Chicago Reader print issue cover of March 31, 2022 (Vol. 51, No. 13): Spring Theater & Arts Preview
Credit: On the cover: Photo by DuWayne Padilla

Breaking is usually seen on screens and in solo competition, manifesting in bursts of energy that erupt in rapid detonations of aggression and expression. The experience can be overwhelming, intimidating, and earsplittingly, earthshakingly loud. But battles are only a fraction of the dance—to experience breaking is also to experience wit, joy, humor, invention, and a way of being in space and time with others that offers hope for anyone willing to practice. 

I began this story by going to practice. Breakers practice where they can, and they practice together. They tape down linoleum in parking lots, throw down cardboard, dance in parks and on the lakefront, open up their basements and businesses, face the concrete head on. In these shared spaces, everyone says hello and goodbye with a fist bump or a handshake or a wave. Everyone makes eye contact. 

These spaces, like all things, are temporary. The Clarendon Park Fieldhouse, which hosts the longest running and largest practice in Chicago, is slated for demolition. The Brickheadz, with crewmembers from all over the city, migrate from place to place and often practice outdoors. Since the writing of this story, the practice in Cicero has closed. Still, through breaking, they build, grow, evolve.

In a dance still dominated by men, two women, Carmarry “PepC” Hall and Tanja “Kid-T” Kuurola, regulars at the Clarendon practice, are now training for the Olympics. 

Through a dance from the Bronx, a bboy born in Mexico who grew up on Chicago’s southwest side finds friendship with a breaker from Kyiv and throws a fundraiser for Ukraine in a parking lot under the L. 

Practices at Blue Island end with a pot of pasta boiled on a hot plate and eaten together.

People of all origins dance together, and most are people of color. 

Kids and adults dance together, in the same space, joyfully. 

Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a student. 

The learning never ends. The practice continues.

Cover Story