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Identity in breakdance: Expressions of the self in South Korean b-boys

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Title: Identity in breakdance: Expressions of the self in South Korean b-boys
Author(s): Ayiwe, Emonie
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Intercultural Encounters
Specialisation: Humanities Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Abstract:
Breakdance is a hip hop dance which originated in the South Bronx of New York City in the 1970s. Hip hop is a global phenomenon which values authenticity, community and individuality. Breakdancers often dance with others to develop their style and create a community of like-minded individuals. Dancers may travel to other countries to compete for titles and develop their skills by participating in workshops. The current study explored expressions of identity in South Korean breakers. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis served as the theoretical framework for the study. It is often used in identity research exploring how individuals make sense of their identity in a given situation, phenomena or context. Trough IPA, the embodied practice of dance can be assessed where one’s feelings, emotions and the body can be made salient. Five South Korean male breakdancers from five different cities were interviewed. With the use of semi-structured interviews, questions aimed to be non-directional and open to interpretation. The analysis showed that the dancers expressed their identity in breaking in different ways. Individuality was valued through developing one’s own dance style and having a nickname. Some dancers indicated using their body to express themselves and experiment with different styles of dancing. Music acted as a way to introspect, to identity feelings and emotions in oneself. For a few of the dancers, the clothes they were while dancing were the same as their everyday clothes. Further, the breakdancers placed importance in dancing and learning from others to develop their dancing style. Importantly, for all of the dancers, it was crucial to acknowledge and understand the roots of hip hop. The dancers explored their journeys in breaking and continuously referred to their past and present. The breakers’ identity was affected by their dancing style, clothing, music, the use of their body and their relationship to other breakers. The current research adds to the already existing but limited research on sense making processes of breakdaners. Future research could explore the notions of community and sense of belonging in other hip hop subcultures, and develop research focused on breakdancers’ meaning making processes.
Keyword(s): identity self breakdance b-boy breaking hip hop self-expression South Korea


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