So You Think You Can Have a Dancer In Your Video by B-Boy J-Sun

September 18, 2012 7 min read 1 Comment


So You Think You Can Have a Dancer In Your Video 

By B-Boy J-Sun

 Oh boy. Oh…b-boy and b-girl. Lately and locally, there have been a lot of requests for dancers for concerts, videos and club nights to get the party “started.” Great! The local community’s renewed interest in b-boys/b-girls and funkstylists reconnects some of the younger generation of dancers with Hip Hop music. However, there have been some major misunderstandings about how to treat dancers. This article is not to call anyone out for bad behavior but I do think that it’s time rappers and promoters understand the real deal with Hip Hop dancers. Want to know why you need to pay us? Dance is the least respected art form of all the major forms of art because there is no product that can be sold.

Rappers and DJs have a product and selling a few thousand copies of a record is considered normal, even expected. If a breaker sold 10,000 copies of a video, it would be the highest selling DVD in b-boy/b-girl history! Yet, Hip Hop culture was initially spread globally through the film, Flashdance, and the ten-minute dance scene with Rocksteady Crew. Our dance is ephemeral, meaning it’s here and gone, and if you don’t experience it in person…you just won’t understand the discipline, dedication or significance of the art form to Hip Hop culture or to the rest of the world.

What do I know about shows? I am an original member of Battlecats Breaking Crew and as part of the Rhymesayers Collective, we danced at just about every show for the love of the local scene and Hip Hop culture. No pay, barely a floor and love. However, I consider those experiences as part of the time-honored practice of paying dues and earning stripes. Once dues are paid and stripes are attached to uniform, a process that takes 3-5 years, then payment is required. I choreograph ninety-minute dance performances for the theater that consist of my style of breaking and toprocking. I get paid for that, no doubt.

As a member of West Coast Rockers from California, I have opened for, performed with and talked to many of my favorite emcees, from Aceyalone to Wu-Tang Clan.  I considered such opportunities a privilege because a source of credibility in Hip Hop is the approval of important cultural figures in Hip Hop (elders!). I am saying that if you want free dancers, go ask the youth. Just don’t take advantage of the kids because the older heads will hear about it, and word spreads like Wild Style.

B-Boy J-Sun’s Guide to Dancer Etiquette for Emcees/DJs/Producers/Promoters


1. We are not suckers. We have been devalued for decades and taken advantage of by savvier people than you. If you pay an emcee $250 for a 20 minute set, that’s fair. Why do you think you can pay us $50 for a 20 minute set? For perspective, the average b-boy/b-girl drop is 45 seconds and the average funkstylist run is around a minute and a half to two minutes. Performing for 20 minutes takes a LOT of energy. Like it or not, emceeing and DJing is physically easier to perform for an extended amount of time.

2. We don’t need “exposure.” Don’t even think about it. Chances are that the dancers you have selected have more performance experience than you, so the offer can be more than a little insulting.

3. Check the surface. We can dance on anything but you better be conscious of what you are asking. Is it wet? Clean? Big enough? For what? Is that broken glass? Go get a broom and I’ll sweep the floor. Better than me sweeping the leg.

4. We are not extras. Our discipline of dance does not involve being cute. It does involve crushing fools.

5. Don’t call it “breakdancing.” This is the result of the media’s incessant need to over simplify and categorize a subject. The same strategy renders the subject a “fad” and is soon remember as only a passing phase of popular culture. Using “breakdancer” is the first sign of an uninformed individual, which is okay, but if you are a rapper, you just gave away your suckerdom. You have to earn the privilege to be called a b-boy/b-girl through years of battling.

6. You want some choreography? That’s like saying you have an hour to write a verse, teach it to three people and perform the song together in a video. Have some consideration for the fact that we take pride in producing good work too, and want to create something substantial just like you.

 7. General attitude. Listen, most of us have been performing twice or three times as long as you. We put our bodies on line for the dance, guard the traditions of Hip Hop culture and study the history of the four elements (writing, DJing, b-boying/b-girling and rapping). This is expected behavior from the practitioners of the fundamental artistic elements of Hip Hop culture. You don’t need to front for us.


