Breakdancing on Campus

By: Rachel O’Brien 

Dance, n. a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements usually performed to music.

Merriam-Webster defines dance as the above sentence, but the Cyclone Breakers describe it as finding a home.

For those who rely on b-boying as an escape, the Cyclone Breakers Club is as close as it gets to home. Break dancing with friends since 2012, student Daniel Linton found a sense of purpose within the group.

“Breaking to me is having a conversation with the onlooker through dance. B-boying, or breaking, turns your body into the words; ‘I get to say “I’m here” in another way,’” Linton says.

When Linton saw his friends break dancing during gym class, he wanted to repeat what they were doing. “The moves looked pretty cool, so I asked them to teach me. They told me that they would show me some basics, but I would have to find my own style. Six years later, I’m still practicing. I take a bit more of a methodological approach than I did then,” Linton says.

After six years of B-boying, Linton feels he’s found his own style. Dance is his way of expressing who he is in a nonverbal way.

“At ISU, breaking has given me an excuse to critique my own creativity. Since I record myself when I practice, I have made it a habit to review my movements to search for inefficiencies and identify interesting things that I can expand on. At the same time, I collect ideas in the same way that I have a long list of things that I want test over my career in science.”

After reviewing one of his dance sessions, Linton constantly tries to improve his movements and get better at what he does. He follows this same ritual for his studies.

“I spend a lot of my time at a desk, sitting or standing still. Breaking is an outlet for movement in my academic life. ‘Why work out when you can dance?’”

Break dancing has allowed Linton to escape from his academic life and take time for himself to learn and to grow. Being a part of the club, he has seen himself improve over time.

According to the Cyclone Breakers Club website, the purpose of their organization is to “teach all hip hop styles with a focus on break dancing, promote diversity within the university, and promote community involvement among student, all in an engaging and inviting social setting.”

“The impact of establishing a presence of bboys and bgirls on campus is creating a community for people on campus interested in breaking to connect. Because the breakdancing community is relatively small, it is important to reach out to as many individuals on campus with interest in breaking or looking to get involved,” says Austin Newman, a fellow member of the Cyclone Breakers.

Newman began working with Cyclone Breakers his freshman year at Iowa State. He says his dancing was not as skilled prior to joining and he began to focus on his technique once joining.

“I’ve been breaking, pretty poorly, my entire life, but didn’t really start pushing my progression until my freshmen year here at Iowa State. Since then, I’ve been training regularly here at the Cyclone Breakers’ practices as well as with the Des Moines community over the summers and breaks,” says Newman.

By becoming involved in this community, Newman has also been able to connect with people with similar interests in the Des Moines area. Dance has allowed him to meet new people and branch out from his ISU community. It’s aided in his mental health as well.

“Having a physical outlet definitely helps keep me grounded and lets me take my mind off of the stressors of school, as well as give me the opportunity to leave my desk during the day,” Newman says.

Break dancer, Zaran Claes, a senior in electrical engineering, says he has also been able to find his place at ISU through dance.

“I met some of my best friends through a mutual interest in B-boying and gymnastics, which really improved my overall experience here at Iowa State. It also provided a nice release of energy after sitting in front of a computer all day,” says Claes.

Cyclone Breakers has helped him to learn life values about growing and learning collectively. This positive environment has been maintained by members positively mentoring each other.

“Everyone within the scene is always friendly and willing to help anyone who wants to learn a new move or trick. Once I started improving, I tried to pass on that same friendliness to other newcomers that the others showed to me,” says Claes.

The overall dance community evolution has allowed these students to thrive amongst like-minded individuals. Newman says he plans to keep a positive culture going and give newcomers the same perience he had.

“When I arrived at Iowa State and got involved with Cyclone Breakers, the community in Ames at the time was super dedicated and passionate about their progression. With a community like that, it was hard not to show up to practice and get hurt trying to get as good as them,” Newman says.

“The way they listened to the music and the tricks they pulled off kept me coming back, exhausting myself and pushing myself past my limit, which I’m grateful for, because my exposure to people of that level made me the B-boy I am now. Since then, many of them have gone their separate ways and graduated. My goal for the Cyclone Breakers’ future is to be that community of breakers that give off that same contagious drive and passion to hopefully inspire people the way I was when I showed up at my first practice at Iowa State,” Newman says.

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