Breaking is a style of dance that originated in the United States in the 1970s. It took form in the lively block parties in the Bronx, emerging from hip hop culture, and is characterised by acrobatic movements, stylised footwork and the key role played by the DJ and MC (master of ceremonies) during battles.

International competitions were first held all over the world in the 1990s, popularising the dance form both among hip hop communities and the general public along the way.

In 2024 Breaking, for the first time, will be included on the competition programme at the Olympic Games. The qualification journey for Irish breakers started last weekend, with the National Championships in Dublin.

Leon Dwyer, a breaker from South Dublin, competes at home and on the international stage for Ireland along with his breaking crew Primal Instincts (based in London). Dwyer’s route to breaking initially started with Ballet, he went to dance classes with his sister and mother (a yoga and ballet instructor). Later, Dwyer tried a lot of different dance styles but found he was drawn to breaking the most. Now a teacher himself. He holds classes in Dublin and surrounding areas, and in the final for the title on Saturday went 1v1 with one of his up-and-coming students.

Originality is a core principle and the need for flexibility extends from the physical to the aural given it is the DJs who choose the tunes on the day of battle.

B-boys and b-girls perform for anything between 45 seconds and a minute at a time and the number of rounds can stretch into double figures.

Dwyer has been trying to make a name for himself on the international stage since he was 15, sometimes losing within the first round but persistence and determination along with finding his own unique dance style meant something clicked and he’s pushing the boundaries with his sights set on Paris in 2024.

Speaking last weekend on his National 1v1 Ranking Championship performance, Dwyer said

“I really enjoyed the competition, I am used to doing more rounds internationally, but it didn’t bother me. The level in Ireland is growing quickly and there are some younger breakers coming up, so it was good to get the win today.”

Breaking down the scoring of each round, he added,

“The athleticism is what highlights breaking the most and there is obviously a creative side to it too. You must learn the foundation steps first, all the basic steps, with each of those steps you need to add levels to them. Each battle is like a conversation, feeding off the energy of the room and the other person. If they do a move, you must do it better.”

“You also have signature moves which I like to focus on because I like to create my own style and be a little more original.”

In his training and teaching, Dwyer is a little more abstract in his approach to learning new moves and adding them to his routine,

“I’ll learn a step and then find 100 different ways to do that step, different exits, entrants and just adding my own style to everything that I learn. There’s a whole art form to breaking that some people miss.”

Dwyer, who also is currently working full-time in a tattoo shop, The Ink Factory, compares breaking to the floor routine in gymnastics, which requires strength to hold certain moves. He highlights the importance of adding body conditioning to his overall training programme,

“Mostly, me and my friends along with some of my students train together and we just battle it out for hours and hours.”

Breaking takes place in La Concorde for Paris 2024 and runs from the 9th and 10th of August, follow @breakingireland for all updates.

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