What started as an inner-city pastime became a global phenomenon when a 90-second breakdancing scene appeared in the hit 1983 film "Flashdance." "So many people went back to the theater just to see that one scene," Richard Colón, aka Crazy Legs, told Yahoo! Movies.
Colón, one of breakdancing's foremost pioneers, was just 16 years old when he and some of his Rock Steady crew appeared in one of the most memorable sequences in the film. "It's been a great experience," Colón recalled.
The breakdancing in "Flashdance" wasn't just limited to Rock Steady's scene. The film's lead character also busts out a breakdance move during her iconic final dance sequence, set to Irene Cara's "What a Feeling."
A not-so-well-kept secret about lead actress Jennifer Beals is that she had a lot of help when it came to the memorable moves of her feverishly dancing character, Alex Owens. Most of her dance scenes were done with the help of a body double, French actress and dancer Marine Jahan.
But it was Beals's final scene wherein she got the most help. Jahan performed most of it, but certain moves required specialized expertise. Gymnast Sharon Shapiro performed the flips, and one certain breakdance move was done by a male breakdancer -- Colón himself. "Being the first person in hip-hop to dress in drag -- I had to deal with that for years," the 47-year-old joked.
The producers of the film didn't plan to put Colón in the pivotal scene but were forced to out of necessity. No one could learn his backspin move, he recalled. He remembered Jahan and Shapiro showing up with bruises on their hips after many failed attempts to follow his breakdance coaching.
When Colón was finally approached to dress and dance as Beals's character, he said with a laugh, "I just rubbed my fingers together because of that money," explaining that it was a lot to ask of a Puerto Rican teen from the Bronx to shave his legs, underarms, and mustache. "Especially the mustache because … I was a young kid and I'm finally getting my little machismo thing going on. And now, I have to shave my mustache off."
Now, 30 years later, Colón knows what an impact he had on dance culture around the world. But back then, he said of his Rock Steady crew, "We were such male 'hood rats … I don’t believe I had an appreciation for what was happening."
And a global phenomenon it was. Colón recalled traveling the world with Rock Steady -- including those who appeared in the film: the late Wayne Frost, aka Frosty Freeze; Norman Scott, aka Normski (the child b-boy); Kenneth Gabbert, aka Prince Ken Swift; and Marc Lemberger, aka Mr. Freeze (who sported an umbrella while dancing in the film). "It was our recreation, and we just happened to start getting paid for doing what we normally do," Colón said. "We'd go to Poland, we'd go to Russia or China," said Lemberger, who also spoke to Yahoo! Movies in honor of the 30th anniversary of "Flashdance." "It’s amazing, and it's because of that movie," Lemberger said, adding, "I did the backslide with the umbrella two years before Michael Jackson did it on Motown."
Both Colón and Lemberger -- the only two remaining original members of Rock Steady -- revealed that they still receive residual checks from "Flashdance" today. "It’s not like we went from rags to riches," Colón said, "[but] we were legitimately dealt with on that level, and it was appreciated."
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