This essay and the accompanying video documentary explore "freestyling" (improvising) in hip hop culture, focusing in particular on a Canadian b-boy (breaking) crew called the Albino Zebrahs, which distinguishes itself through improvisational tendencies and choices. An ethnographic analysis of their approach to b-boying reveals that the values and processes behind freestyling involve more work and intention than most outsiders imagine.
The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural activity of an expert dancer with 35 years of break-dancing experience during the kinesthetic motor imagery (KMI) of dance accompanied by highly familiar and unfamiliar music. The goal of this study was to examine the effect of musical familiarity on neural activity underlying KMI within a highly experienced dancer. In order to investigate this in both primary sensory and motor planning cortical areas, we examined the effects of music familiarity on the primary auditory cortex [Heschl’s gyrus (HG)] and the supplementary motor area (SMA). Our findings reveal reduced HG activity and greater SMA activity during imagined dance to familiar music compared to unfamiliar music. We propose that one’s internal representations of dance moves are influenced by auditory stimuli and may be specific to a dance style and the music accompanying it.
According to Hugues Bazin (2002), hip hop dancers working in theatrical settings have a "double legitimacy" as they gain acceptance in two contexts with different expectations, criteria and values. In this case study, we researched how an emerging dance company negotiates artistic identities in the entertainment, street dance and theatrical art worlds, finding acceptance across competing discourses. Tentacle Tribe, a dance company comprised of Emmanuelle Lê Phan and Elon Höglund, operates simultaneously in hip hop, contemporary dance and the entertainment world of companies such as Cirque du Soleil, receiving commercial, street and critical attention. In 2013, we interviewed them, observed their performances, rehearsals, and pedagogy to analyze their success at traversing these different contexts.
This article examines the mediated encounters experienced by participants in hip hop and funk dance styles especially breaking or b-boying/b-girling. It introduces the concept of imagined affinities to describe the spectrum of these encounters, which are enacted through mediated texts, or by travels through new places. Using interviews with dancers as a guide, I argue that artefacts made, distributed and circulated by dancers help to produce perceptions of commonalities between them. The nature of the process of rapid mediatisation, which has taken place during the past few decades, and its subsequent impact on breaking or b-boying/b-girling, are considered here through a concerted effort to historicize shifts in practice and experience. I examine the historical moment when homemade videotapes began to proliferate in the cultural practices of breaking, providing a source for the values and codes of hip hop culture. At that time, dancers on tour, who created the videos, celebrated the local contexts of other dancers from around the world while simultaneously showing a determination to appreciate breaking through its own practices and formats, even as these practices were becoming rapidly transformed and expanded through international networks.