• Vincent Sell

The Breakdance Competition


There for a few years, back in the early 80’s, the breakdancing craze was sweeping the nation. I, in my small town an hour west of Chicago, was blissfully caught up in it. It was fun! And it was fun to watch, especially to watch someone who knew what they were doing.

Friends and I would sometimes go to the youth center at night to watch competitions, where individual dancers would go head to head with each other while everyone stood around and watched.

Several friends and I, including my brother, Matt, decided to put on one of these competitions in a neighbor’s garage. We had a boom box off in the corner playing a cassette tape of the latest dance music. The match ups were determined and I was pit against my brother (the story of our lives).

I went first. I did my routine, a little self-consciously, probably thinking too much. I was fairly confident, though, as I had practiced breakdancing quite a bit and, in terms of my little circle of friends, I felt I was pretty good. According to what I had seen, my brother had never even breakdanced before. I thought I had this one in the bag. My brother, however, had no intention of going out like that.

I finished my routine and it was Matt’s turn. He started and I immediately felt threatened. There was an intensity and spontaneity to his movements that made them downright captivating. It was like he was doing them all for the first time, right there, off the cuff. He ended his routine lying flat on his back, elbows at his sides, hands out in front of him, shaking like a robot down on the ground, with a look of complete abandon on his face. He had won, he had won splendidly.

Years later I was talking to a friend who had been there in the garage that night, and I asked him, “Do you remember that breakdancing competition between my brother and I?”

He responded, with a gleam in his eye, “Yeah! And everyone was like, ‘Wow!!’”