KEN SWIFT BIOGRAPHY

Ken Swift is one of the greatest influences the dance of Bboying (otherwise known as 

 

Breaking or Breakdancing) has known. Considered “The Epitome of a Bboy”, Bboys and 

 

Girls worldwide have emulated his image and style throughout the years. Ken is credited 

 

with establishing movements critical to the dances’ foundation with his personal style and 

 

techniques. He is a true pioneer recognized worldwide for his continued contributions 

 

throughout the last 36 years of promoting, performing, educating and preserving the art 

 

form. He continues to be a driving force in its 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, brought 

 

about tours to Europe and Asia, bringing 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 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 whom 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 B Boy Culture, he’s received several 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 2009, Ken was awarded a Zulu Nation 

 

Achievement Award at the "Take 1" event in Belgium, as well as an Appreciation Award 

 

from Encountras las Ruas at the Joinville Dance Festival in Brazil. Kens' travels brought 

 

him back to the United States in 2010. While judging at "The Ultimate Bboy 

 

Championship" in Las Vegas Ken was presented 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 Art’s 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 B.Boy to receive this honor amongst mostly ballet dancers. In France in 2012, Afrika 

 

Bambaataa along with Le CACDU and Zulu Nation France, honored Ken with an 

 

Ambassador of Hip Hop Culture award on the 30th Anniversary of Hip Hop Culture. 

 

Ken directed and wrote curriculum for BEAT BREAKERS, a non-profit organization that 

 

teaches Breaking dance Fundamentals in after school programs at multiple schools in The 

 

Bronx, NY. In June 2013, as part of Sadler Wells' "Breaking Convention Festival" at NY's 

 

Apollo Theater, Ken was honored for his contributions to the dance of Breaking which 

 

included an exclusive short dance piece entitled "Chill Town New York". Ken is currently 

 

a Scholar is Residence at New York University's Hip Hop Education Center and is 

 

completing his first book entitled, "The Art of Breaking"

 

ABOUT KEN SWIFT

Photo by Martha Cooper

© 2014 by Breaklife. No bboys were harmed in the making of this site.

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