Photos thanks to Tae Kim

A dancing style that got its start on the streets of the Bronx in the mid-1970s is still very much alive in Iowa.

Dozens of the top breakdancers from across the Hawkeye State are competing in Des Moines tomorrow in what’s dubbed Iowa’s Illest Breakdance Battle.

Organizer Tae Kim admits many of the competitors weren’t even around when this first became a national fad.

“It’s a lot of kids in high school,” Kim says. “They see these YouTube videos and say, ‘Wow, I’d really like to do this.’ That’s how a lot of people learn. We have a local community here. We all practice together and hang out.”

Competitors are as young as 12 and the oldest ones are 30-plus, Kim says.

While the term “breakdancing” is part of our pop culture lexicon, he says the purists prefer the term “breaking” and call themselves “b-boys” and “b-girls.” Kim explains how the competition works.

“One dancer comes out against another dancer, so it’s one v. one and they each do their best set and we have three judges that determine who is the best out of the two,” Kim says. “It’s a bracket style so we have a top 16, it goes down to eight, four and then the finals.”

The dancing is usually set to hip-hop, funk or breakbeat music, and one of the signature moves features a head spin. Kim says it’s not for amateurs.

“There’s definitely a risk involved and that’s why we definitely preach foundation. Don’t start by spinning on your head,” Kim says, laughing. “Maybe slowly work up to that.” These events are very popular in other “progressive communities” across the country, Kim says, “and now is the ideal time to bring this to our city.”

The showdown will run from 4 to 8 PM at Jordan Creek Mall. The event is free.