Honey Rockwell’s passion, knowledge of breaking shine beyond her Acworth studio

Photo credit: Global Flo Pics
Rockwell is lunging to the left with one hand on her hip and the other over her brow line. She stares at herself in the mirror with a smug expression on her face, which is out of focus. She is wearing all black with the exception of her bright white sneakers and a light denim jacket, which has been diligently painted with bright graffiti. Her background is dull, grey, which allows her figure to pop in this image.

March 1, 2021
Volume 2 Issue 2
By: Jacob Lavoie

“Atlanta dance community welcomed me with open arms.”

Breaking is about freedom. Freedom within your body. Freedom within the music. Freedom within how you express yourself. It is physically and creatively demanding which lends itself to fall somewhere between sport and art. Hip-hop is an umbrella term for many different elements, including break dancing, also known as breaking. Hip-hop is not just a dance style or music genre, though. It’s graffiti. It’s fashion. It’s a way of life. 

Honey Rockwell is a breaking and B-girl legend hailing from the South Bronx. “Back then,” Rockwell says, “acrobatics and music inspired the moves,” but now breaking is much more codified. Flying, power moves, spins, kicks and control are all key elements that have elevated modern breaking to new heights. 

From a young age, Rockwell can remember parents from the neighborhood asking if she could care for, teach and entertain their younger children at the playground. She fondly recalls these days, realizing that she has always had a bit of a knack for teaching. As a self-proclaimed old school individual, Rockwell’s instruction is all about teaching the fundamental elements of hip-hop to her students. This instruction is not limited to the moves, but also includes passing along the culture, which led to the creation of the Rockwell Dance Academy and Rock Da Floor Kids’ Dance Battles.

After an expansive international career as a performer and educator, in 2013 Rockwell and her famous B-boy husband, Orko, landed in Acworth, Georgia, where they opened the Rockwell Dance Academy. Rockwell explained that owning and running a studio is like riding a roller coaster, especially during a pandemic.

Giving students an outlet to express themselves is what drives Rockwell and the Rockwell Dance Academy more than anything right now. For Rockwell, seeing her students perform is seeing the future of breaking. She considers herself lucky to have such “lovely experiences” as an artist, performer, choreographer and member of the breaking community, and now she wants to provide that same platform for younger generations of breakers. 

Courtesy of Honey Rockwell
Rockwell, seated in the center of the picture, is surrounded by four of her young female students. Everyone in this photograph is wearing a face covering and is sporting Rockwell Dance Academy sweatshirts. Most of the girls, including Rockwell, are “throwing deuces.” This photo has bursts of red from the wall behind them, and Rockwell’s black sweatshirt allows her to blend in with the row of black chairs where she is sitting.

Battles are one of the key elements of breaking. Originating from crews who would compete on the streets, now battles are generally more structured and consist of one-on-one, multi-round events lasting about 30-45 seconds each. Running one of the very few hip-hop schools in the Southeast, Rockwell quickly noticed there were almost no opportunities for her students to battle with students from other studios.  

That absence of opportunity is what led Rockwell to found Rock Da Floor Kids’ Dance Battles. This event provides young breakers with the opportunity to gather, perform, battle and create in a safe and family friendly environment. The jams hosted by Rock Da Floor focus on the athleticism of breaking and the positive elements of hip-hop culture. Rockwell acknowledged that making these historically raw and mature events kid friendly has proven to be quite a challenge.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rock Da Floor, like most activities, has shifted to Zoom, and as a result has become international. Rockwell says, “Our kids can now battle kids from around the world. That’s a win!” The Academy’s focus on technique has strengthened due to the pandemic because students are not learning specific choreography or preparing for major performances.

Breaking is now entering a new light on the international stage at the 2024 Olympic games in Paris. With a successful trial debut at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the International Olympic Committee announced this new event on December 7, 2020. “The sky’s the limit of what something like this can bring forth to our community,” Rockwell says. “I’m excited for the kids.” Providing an outlet for kids’ expression and growth continues to be one of Rockwell’s highest priorities.

Courtesy of Honey Rockwell
Rockwell leans to the side with swagger as she purses her lips together and points her right finger toward the camera. She wears an oversized black T-shirt, hanging off the side of her left shoulder, with bold pink writing that says “B-girl.” Her hat covers half of her face. In bright pink letters it has been airbrushed to say “HONEY.” The background of this image is filled with long, slim, red bricks.

Olympic officials hope that breaking will reach younger, more urban and gender-balanced audiences. Rockwell is a legacy advisor for USA Breakin’, the non-profit organization who will create the pathway for the USA breaking team. Legacy advisors use their knowledge of the sport to support the USA Breakin’ board members with the creation of curriculum, judging format, etc. 

The dance style and culture created by Black and Latino communities on the streets of the Bronx has gained significant popularity in countries like Korea and Russia that have recently dominated the art form. This diversification does not bother Rockwell. Rockwell put it plainly as a matter of how these countries invest resources in breaking. Allegedly, foreign governments lend more support to the arts and their athletes. We are curious to see what level of support the U.S. will show our breakers. Rockwell even cited an example from 2018 where a B-girl from the U.S. qualified for the Youth Olympics, but because of a loophole was unable to participate. 

Many American breakers hope that the USA steps up and provides their breakers with the adequate resources needed to be successful in 2024. “We have to make sure the U.S. is present in 2024, or we will have a lot of angry people,” says Rockwell. 

Rockwell and Orko have seen nothing but love and support from the greater Atlanta dance community since coming to Georgia. “This isn’t our hood; they could’ve told us to go back,” says Rockwell. Instead, they were welcomed with open arms. 

“People are hungry,” she says, explaining that the Metro Atlanta dance community at large has embraced breaking, its culture and its history. For that reason, the couple is eternally grateful. Studio space at the Rockwell Dance Academy is available to anyone within the breaking community free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is the least Rockwell feels like she can do to give back to her community and continue to sculpt the future of breaking. 

For more information about Rockwell, the Rockwell Dance Academy or Rock Da Floor Kids’ Dance Battles visit: http://honeyrockwell.com/

Jacob Lavoie is a maker, performance artist, and educator. In his work, he has a special interest in exploring the extremes within human gesture, the avant-garde, and using the body as the primary vehicle for storytelling. Jacob graduated Summa Cum Laude from Keene State College in May 2019 with a B.A. in Theatre and Dance with dual concentrations in Dance: Choreography and Performance and Theatre Arts: Directinghttps://www.jacobdlavoie.com

More from Jacob:
Leah Boresow Dance provides free dance classes across a multitude of genres for all bodies on Facebook Live weekly

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