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Break Dancing Stays Alive in New York


Break dancing emerged in New York decades ago and it still thrives on the streets of the city.

TJ Steele grew up in the South Bronx, one of the poorest districts in the United States and birthplace of break dancing.

TJ started dancing when he was just five years old. Now 19, he manages the dance group Breakatronz.

The group, which includes two of his brothers, can be found most days dancing on the subway or the busy streets of New York.

Dance relieves the stress in his life. “You get to be free, you get to be who you want to be. You're free to express yourself and just to do what you feel. You feel no pain, nothing. It's like a drug-free drug," he said.

Without dance, he says, he doesn’t know what kind of trouble he might have gotten into growing up in the Bronx. “It was rough. Cracking jokes on each other, people fighting, people dying - not everyday but every once in a while. And I don't know, it was tough, and if it wasn't for dancing I probably would have been one of the statistics, in a poor house, in jail, killed or something worse," he said.

Imani Johnson is a fellow at New York University. She is an expert on break dancing - also known as “b-boying”. “B-boying is a dance culture attached to hip hop, broadly developed in the early seventies, mostly accredited to the South Bronx but also spreading around New York City. It's a dance developed out of funk music and seventies rock and the development of rap music," she said.

Since its New York birth the dance has spread around the world. "I've seen footage of breakers in Palestine, there's a group I'm aware of in Uganda, there's groups all over the world in every continent actually. And most of the really experienced dancers I know get incredible work and can sustain careers teaching dance and judging events outside of the U.S. actually," said Johnson.

In New York, Breakatronz is keeping the dance style alive in the city where it was born.

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