Crazy Legs: 'Dancing is Life'

Rocky Steady Crew president on what breaking means to him on International Dance Day

Saturday (April 29) marks International Dance Day, 35 years since its inception, aimed at focusing on every facet of dance.

By its entry on the calendar in 1982, Richard Colon, the Puerto Rican breaker from the Bronx better known as Crazy Legs, had already established himself as a member of the Rock Steady Crew, of which he remains the president.

From ballet to today's B-Boys, dance means many things for many different people.

Crazy Legs, looking back on his life as a teenager in one of New York's rougher areas in the 1970s and 1980s, described his particular genre of dance as a "rose that grew out of cement".

The 51-year-old said: "What breaking represented for me was the opportunity for a young kid coming out of rough social and economic situation in the Bronx in the 70s.

"We're talking about a time when New York City was bankrupt and you had a lot of buildings burned down because of slum lords trying to get money from insurance.

"Blacks and Puerto Ricans were moving into these places and they [the landlords] felt 'this is devaluing my property' and we lived in that environment where you had to make something out of nothing.

"Hip hop and this dance was one of those things. For me that was important as we didn't have much. When you don't have much and you're a little kid and you know that you need a way to express yourself or pass the time, this became folk culture for us.

"It was organic and we grew right into it and created it without realising we were creating some sort of art form that could be part of a whole movement. It was a great thing."

Through the Rocky Steady Crew, the dance movement expanded from the Bronx into other parts of the United States before steadily going global.

And the reason that it first spawned in the heart of New York, is the reason Crazy Legs believes it erupted elsewhere in parts of Europe for example.

"There were people living in similar conditions to us like in France: a lot of Turkish, Algerian or Moroccan," he said.

"They didn't know we were Puerto Rican, I guess I could look Algerian and so they saw themselves in us. There were like 'those are our people there'.

"Because this dance is by the people and for the people and is about a kind of anti-establishment and kind of that zone where teenagers who are breaking away from their parents and finding a voice and identity and a way of life.

"Breaking gives you the opportunity to find yourself, it gives you confidence and voice. I think if you are looking for a mental way out of whatever surrounding... this can be an escape for people.

"For some people, it's just a hobby, for other people it's just life."

An apt sentiment on International Dance Day.

Discover more content and watch 'The Dance' live on Red Bull TV on May 20-21.