically demanding and has little use for alcohol and drugs.

"It involves little drinking and smoking," said Martinez.  "You have to be in shape and be able to take care of your body."

The appeal of breakdancing can be summed up by the attention and responses it garners from crowds.

"It's a way to meet people," said Cpl. Devin Adair, a native of Alhambra, Calif., and a rifleman assigned to Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.  "It's all good, clean fun."