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A Dance-Off Over Who Should Govern a New Youth Olympic Discipline

25 Jan, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Break Dancing Becomes the Latest Battleground

For every sport that has simply celebrated Olympic inclusion and gone on to put forth its best effort, there is one in which the world has been exposed to its less attractive side, with backbiting and bickering. Surfing, for example, had a disagreement over whether its inclusion in the 2020 Games detracted from its free-spirited counter-culture vibe. Skateboarding saw a fight among organizations that wanted to be listed as its national governing body ahead of the Olympics.

Now, cue the dance-off. According to an article in Inside The Games, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) has hit back at claims it exploited break dancing as a "Trojan horse" to "get its foot in the door of the Olympics.”

The discipline has been selected for the program of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires. The decision was made during last month’s IOC Executive Board meeting, with break dancing being included alongside karate and sport climbing.

The WDSF (often thought of as the international governing body for ballroom dancing) has been listed as the governing body for break dancing’s 2018 debut on the world stage. That didn’t sit well at all with many break dance aficionados. 

An accusation was made in a petition entitled, “Get the WDSF's Hands Off Hip-Hop,” which has been sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and calls for WDSF to be expelled from the Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF).

The petition (set up through the online forum, change.org, by Serouj Aprahamian, a Lebanese-Armenian break-dancer and political activist) doesn’t mince words and doesn’t back down from taking a contentious stand. In part, it claims WDSF has “absolutely no connection or credibility with any legitimate entity in the worldwide breaking community" and states it is a "travesty and a scandal” that the Buenos Aires 2018 Organizing Committee and the IOC “have allowed these imposters to oversee breaking at the Youth Olympics.”

The full petition can be viewed by clicking here.

However, WDSF says it is collaborating with a number of organizations in competitive break dancing in an attempt to ensure that as many constituents as possible are given a voice in the shaping of the events at Buenos Aires 2018.

The Urban Dance & Educational Foundation (UDEF) Pro Breaking Tour and associated organizations Freestyle Session and Silverback (all of whom have no current role, either official or unofficial, with break dancing at the 2018 Youth Olympics) have said they are “supportive of the fact that the Olympic Movement is going to give competitive breaking a trial run with the 2018 Youth Olympics.”

"We have spoken with several senior-level staff members at the WDSF and we are confident that the WDSF and its national affiliates around the world will be making efforts to involve people from the actual breaking community in all aspects of the preparation for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games,” a joint statement reads. “Our view is that it will be more productive to give the WDSF a bit of time to get organized and to interview volunteers from the breaking community than to concern ourselves at this very moment with who may ultimately control Olympic-level breaking, or how breaking might be presented to the public in an Olympic format.”

Well, at someone is willing to play nice.

The statement also notes, “In the long run, the breakers will control breaking at the Olympic level, and at every level.”

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