Cast & Crew
Some city kids use the craze of "breakdancing" to break the barriers of accepted modern dancing.
Timothy Pete' Solomon
T C Laughlin
Julie Kaye Towery
Written by Charles Parker and Allen DeBevoise (with additional story duties by Gerald Scaife), Breakin' has origins that vary depending on which participant is asked. Golan himself claims to have been inspired when his daughter spied breakdancers in 1983 during an afternoon at Venice Beach, while some participants in the film had appeared earlier in an obscure German documentary, Breakin' N' Enterin' (1983) and Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You" music video. The resulting exposure gave breakout roles to Adolfo Quinones, a.k.a. Shabba-Doo, as Ozone, and moonwalk innovator Michael Chambers, a.k.a. Boogaloo Shrimp, as Turbo. Both stars were retained for the sequel, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, shot immediately after Breakin' and released in December of the same year. Cannon was particularly eager to capitalize on breakdancing since several other projects were in the works elsewhere, with Beat Street going into production first but opening a month after Breakin'.
Starring opposite Shabba-Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp as the female lead is Lucinda Dickey, a professional dancer who had appeared on Solid Gold and can be spied as one of the fleet-footed Rydell High students in Grease 2 (1982). Her athletic grace caught the eye of casting directors and landed her the lead in Cannon's Ninja III: The Domination (1984), the third installment in its Sho Kosugi-starring ninja series. Cannon's entire release schedule was shuffled around, with Breakin' 2 kept on the fast track. The first Breakin' was also the only Dickey-starring Cannon film directed by Joel Silberg, whose prior work had consisted entirely of Israeli productions but would be followed by two more Cannon music-based features, Rappin' (1985) and Lambada (1990). In fact, Rappin' is often regarded as a third film in the Breakin' line thanks to its focus on hip-hop culture and the presence in all three films of Ice T, who would become one of the most important names in rap as well as a notable actor after his breakthrough film, New Jack City (1991). The other two Dickey films were helmed by one of Cannon's most dependable go-to directors, Sam Firstenberg, who would later kick off the American Ninja series. Shabba-Doo, Boogaloo Shrimp and Dickey would fade away from the big screen limelight after their tenure at Cannon, with Dickey retiring from film acting entirely after one more film, the tongue-in-cheek slasher film, Cheerleader Camp (1988).
Of course, no discussion of Breakin' would be complete with mentioning one of the greatest factors in its box office success (over $38 million, one of the biggest hits in the Cannon roster): the soundtrack. Distributed by Polydor, the LP spawned several chart hits and dance club favorites including "Breakin'... There's No Stopping Us" by Ollie & Jerry, "Freakshow on the Dance Floor" by Bar-Kays, "Ain't Nobody" by Rufus and Chaka Khan and an early rapping appearance by Ice-T on "Reckless" by Chris "The Glove" Taylor and David Storrs. Even for critics who weren't won over by the film's minimal dance competition storyline, the music and dance numbers remain classics of their kind and a harbinger of the hip-hop wave to come.
By Nathaniel Thompson
In a blend of familiar backstage musical and Romeo and Juliet conventions, the plotline of Breakin' revolves around Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), a beautiful aspiring Los Angeles dancer with a crummy job as a greasy spoon waitress. Her black, gay dance class cohort Adam (Phineas Newborn III) convinces her to take a walk on the wild side and check out a new dance sensation on Venice Beach. There, a group of urban kids have set up a break dancing battle as fiercely competitive as any West Side Story (1961) turf battle.
After some initial skepticism about the white girl with the classical jazz training and an interest in "street" dancing, Kelly befriends top break dancers and friends Ozone (Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones) and Turbo (Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers). Kelly's snooty, predatory dancing teacher Franco (Ben Lokey) is disgusted by her hip-hop friends but her new agent James (Christopher McDonald) is intrigued, especially after seeing Ozone and Turbo in action at an underground dance-off. Kelly, in the meantime, gets an education in how the other half lives, picking up terminology like "fresh!" some choice break dancing moves and the nickname "Special K" in the process.
Kelly also helps Turbo and Ozone do battle against rival break dancing gang Electro Rock featuring Poppin' Taco (Bruno Falcon), Poppin' Pete (Timothy Solomon) and Lollipop (Ana Sanchez), who challenge the trio to the equivalent of a break dancing rumble during one of the copious dance numbers that make up the heart and soul of the film.
