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Ken Swift

Ken Swift

Ken Swiftis one of the greatest influences the dance of Bboying (otherwise known as Breaking or Breakdancing) has known.

Considered “The Epitome of a Bboy,” he has been emulated by Bboys and Girls worldwide. Ken is credited with establishing movements critical to the dances’ foundation with his personal style and techniques and continues to be recognized for his contributions over the last 37 years to promoting, educating and preserving the art form. He is a driving force in Bboying’s current global culture and is continually invited to attend, judge and compete in competitions around the world.

Separate from Ken Swift’s successful individual career, he has collaborated with and is one of the original members of the world renowned Rock Steady Crew (RSC), the first group of Bboys to receive professional recognition from the media and their peers. They also appeared in television and film, including Graffiti Rock (1983), Style Wars (1982), Wild Style (1982), Flashdance (1983), The David Letterman Show (1983), and Beat Street (1982). As a recording artist with RSC Ken received gold and silver records for the single Hey You, The Rock Steady Crew (Virgin/Charisma, 1984). The album, “Ready for Battle,” which included two dance videos, reached out to a larger Pop audience worldwide and brought about tours to Europe and Asia, disseminating Breaking to a world audience for the first time.

In 1996, Ken co-authored, co-directed, co-choreographed and performed Off-Broadway’s first Hip Hop musical Jam On The Groove.  One hundred performances led to a Drama Desk Award nomination for Best Choreography in the 1995-1996 seasons. For these achievements, Ken and Ghettoriginal Productions Dance Company received a Bessie Award for choreography. In 1999, Hip Hop Culture was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for which Ken was asked to produce an installation. His career led him to open the Ken Swift School of Hip Hop Fundamentals at Breaklife Studios in Brooklyn in 2005. Ken has judged dance championships all over the world in countries such as France, Switzerland, Sweden, China, South Africa, Finland, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela, Norway, Germany, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Russia, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the throughout the U.S.

Ken started VII Gems as a dance company in 1996, a company dedicated to the preservation of the New York City traditional dances Breaking and Rocking. He directed and choreographed the first ever Rock Dance theater piece entitled “Rockin It” that toured 8 cities through out the UK in May of 2009, sponsored by the Breaking Convention, a Sadler Wells Project. The company consists of members who average over 30 years of dance experience, authentic pioneer dancers from the early years of these dances. The company is involved in numerous dance classes, lectures, demonstrations, performances, panels, film screenings, competitions, and workshops throughout the world.

Due to Ken’s contributions as a pioneer of Bboy Culture, he’s received two Lifetime Achievement Awards, one from The Mighty IV, a nationally renowned annual Breaking event in North California, and a Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him at Amherst College. In 2007, Ken received an Appreciation Award from Seoul Arts College as well as a Hall of Fame Living Legend Award from the Korean Tourism Agency, which declared him as an Honorary Ambassador of Korea and positive influence on youth cultures worldwide. In 2008, he received Award of Recognition at the Coffey Park Old School Reunion. In 2009, Ken was awarded a Zulu Nation Achievement Award at Take 1 in Belgium, as well as an Appreciation Award from Encountras las Ruas at the Joinville Dance Festival in Brazil. More recently, in 2010, the Ultimate Bboy Championship in Las Vegas presented Ken with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his preservation and dedication to Bboy culture. Also in 2010, Ken was acknowledged as an “American Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts and received an American Masterpieces in Dance Award to reconstruct his choreography with olive Dance Theatre in a show entitled “Swift Solos: The Re-Construction of Ken Swift’s 20th Century Breakin’,” which toured 5 cities in the United States throughout 2010.

In 2011, Ken Swift was voted the 2nd Most Influential Dancer of the 20th Century by CNN’s Icon series; he was the only Bboy to receive this honor amongst mostly ballet dancers. Ken is currently the Program Director for BEAT BREAKERS, a non-profit organization that teaches Breaking Fundamentals in after-school programs at multiple schools in NYC. Most recently in 2012-14 he was named a Scholar-Artist-In-Residence with the Hip Hop Education Center at NYU's Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. Ken continues to travel the world as a Hip Hop Bboy educator and historian.

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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Department of Dance
121 Arts Building

Tel: (951) 827-3944
Fax: (951) 827-4651

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