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Breakdancers Keisha Dick and Toufeeq Baatjies were recently crowned the 2023 South African winners of the Red Bull BC One competition. If you think that’s of no interest, you’re wrong. Breakdancing — one of the five elements of hip-hop culture, with rapping, DJing, graffiti and beatboxing — is an art and discipline that heavily influences modern pop culture. Hip-hop is more than just the sum of its elements — it provides an influential platform that can be used by anyone to get a message across in an accessible way. Think about some popular pop songs of the past decade, such as Maroon 5’s Girl Like You. The hit music video features rapper Cardi B flexing some low-key breakdancing moves. As part of her catchy track Swish Swish’s music video, Katy Perry also employs subtle hints of pop-locking (where only the top part of a dancer’s body moves). When former US president Donald Trump wanted to appear “cool” to appeal to a progressive constituency, he roped in a baggy pants-wearing, breakdancing Kanye West. In 2015 the rapper was also the go-to guy when sportswear giant adidas wanted to increase its bottom-line. The brand collaborated with him to design the Yeezy line of sneakers. In 2020 Forbes described the range’s success as “one of the great retail stories of the century”. If you didn’t know, a cypher in breakdancing is when “B-boys” and “Bgirls” form a circle and, one after another, enter into the middle and show off their skills. You probably do know that breakdancing has had a marked influence on English slang. Thanks to the conversations at breakdancing gatherings, your kids’ grammar has probably deteriorated as verbal copula, the cancelling out of some verbs, occurs (though it might strain your ears to hear the youth say things like “she workin”). At the same time, as witnessed at the South African Red Bull BC One finals in Cape Town last month, breakdancing is proving to be a catalyst for the growth of the Xhosa and Afrikaans hip-hop movements, which is great, because it means fewer young people trying to imitate fake American accents, but instead embracing their mother tongues. Breakdancing is also playing a critical part in cultural integration as young, white, English-speaking girls from affluent suburbs are learning about the lives of young, black, Xhosa-speaking boys who share a different perspective on life — and vice versa. In breakdancing cyphers, race, creed, social standing and background don’t factor at all. Participants and judges focus only on talent and camaraderie. Though it might be a non-starter to many that Red Bull BC One, the prestigious global one-on-one break-dancing competition, sees more than 1,000 talented dancers from around the world competing in their respective countries for the chance to participate at the world finals, for the competitors this competition means everything. Breakdancing is giving Baatjies the opportunity to travel overseas for the first time — this year’s world final takes place in Paris at the iconic Stade Roland-Garros. With Dick, they’ll be immersed in different cultures, languages and lived experiences as they interact with breakers from across the globe. If you still think breakdancing is just an excuse for walls to be turned into annoying graffiti exhibitions, I need to point out that it’s so much more than that. Breakdancing influenced what we wear, the contemporary art we appreciate, the music we download and the entertainment we stream. Let’s support our local champions. Breakdancing will be part of the 2024 Olympic Games in France. Keisha Dick and Toufeeq Baatjies will represent South Africa at the Red Bull BC One World Final in Paris on October 21. Visit redbull.com