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'Milwaukee Magazine' Breaks Down The Local History Of Breaking

Libby Lang
Milwaukee Magazine
Ramon Candelaria demonstrates a power move, which is one of the most acrobatic, demanding moves that breakers perform.

It's 1983, and a little film called Flashdance featured a dance style not yet popularized — breaking (not breakdancing). While the style was developed in California in the 1960s and '70s, the film catapulted breaking into the spotlight around the world.

The Bronx was a hub for the art of breaking, which is the dance style's official name. But it also has deep roots and influence right here in Milwaukee. Breaking was first introduced here 45 years ago, and many of the region’s best dancers have made the city home. 

"It's a little surprising, but Milwaukee has a great reputation as a city for breaking and we're really on the map," notes Lindsey Anderson. Her article in this month's Milwaukee Magazine’s looks into the history of breaking in Milwaukee and some of its most influential local talents of the art form.

Credit Libby Lang / Milwaukee Magazine
Milwaukee Magazine
Efren Manzanet Jr., also known as "The Godfather," brought breaking to Milwaukee from his Bronx hometown in 1974. He formed the city's first b-boy crew, the Magic Rockers.

Anderson says the local breaking scene all started because of Efren Manzanet Jr. He brought the art form to Milwaukee when he moved here from the Bronx in 1974. Few people at the time had seen or even heard of breaking, and didn't quite know what to make of it, according to Anderson.

"I think they associate it with these kids from the Bronx that were up to no good, and they didn’t really appreciate the fact that it is as creative and demanding as any other art form," she says.

Currently, Milwaukee has three breaking groups and many other talented individual b-boys and b-girls. Anderson notes that the art form is finally getting to a place of greater public esteem. In fact, breaking is being considered to be included in the 2024 Olympics.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who are dancing at a very high level. I think finally, people are starting to realize exactly how much work goes into it and are starting to respect it," says Anderson.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.