Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo

Turbo's dance moves

Too often I resort to “well, it was of its time” when talking about, particularly, 80s films. But that is what makes the revisits so special. Yes, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) is of its time, and I’m glad of the chance for those of us who grew up with it to return and revel in its delights. The breakdance culture has never died, I don’t care what those who critique it say. I can see it living and breathing with great fire even today. In popular culture, in dance and music, breakdance has endured. As a kid, I knew of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo from HBO. I was introduced to this vibrant, electric, enthusiastic, energetic form of expression in dance and music that allowed “those street kids”, the urban youth, to voice their talents in amazing ways. I dug their expression. And I dug the graffiti and music. The music has most certainly not went away as some forgotten fad. Graffiti might have been doomed as a crime—but what an illegal expression! I remember just staring at train cars as a youth, transfixed with the graffiti expression of those who left their “mark”. Of course this form of expression was earmarked as destruction of property. But there was just something cool to me about the idea that a graffiti artist left his mark on a train car that would find its way many, many miles away.

Din Dada

Breakin’ 2 concerns itself with a rec center, not as open to a larger distance or scope as the first film. Kids wanting a place to congregate, in a positive atmosphere without the influence of crime; the rec center could provide a positive experience for the youth of the day. The rec center, however, was headquartered in a structural hazard, with $250,000 needed to renovate it. The “villains” of the film are greedy white guys. The father of Lucinda Dickey wants her to marry a lawyer, go to Princeton, and give up her “silly hobby” of dancing. Her dancing had actually landed her, after an audition goes well, a part in Paris. The “pesky” ‘save the rec center’ operation plans to deter all of that if Dickey decides to help out her pals, Ozone (Shabba-Doo) and Turbo (Boogaloo Shrimp). Dickey’s Kelly is from white privilege and there’s even a comment from her mom to her griping dad about how she at least wasn’t continuing to hang around those “street people”. I kid you not, this was actual dialogue! Kelly, though, loves Ozone, Turbo, and their family of breakdancing youth, always drawn to them, particularly won over by an older mentor of them all, the rec operations manager, Byron (the wonderful Harry Caesar). Byron has the support of the youth because he has taught them all the meaning of responsibility, working together, and helping each other. A role model, Byron will obviously achieve the impossible dream…but not without Daddy Warbucks and his checkbook. Yes, that is what I immediately joked aloud to those watching this with me. I would have kind of liked it had these kids urged major donors in their own community and those similar to them (and perhaps those who are from the community that were successful) rescue the rec center than Kelly’s dad, having this change of heart when he realizes his girl had contributed to something more meaningful. The clash of Ozone and Turbo with Kelly’s affluent world during a dinner invite had me in ribbons, but this is handled in a non-confrontational manner, not to truly assert the inequality in classes as much as how hip the kids are in comparison to the square rich folks. It is asserting that Dickey’s attraction to Ozone and Turbo’s world makes sense…the expectations of wealth are passed onto Kelly by her dad and she resists treading a path similar to him. She prefers to follow Ozone and Turbo because they practice non-stop dance and beat, totally in line with what appeals to her the most. Meanwhile the other “villains” of the film is a land developer and those on the city council wanting to bulldoze the rec center in favor of a shopping mall. Breakdance and awareness with the kids out and about to raise the proper funding, and just resistance itself, stands in the way of “progress” as land developing greed plans to seize upon “decaying property”. Therein lies the plot which serves as a skeleton for all the beat and break that surges athletic dance and highly performed choreography. No matter how one sees the styles and dress of those involved—how 80s this all is—I think it is impossible to not notice the influence that is everlasting. A Beyonce concert or a Madonna tour, the sheer number of pop/hip hop artists with background dancers that hit multiple cities and countries; take a gander at Breakin’ 2 and compare. Take notes.

The film goes off script on different tangents that break from realism, such as Turbo breakdancing upside down inside of his pad, up the walls and on the ceiling. The entire breakdancing sequences with hot nurses joining Ozone and the gang inside the hospital. The use of nun-chucks and garbage lids (as shields!) in a breakdance imitation fight as Ozone’s gang are at odds with “Electro Rock”. And there is the inclusion of a love triangle as Rhonda (Susie Coelho), mincing no words, charges Kelly to stay away from her man…that man, according to her, being Ozone. Ice-T raps, the kids stand in the way of bulldozers, and a news crew insert themselves into the mix by drawing attention to Ozone’s cause for the rec center. The connection to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is neat considering it was the same year the movie was made and provides Turbo with his “whack” dance number, completely giving the film a detour into the surreal.

This film doesn’t dare allow the plot to overwhelm what its chief goal is: to spotlight what was hot at the time and give breakdancing and its music center stage. The choreography is always handled with spirit and vitality. You don’t have folks participating that aren’t fully able to give breakdancing an allure and style, further motivating its appeal to a wider audience. The Cannon attachment will always give the two films extra punch when those who came after my generation might desire to study and research, out of curiosity, what was released when we were kids. A cult now follows Cannon, and its recent documentary might bring a new appeal to the films released by them, Golan-Globus. Ahh, yes, those were the days.

It was fun researching Dickey's small resume. She was in a couple films I thoroughly enjoy that are also so wonderfully 80s: Ninja III: The Domination (1984) and Cheerleader Camp (1988), both cult films in their own right. She decided to not pursue a career out of the 80s which kind of surprises me considering how talented she obviously was. I guess I was indeed expecting more cult films starring her, but alas...

Adolfo Quinones and Michael Chambers are both, right now, making breakdance films, much to my delight. I can only imagine what each artist will bring to their respective properties. A new generation of dancers might just take what they can give and incorporate the moves into dance updated for a 2017/18 audience. Step-Up and its films are obviously not immune to what Breakin' had brought to pop culture.