In 1984 I was 10 years old and desperately seeking the three B’s: baseball, boobs and break-dancing.
I had some of the things I believed I needed to break-dance: music, cardboard, spray paint but I was missing the one thing I needed most…a crew. Nobody back then would even think of break-dancing solo. Solo breakin’ would be ridiculous…sure someday it might happen someday but I wasn’t going to be the one to cross that line.
I tried putting a crew together but the best I could manage was the kid down the street who was not allowed to listen to rap and my little sister who was six years old. In addition to having a wack crew I only had the vaguest idea of how to actually dance, mostly I just rolled on cardboard while music played and that was not impressive to anyone, not even my mother who remarked that my robot moves looked like: “a robot crapping its robot pants”. Clearly I wasn’t going to achieve greatness in such an oppressive environment. If I wanted to learn I had to find someone to teach me.
I didn’t have to look far for role models. Some of the kids in my neighborhood appeared to be pretty serious dancers, with a real crew and everything complete with matching burgundy outfits with the name of their crew, The Junior Rockers*, on the back.
*The name Junior Rockers was never explained. Were they a minor league affiliate of another bunch of older break-dancers called The Rockers? I’ll never know.
I wanted was to be a Junior Rocker so I asked if I could join. The Junior Rockers immediately said no way. Sure we rode the school bus together and played baseball in the street but that’s as far as it went, I was not dance crew worthy.
While I was dejected, I had a plan, somehow I though that if I just got my own matching suit I’d be accepted in their crew; because in my mind like that was the only requirement…a burgundy suit made of plastic with the name on the back.
It seemed pretty simple in my head…
Instant acceptance, right?
I figured that if they said no I’d play the old “Come on guys, I spent the money on the suit…please let me join” card.
Here was a problem: When I explained the plan to my mom she told me it was ridiculous because she wasn’t buying me a customized dance outfit when I could barely walk in a straight line. Even worse, she said she would go talk to the other kids parents about letting me hang out with the dancers. This was even worse than not getting the suit and I begged her not to talk to anyone’s parents. I felt it was better to have no crew then to have a crew your mom got you into.
Instead of giving up I made my own suit out of things I had at home like sweatpants and trash bags (I wish I was kidding). Then I worked on my moves and got ready to show what I could do.
I’d like to tell you that I marched down the street in my homemade suit to dance for the crew and that they respected my effort and took me in as their equal or at least the token white kid, but they didn’t. Instead of being welcomed I got pointed at, laughed at and if I had lunch money it would have gotten stolen from me.
Looking back on it I guess society was not ready for some social boundaries to be broken through dance, especially not by a ten year old kid in a red windbreaker with trash bags wrapped around his sweat pants.