Studio owner and world-renowned breaker Ronnie Abaldonado is using his nearly 30 years of breaking experience to push the next generation of b-boys and b-girls to success.
Abaldonado was first introduced to breaking at 10 years old by his older brother and cousins. “Back before YouTube we would learn from VHS tapes we would play and rewind over and over,” Abaldonado says. “Once I learned the fundamentals, I became my own person.”
Though most of his family eventually stopped dancing, Abaldonado was able to make his passion into a full-time career. “It came naturally to me,” he says. “I was fearless and would throw myself around. I could produce my own style, and that is what got me recognition in the breaking community.”
Now, Abaldonado is a Red Bull BC One All Star, and is a member of top dance crews Full Force and Super Cr3w, which appeared on MTV and won the second season of “America’s Best Dance Crew.” He teaches internationally, and in 2012 he co-established his studio, District Arts, in which he trains aspiring dancers in the Las Vegas area.
Here, Abaldonado shares his teaching philosophy, what drew him to educating, and the breaking videos he’s obsessed with.
“Breaking is the dance element of hip-hop culture. Within breaking there are four foundational elements: toprock [dancing standing up, with an emphasis on foot movement]; footwork [done on the floor with hand support]; power moves [acrobatics, like headspins and windmills]; and freezes [poses suspended off the ground, like chair freeze or baby freeze]. Outside of those four elements, you teach the groove. Typical performance opportunities for break-dancers are competitions. One particularly famous competition is a worldwide battle called Battle Of The Year, where you represent your crew and country. In it, you showcase a choreographed number, and if you qualify, you battle.”
His teaching philosophy:
“There was never really a structure for how to teach breaking. You would just learn from your friends, and share what you learned with others. So I teach students the way I learned and give them the fundamentals. From there, it’s a culture hub where they can implement their own style, and learn from others.”
His path to educating:
“I never thought I would be teaching. Growing up, I was always shy except when I danced. Breaking broke me out of my shell. The first time I taught, I was so nervous. In 2002 I was asked to teach a breaking number at Culture Shock [a nonprofit dance organization and hip-hop troupe in San Diego]. They ended up using it, and that really built my confidence.”
His go-to warm-up:
“Freestyling—I just play music and get loose.”
Must-wear teaching attire:
“Reebok Classics. I’ve been wearing them for the past 10 years, and I’ve gotten comfortable competing and performing in them. I also wear the customized Red Bull gear they send us, which is especially fun.”
Practical teaching tools:
“Orange cones if we are doing drills, and martial arts mats because we do a lot of intense, dynamic moves that we don’t want to do on hardwood floors.”
“I always have Smucker’s Uncrustables on standby. I also have a fridge at the studio stocked with Red Bull.”
Beloved nondance hobbies:
“I love playing chess. It’s a mind game that requires strategizing tactics. You can apply that to battling, as well. I also love to draw.”
His ideal day off:
“A good day off includes spending time with my wife and two daughters. I have a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old. My 3-year-old loves to dance. My wife was a professional hula dancer in Hawaii, and though we don’t try to teach our daughter to dance, anytime we play music she starts moving on her own.”