After slaying the Electro Rock crew, Kelly, Ozone and Turbo decide to increase their promotional efforts and enter a legitimate dance contest. But Franco is determined to undermine them and the elitist dance world does not necessarily embrace this new form with open arms. At the climactic moment, as the trio stands poised to strut their stuff for the uptown judges, they are told, at Franco's urging, they won't be allowed to compete. But Ozone won't take "no" for an answer.
The plot line involving that final big dance contest is mostly a life support system in Breakin' for the real meat of the matter: endless dance sequences and a sanitized version of the underground phenomenon of break dancing, rap and graffiti, as art forms that erupted within underprivileged urban neighborhoods. But for its evocation of a particular place and time in American culture and its nostalgia-factor, Breakin' has become a certified cult item.
Breakin' features a who's who of Eighties talent including Ice T making his film debut as an MC (billed as a "Rap Talker") and Madonna's famed producer Jellybean Benitez who worked on the film's soundtrack. A pre-fame Jean-Claude Van Damme also made his first on-screen appearance as an extra in the first dance sequence in the film, though he later told The Onion "I was trying to win the scene: I was behind the lead actor in the group, and I was jumping as high as I could, and doing a flip in the air. But of course they cut that, because I was eating the screen with that fantastic jump." Capturing the moves and grooves of the time is the choreography by Jaime Rogers and the iconic music of the age comes courtesy of Kraftwerk, Chaka Khan, The Art of Noise, Al Jarreau and Ice T. Leading actress Lucinda Dickey was a former Solid Gold dancer from Kansas who won the talent competition in the Miss Kansas pageant. Dickey's fellow Solid Gold dancers Cooley Jackson and Leslie Cook were also featured in the film. Her co-star Quinones was one of the founders of the hip hop dancing movement and a Soul Train dancer and has done choreography for Madonna, Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross.
The film received, considering its thin plot line, consistently good reviews. The Los Angeles Times said "a youth-oriented street movie full of good will, has energy, dynamic dancing and a bevy of attractive talented performers." Reviewer Linda Gross offered the caveat "there are some silly stereotypical characters and some poor minor performances, but the principals are charmers, especially Dickey and Quinones."
"A demonstration of minority culture being assimilated into the mainstream" said J. Hoberman. The The Village Voice critic also observed "Breakin' owes more to grandmother Flashdance (1983) than it does to Grandmaster Flash. Amiable and well-paced, it exudes a beach party ambience and a mild exoticism, with the Latin principals dressed in modified pachuco style."
Reviewers did point out, however, that skittishness about interracial romance kept the obvious sexual chemistry between Kelly and Ozone from ever breaking out into a full-scale romance.
The film was inspired, in part, by a German documentary called Breakin' and Enterin' (1983) centered around the L.A. club Radiotron, and made quickly, to capitalize on the breakdancing craze. Breakin' began filming in February 1984 and was released in early May, beating its closest competitor Beat Street (1984) to the punch by a month. Also prior to the film's release, dancers Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones and Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers were featured in a music video for the Chaka Khan song "I Feel for You." Directed by Israeli filmmaker Joel Silberg, Breakin' was quickly followed by a 1984 sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo featuring Dickey, Chambers and Quinones.
Producers: Allen DeBevoise, David Zito
Director: Joel Silberg
Screenplay: Charles Parker, Allen DeBevoise (screenplay and story); Gerald Scaife (screenplay)
Cinematography: Hanania Baer
Music: Michael Boyd; Gary Malkin (co-composer)
Film Editing: Larry Bock, Gib Jaffe, Vincent Sklena
Cast: Lucinda Dickey (Kelly/Special K), Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quinones (Ozone/Orlando), Michael 'Boogaloo Shrimp' Chambers (Turbo/Tony), Ben Lokey (Franco), Christopher McDonald (James), Phineas Newborn III (Adam), Bruno 'Pop N' Taco' Falcon (Electro Rock 1), Timothy 'Poppin' Pete' Solomon (Electro Rock 2), Ana 'Lollipop' Sanchez (Electro Rock 3), Ice T (Rap Talker).
by Felicia Feaster
Released in United States May 1984
Released in United States Spring May 1, 1984
Completed shooting April 1984.
Began shooting February 1984.
Released in United States May 1984
Released in United States Spring May 1, 1984