Five-Borough Freestyle: Bruk Up


Sky Dylan-Robbins (a video producer at follows Bruk Up—a freestyle dance form that bridges Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop—in New York, where, she says, “cultures collide and tradition exists alongside the avant-garde ]. . .] a whole world of dance based around the purely improvisational.” Dylan-Robbins presents a bimonthly video series “Five-Borough Freestyle,” where she explores New York’s ever-evolving dance scene. She writes:

For our first installment, we focus on Bruk Up, a style that bridges Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop. It was pioneered by George Adams, who immigrated to Brooklyn from Kingston, Jamaica, as a young man in the early nineties and brought with him an animated freestyle that he’d developed in the dance halls back home. Adams walks with a limp—the result of a childhood bone infection—and he used it to augment the fragmented jerks and pops that moved his long limbs in time with blasting Jamaican beats. Adams’s nickname, Bruk Up, means “broken” in Jamaican patois, and the style he created became known by that name, too. The Bruk Up dance style flourished in Brooklyn’s Afro-Caribbean neighborhoods, melting into its culture and fusing with hip-hop and pop; in 1997, Adams appeared in Busta Rhymes’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.”

In the rougher Brooklyn of the nineties, Bruk Up was an escape from the streets. Shawn (POBA) Theagene, Justin (Rain) Quinones, and Albert (the Ghost) Esquilin, of the Bed-Stuy Veterans, a dance crew from Bedford-Stuyvesant, grew up in the neighborhood and are at the forefront of the borough’s Bruk Up culture. Although they’re only in their early thirties, the three are considered O.G.s (original gangsters) of the style, which they learned from Adams himself (who, these days, shuttles between New York, South Beach, and Kingston). They established fundamentals based on Adams’s movements—shoulder pops, pivots, stop motion, the wave—and then freestyled his freestyle, personalizing it. [. . .]

[Check out The New Yorker’s video hub for more episodes of “Five-Borough Freestyle.”]

For full article and video, see

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