It seems that Koreans have traditionally had rhythm in their blood. Street group performances have been an integral part of Korean culture for centuries. Whenever there was a village event, samullori (a.k.a samul nori; a traditional Korean percussion music genre featuring four percussion instruments) or a mask dances were staged for all to see and to build solidarity. Today, South Korean b-boys are recognized around the world, and b-boying is an important part of Korean culture.It was in the early 2000s that Korean b-boys came into the limelight in the world of b-boying. It was rather surprising since b-boying had been introduced relatively late in Korea.B-boying is a kind of hip-hop dance that originated in the United States. It was in the late 1980s when b-boying, also called break dancing, became known to South Koreans. In 1997, the first South Korean b-boy group was formed under the name People Crew. Before then, they were dancing in clubs in Itaewon, the foreigner district of Seoul. In their footsteps, DMC, Expression, T.I.P, and many other b-boy crews formed. These groups have performed extremely well in international competitions, and the South Korean public began to notice them and the genre of b-boying.
South Korean b-boys are sweeping international competitions with powerful moves and incredible technicality. Being incorporated into gugak (traditional Korean music) and musicals, b-boying is nowadays becoming a major part of South Korean culture. (photo courtesy of Showboy)
Korean b-boys are good at creating new moves by adding creative elements to existing ones. They are also appreciated for their balancing power and ingenious techniques.Sweeping competitions across the worldWorldwide, there are five major international b-boy competitions: the Battle of the Year (BOTY) which is dubbed b-boy's World Cup, UK B-Boy Championships, Red Bull BC One, Freestyle Session, and R-16 Korea. They are the stages for Korean b-boys to dance on and rock the world. When the JinJo Crew won the BOTY 2010, they emerged as one of the hottest b-boy crews in the world. The team also won R-16 Korea in 2010 and again in 2011.The Gamblers formed in 2002, and won BOTY 2004 and R-16 Korea 2008. They are the most popular b-boy crew in the world, especially for their spectacular performances. The Extreme Crew is well known for the musical The Ballerina Who Loves a B-Boy. They also won at BOTY 2007 in Germany. These wins were all noteworthy, but the most surprising was when the Expression Crew won at BOTY in 2002 as this was a first for an Asian team. A crew called Project Soul has been especially strong in the UK B-Boy Championships. They were ranked first three times and second once. Never before had a crew won the competition for two consecutive years. Individual b-boys have also fared extremely well. Kim Heon-u, the leader of the JinJo Crew, won the Red Bull BC ONE, an annual one-onone battle competition, in 2008. Kim Hyo-keun, a member of the Rivers Crew and formerly Project Soul, is better known overseas by his nickname Physicx. He won both the team and solo titles in the UK B-Boy Championships in 2004. Dancing in the cultural frontlineSupported by one palm on the floor, their bodies bounce high up in the air. Muscles quickly contract and relax to create waves by the body. It's more than dancing, and just watching it makes you want to groove with excitement. In Korea, b-boying is not simply defined as a genre of dancing, but it is becoming a broader artistic genre. This change was catalyzed by the musical The Ballerina Who Loves a B-Boy in 2004. This was a major watershed. Since then, non-verbal performances that are amalgamated with b-boying have diversified. Such new attempts include b-boying to traditional Korean instruments played on the traditional Korean pentatonic scale, and musicals featuring taekwondo and b-boying together. B-boys who used to dance on the street are now dancing on the stage and creating a new cultural phenomenon.
The musical The Ballerina Who Loves a B-boy was the first musical to successfully bring b-boys on stage. (photo courtesy of Showboy)
"I saw a performance about b-boys, and I was impressed by how the Korean b-boys danced", said Tsukiko, a Japanese tourist aged 28 after seeing The Ballerina Who Loves a B-Boy at Lotte World Arts Theater. "Their faces didn't show any sign of fatigue, but were beaming with joy. I could see how much effort they must have poured into it, and it was beautiful". She and her company said in unison that the time had gone by so quickly. B-boying is expected to continue evolving to become a significant part of Korea's signature cultural performances. And competitions will also continue. The sixth R-16 Korea 2012 is slated for July 7 and 8 in Seoul. This international competition drew over 60,000 spectators last year. This year, crews from 24 countries will compete in the preliminary rounds of seven regions to dance for the final triumph in Seoul. Non-verbal musicals with B-BoysThe Ballerina Who Loves a B-BoyThe musical The Ballerina Who Loves a B-Boy premiered in 2005 and has since been staged more than 4,000 times. In the musical, a ballerina falls in love with a b-boy, gives up her dream of becoming a prima ballerina, and becomes a street dancer to become his love. The musical has inspired 1.5 million theatergoers in 130 countries. People who were at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe probably remember this musical since it was dubbed the best of the 2,050 performances that were staged. When it hit Broadway, New York, it was so successful that it was staged 50 times. Website: www.showbboy.com BibapThis must be the most delicious musical in the world. The musical Bibap was produced to introduce bibimbap, one of the most representative Korean foods, to the world. The performance involves four cooking battles of b-boying, martial arts, beatboxing, and singing a cappella . To chop ingredients, they b-boy; to saut and roast them, they beatbox; and to mix them, they sing a cappella . If you still cannot figure out what is happening, go to the theater and see it yourself. The title Bibap is from bibimbap, beatboxing, and b-boying. Slapstick is also an ingredient of this spectacular, tasty musical, which the audience can enjoy seeing, hearing, and eating. An exclusive theater cooks this scrumptious musical every day. Website: www.bibap.co.kr TalThe musical Tal is truly out of the box. It consolidates taekwondo demonstrations with dramatic elements such as a story and characters, percussion performances, traditional Korean dances, and b-boying. The main theme of the music is taken from Arirang, Korea's most loved traditional folk song, and human conflicts and confrontations, love and hatred, and other diverse emotions are expressed in Tal . The musical has been seen by roughly 120,000 theater goers in over 20 cities in ten countries on four continents starting in the United States in 2010. Its powerful dancing and sophisticated demonstrations have garnered enthusiastic responses from all audiences. Website: www.taekwonin.com KungThe b-boying musical Kung is simply fantastic. There is a theatre that exclusively stages Kung in Hongdae, Seoul. Gorillas, a crew that has been invited to Japan, China, the UK, and many other countries, come onto the stage to dynamically dance out the story of a dancer who finally realizes his dream of becoming a b-boy after overcoming challenges. Website: www.sjbboys.com *Article from Korea Magazine (June 2012)