1. If you can’t pay, feed us. Drink tickets don’t cut it, they never have. Think of compensation, not just tickets to your show either. We are paying you the biggest compliment that we can by dancing to your music. That’s not hubris; I have been dancing professionally for over 20 years…what is the dollar amount of that length of experience per hour?

2. We are much more inclined to be a part of something if it is meaningful or aids a community in need. Most of the local dancers are involved in social justice programs and put in work giving back to their community. Have a conversation with us about what we do and you may be surprised.

3. If you show concern about providing the right surface, it demonstrates a respect level for the dancers. We don’t mind sweeping or cleaning it. We dance on:

Cardboard = Nope.

Concrete = Yep.

Broken Concrete = Nope. Well, maybe. Dancing on unforgiving ground reminds us of the obstacles that the pioneers overcame to preserve b-boying/b-girling.

Linoleum = Yep.

Tile = Yep.

4. To paraphrase the renowned funkstylist, Mr. Wiggles of The Electric Boogaloos, if you want dancers to be in the video, don’t put us in the back. Put us in the front. Music is for the ears and dance is for the eyes.

5. See, the simple names of things hold great power and if you address us respectfully then we are open to listening. The original term for the dance is breaking but the speaker almost always has to contextualize. DJ Kool Herc called his dancers “b-boys” and “b-girls” (women were right there too), and is acceptable along with “breaker.”

6. If you want choreography, give us the song and let us listen to it for a week so that your message has more of an impact. That’s right, I said it. Better yet, let us be more than eye candy and help tell your story. Check Brother Ali’s Mourning in Americawith choreography by Amirah Suga Mama Sackett. What about Common’s I Used to Love H.E.R. with respected breaking crew, Chicago Champions?

7. Just be respectful of our process because it takes time to warm-up and stretch. Water should always be provided for dancers because we work. Deal breaker. The majority of Hip Hop dancers are polite and respectful until shown contempt by those that should know better.

P.S. Don’t ask if we can spin on our heads. If your etiquette is correct, the headspins will come.

 Hopefully, this guide can aid all the Hip Hop heads that want to do the right thing and bring dance back to a prominent place in videos and at shows. Right now you may be thinking to yourself, “ But J-Sun, whatever happened to doing it for the love?”

I’ll answer your query with a question, “When did you stop loving us?”

Pay Respect is a picture of b-boys Sequel, Daylight, J-Sun and Emajyn at B-Girl Be 

Bass and Belles is a picture of Arturo Miles, Suga Mama, Ivy Morrison, J-Sun, Stepchild and AnnieUp doing choreography for my last show, Hip Hop?.

Emajyn is a picture of Emajyn (wow).

Written By B-Boy J-Sun

-Editor's Note: J-Sun would also like you to be aware of these upcoming B-Boy/B-Girl Events in the Twin Cities!!!!

Hardcore Hip Hop Fun for the Whole Family


A B-Boy’s Guide to Fresh Local Events


I want to let everyone know about some of the upcoming performances and battles in the Twin Cities. I suggest checking with the venue for each performance to find out if the content is appropriate for kids. Battles are appropriate and safe for all ages, no matter what Hollywood tells you. It’s my opinion that all of these events are suitable for everyone but…I am a little biased.

The JOINT Project

 - Curated by Amirah Sackett

- Collaborative performances by artists from different genres.

- Intermedia Arts

  2822 Lyndale Ave South

  Minneapolis, MN 55408 


- September 20-23 @ 8pm


- $10 Advance/Student/Senior

   $12 at the Door

More info:


The Warriors Present: Come Out to Play


- 3 on 3 Battle for $1200


- The Rock

  9201 75th Avenue North

  Brooklyn Park, MN 55428


- September 29 7-11pm


- $10 General Admission


More info:


Maia Maiden Presents: This was Meant for Women’s Bodies


- Choreographed by Maia Maiden


- Collection of short stories inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman and celebrating the female form.


- Intermedia Arts

  2822 Lyndale Ave South

  Minneapolis, MN 55408 


- October 11-14 @ 8pm


- $10 Advance/Student/Senior

   $12 at the Door


More Info:


1 Response

Erinn Liebhard
Erinn Liebhard

September 18, 2012

Nice article, J-Sun!

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