Breaking the mould

As the world celebrates International Dance Day on 29 April, olympic.org looks back at the debut of breaking on the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) programme at Buenos Aires 2018.

Picture by OIS

Buenos Aires may be synonymous with the tango, but it was another form of dancing that entranced the city during the YOG in 2018.

As breaking made its hugely successful Olympic debut, it brought with it raucous crowds, pumping beats and a dizzying array of windmills, flares and swipes.

“Everyone thinks all Argentinians can dance the tango, but I can’t,” said B-Girl Vale (Iris Gonzales of Argentina) at the time. “We are showing that Argentinians aren’t just about that […] You can see how much the young people here in Buenos Aires love breaking. The atmosphere is incredible.”

International dance day
Picture by OIS

For four days, the host city’s Urban Park was buzzing with energy and excitement as the world’s best young b-boys and b-girls showed off their skills and creativity, adding a unique new flavour to the YOG.

The thrilling battle format saw breakers going head-to-head over a set number of rounds in both group and knockout stages to crown the medallists, with judges scoring each performance on six criteria – creativity, personality, technique, variety, performativity and musicality.

In the women’s event, Japan’s b-girl Ram swept through the competition without losing a round, with the 2018 world youth champion eventually securing a 4-0 win over Canada’s b-girl Emma in the final.

“I’m just happy when I’m dancing - it’s a happy thing,” said a smiling Ram after receiving her medal. “It gives you joy when the crowd is feeling the music and you are feeling the music. There’s nothing better.”

International dance day
Picture by OIS

The men’s event was won by Russia’s b-boy Bumblebee, who eliminated reigning world youth champion b-boy Shigekix, from Japan, in the semi-final, before impressing the judges with his athletic skills, creativity and musicality to beat France’s b-boy Martin in the final.

All the b-boys and b-girls who competed in the individual events were then paired up in the mixed team competition, which saw them facing off in two-on-two battles.

Once again, it was Ram who topped the podium, pairing up with b-boy B4, from Vietnam, to clinch her second gold of the Games. The pair had finished third in the preliminary round, but then moved up a gear in the knockout phase to edge past Shigekix and Latvia’s Anastasia in the quarter-finals before a comfortable victory over Vicky, from the Netherlands, and Bad Matty, from Italy, in the semis.

International dance day
Picture by IOC

The final saw the duo facing b-boy Broly, from Argentina, and Italy’s b-girl Lexy. While the crowd was well and truly behind local boy Broly and Lexy, Ram and B4 proved to be an unstoppable force as they won 13-7.

“I’m a bit shocked,” said Ram afterwards. “To have finished first in both events is really surprising.”

Perhaps less surprising was that the huge success of breaking at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 had caught the eye of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, which later proposed the sport for inclusion on the programme of the Olympic Games in 2024, alongside skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.

International dance day
Picture by OIS

These four sports were then provisionally approved for inclusion by the IOC Session in June 2019, with IOC President Thomas Bach explaining what had personally impressed him about breaking.

“It is a very authentic expression. With every performance you feel the personality of the athletes. It’s not just delivering an exercise, it’s expressing yourself,” he said. “I admire the moves they make. Even in my time as an athlete I would have never even got close to this kind of motion and flexibility in the body.”

International dance day
Picture by OIS

For double YOG gold medallist Ram, the decision also brings her dream of stepping up onto the Olympic stage again closer to reality.

“I would love to see the event move to the Olympic Games,” she said. “It would be a dream to go and compete in that, and I would love to try and win. I think we all feel that way. The crowds in Buenos Aires showed how much energy breaking can bring. It would be a really good Olympic sport.”