Breaking, which will make its Olympics debut at the 2024 Games in Paris, is getting its legs under it from an event perspective. USA Dance, which is in the process of gaining national governing body status for the sport from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, has announced an event series leading to the upcoming 2022 World Games — the first official national event series for the sport in the road to the Olympics.
A series of qualifying events will begin March 19 in Las Vegas, with additional events scheduled in Austin, Texas; Minneapolis; New York; Orlando; and Phoenix. Those events would be in advance of the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, an international event in July where breaking will be on the program.
Still to come are plans for a national championship, which are expected to be held in the second half of 2022. The results of that championship will help identify the top three men and three women who will be eligible to compete in the upcoming international Olympic qualification process that will begin July 1 and continue through the weeks before the Paris Games.
The beginning of an event series marks another milestone in the journey of break dancing from a social pursuit on the streets to a sport with Olympic recognition. While the United States is considered a mecca for the sport as the place where it originated, other countries have taken a hold of the professional side in recent years and turned it into a landscape filled with superstars, said Zack Slusser, a veteran of the sport who is serving as vice president of USA Dance’s DanceSport Breaking Division.
“You literally have countries like Japan, Korea, Russia, countries across Europe where they have Bboys that have celebrity status,” he said referring to the sport’s athletes. “That’s how big the platform is.”
Breaking for Gold
The series of upcoming events will be organized under the new breaking division of USA Dance, an organization that traditionally has overseen dance disciplines such as competitive ballroom dancing. But the group appears poised to gain NGB status for breaking after being the only one still in discussion with the USOPC about governing the soon-to-be Olympic discipline.
Slusser is no stranger to breaking. He organized the Pro Breaking Tour and has been a fixture in the sport for years. But breaking is new to the Olympic movement, requiring a new infrastructure to manage it as an Olympic discipline in the United States.
To that end, USA Dance has launched a “Breaking for Gold USA” initiative to draw attention to the sport and attract corporate sponsors. It will also use the platform to start building out an event infrastructure for competitions that can be held in a range of venues.
“Some are held at decked out dance studios but others are in small theater environments,” Slusser said. “It’s very much its own community. The way we want to organize these events going forward is do it in a way that’s more appealing to a mainstream audience.”
While breaking is guaranteed to be part of the program in Paris, it has yet to secure a spot at future Games. But Slusser is in dialogue with LA28, the organizing committee for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, to push for the sport’s inclusion there as well. While an initial set of sports has been approved for the 2028 program, Los Angeles organizers have until next year to recommend potential additions.
Among the elements going for breaking are that only 32 athletes will compete in the Olympic Games — 16 women and 16 men — meaning there wouldn’t be a significant strain on the overall athlete quota, which the IOC has been interested in reducing in recent years. And the cost of equipment is among the lowest imaginable.
“While it’s a highly technical skill, you only need your body to do it,” he said. “I’m positive about the impact we could have in L.A.”