Film producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, owners ofÂ Cannon Films, became interested in the art of urban street dance after beingÂ inspired by aÂ story from Golan’s daughter about seeing aÂ a group of breakdancers performing atÂ Venice Beach.Â They took further inspiration for the setting fromÂ a documentary titledÂ Breakin’ and Enterin’Â and even recruited some of its cast for their fictional take on breakdancing; Breakin’.
Finding talent for the three leads required Golan and Globus to look outside of traditional actors as extensive dance knowledge was required. The first lead went toÂ Lucinda Dickey (Ninja 3: The Domination), a professionalÂ dancer and gymnast, playing the the role of Kelly who later earned the nickname ‘Special K’ after the Kellogg’s cereal. The other two leads came fromÂ Breakin’ and Enterin’;Â Adolfo ‘Shabba Do’ QuiÃ±ones and Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers who played Ozone and Turbo respectively. Like Dickey, both were professionally trained dancers with little acting experience.
The film follows Ozone and Turbo asÂ they train Kelly to become a breakdancer afterÂ she has a falling out with the choreographer of her jazzÂ dance class. This transition would prove to be very difficult, resulting in one of the most hilarious 80’s training montages ever filmed. Nonetheless, it proved to her agent, played byÂ Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore), that urban dance could work on stage. This set up daunting challenges for the trio, including taking on a rival breakdance group known asÂ Electro Rock at a local community hangout where rapper Ice-T would narrate the rules in rhyme (he also provided voice-over for the film’s trailer).
Breakin’ hadÂ a veryÂ impressive soundtrackÂ that included tracks from 3V (“Heart of the Beat”),Â Rufus and Chaka Khan (“Ain’t Nobody”), and of course the hitÂ “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by Ollie & Jerry. These songs and others helped fuel some of the most heart stopping and energetic dance sequences ever executed in film.
The film premiered in theaters on May 4, 1984 and quickly became a box office hit, debuting at #1 for the week, beating out Sixteen Candles in the process. It also remained in the top 3 for four consecutive weeks and easily outperformed its rival breakdance film, Beat StreetÂ by Orion Pictures, which opened five weeks later and only managed a three week run compared to seven for Breakin’. The film even ended the year with greater box office receipts thanÂ star filled classics such as The Terminator, Red Dawn, and Bachelor Party.
Due to theÂ success, aÂ sequel was rushed into production; Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. It was released later that very same year, on December 21st, but sadly it did not fair as well as the first film, making less than half the take of its predecessor. Dickey and QuiÃ±ones spoke about their frustrationsÂ making the sequelÂ in a documentary titled Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon FilmsÂ that focused on the company’s history and demise.
However,Â the legacy of the first film lead to future dance battle films such asÂ the Step Up series while also helping to spread the breakdanceÂ phenomenon, which still sees new groups popping up, such as Diversity, anÂ English based group formed by Ashley Banjo that won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.
Finally,Â I saved the very best for last. I have fond memories of growing up through the phenomenon inÂ the 1980’s and it lead me to taking part in breakdancing as well. Personally,Â the film is right up there with Flashdance and Footloose,Â both of which came out shortly before Breakin’. Here’s my retrospective look back at the film with the official trailerÂ at the end. Enjoy!