Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones, who grew up dancing in a grim public housing project in Chicago and became a street dance pioneer in the 1980s and one of his first celebrities after appearing in the film hit “Breakin ‘,” died Dec. 29 at his Los Angeles home. He was 65 years old.
His manager, Robert Bryant, confirmed the death but said the cause had not yet been determined.
In 1984, street dancing was a form of urban art little known to many Americans, but the release of “Breakin ‘,” starring Mr. Quiñones as a Los Angeles break dancer named Ozone, helped change that.
Ozone, who wears red Chuck Taylor sneakers and a brimmed hat, spends her days doing flashy moves in Venice Beach with her partner, Turbo (Michael Chambers). A classically trained dancer named Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), captivated by their style, joins their troupe. Her stern (and practical) teacher disapproves of street dancing, so she flees her school. The three take part in a prestigious dance competition, and against all odds, they win (of course).
The film, produced for less than $ 2 million (the equivalent of around $ 5 million today), was a surprise hit, grossing over $ 35 million at the box office in 16 weeks. A sequel, “Breakin ‘2: Electric Boogaloo,” was released a few months later. Mr. Quiñones quickly became a star of street dancing.
“Ultimately people will realize that this is a valid art form, on the same level as jazz or ballet,” he told Newsweek in 1984. “And it’s a dance that Americans should be proud.
Throughout the 1980s, Mr. Quiñones’ dance appeared on the pop culture landscape. He starred in the video for “I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan, and he was the choreographer and lead dancer of “Who’s That Girl?” From Madonna. world tour in 1987. He also choreographed (and appeared in) the music video for “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie and advised Michael Jackson on the music video for “Bad”. Us Weekly called him the “Bob Fosse of the Streets”.
“Shabba-Doo was an absolute dance legend in Los Angeles,” rapper Ice-T, who appeared on “Breakin ‘” and its sequel, said in a statement to the New York Times. “We are throwing this word everywhere. But no one can say that he invented a whole style of dancing.
In the 1970s, even before Breakin ‘, Mr. Quiñones made his mark on the dance world.
He danced as a teenager on “Soul Train” with an influential ensemble called the Lockers. This group, which also included Don Campbell, Toni Basil and Fred Berry, rose to prominence for their development of the “lockdown” technique, characterized by rhythmic and icy dance moves. Together they appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”.
After leaving the group in 1976, Mr. Quiñones appeared on Broadway with Bette Midler in “Bette! Divine Madness ”and helped counsel dancers in the 1980 film“ Xanadu ”. In the 1980s, cultural interest in hip-hop dance was growing, in part thanks to films like “Wild Style” and “Beat Street”; when “Breakin ‘” came out in 1984, Mr. Quiñones rode the groundswell.
“We were real street dancers,” he told the Black Hollywood File blog in 2008, reflecting on the film’s success. “We weren’t something that was made by Hollywood.”
“Hip-hop may have a multicultural face, but let’s not be fooled because it comes from our people,” he added. “It came from blacks, Africans, Puerto Ricans and all that too. Just like blues and jazz. But now it’s the world.
Adolfo Gutierrez Quiñones was born on May 11, 1955 in Chicago and raised in Cabrini-Green social housing projects with four siblings. His father, Adolfo, was born in Puerto Rico and became a salesman and worker. His mother, Ruth (McDaniel) Quiñones, was an accountant whose family moved from Mississippi to Chicago during the Great Migration. The cityscape of his childhood was harsh and his older brother protected him from the gangs at the resort, but he found solace in dancing.
As a boy he would do jumps while his mother played Tito Puente records and cooked rice and beans. He loved watching musicals on television and was fascinated by the footwork of Fred Astaire, Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers. At family gatherings, he tried his movements.
“My mom was throwing me in there like a fighting chicken,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1987. “Go dance for mom,” she would say. And they gave me a little cup of wine to get me going. This is how it all started.
In the 1970s, his family moved to the Los Angeles area. He started dancing in clubs around Crenshaw Boulevard and in venues like Radiotron near MacArthur Park. The culture of break-dancing flourished in these establishments, and there he fought every night with rivals on the dance floor. He began to call himself Sir Lance-a-Lock, which later became Shabba-Dabba-Do-Bop, which was eventually abbreviated as Shabba-Doo.
The sequel to “Breakin ‘,” in which the original trio attempt to stop the demolition of a community center, was not as successful as the original, but it did little to diminish M’s rising star. Quiñones. He started to drive a Jaguar. He bought a house. Fans have been waiting in his driveway with boomboxes in hopes that he will emerge.
“They say, ‘Get out, Shabba-Doo,’ he told the Los Angeles Times in 1984. ‘And I go out and dance like I’m crazy. I’m over there with my socks on saying, ‘No, no, do it like this.’ “
In the 1990s he starred in the dance film “Lambada” and studied at the American Film Institute. He also lived briefly in Tokyo, where he ran a dance studio. In 2006, he appeared in the Three 6 Mafia performance of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” on the Oscars telecast.
Mr. Quiñones is survived by his mother; one son, Vashawn Quiñones; one daughter, Cassini Quiñones; one sister, Fawn Quiñones; two half-brothers, Eric Vaughn Smith and Philip Smith; a half-sister, Giana Beaudry; and three grandchildren. His marriages with Gwendolyn Powell and actor Lela Rochon ended in divorce.
For the past decade, Mr. Quiñones has worked as a private dance teacher in Los Angeles, teaching techniques he developed with names such as “shway style” and “waackin ‘”. He became a Jehovah’s Witness, and in 2019 he finished writing a memoir, “The King of Crenshaw,” which chronicled his childhood in the Chicago projects and his rise to glory.
He also saw street dancing enter a modern era.
The “Step Up” film franchise, which debuted in 2006, grossed more than $ 600 million, and last year the International Olympic Committee announced that breaking would be introduced as a competitive sport in 2024.
Mr. Quiñones was happy to see a style he had helped create reach new heights, but he was critical of what he saw as the increasingly technical and athletic nature of modern hip-hop dance.
“Enough with dancing on Hummers and bungee cords from buildings and things like that!” he told pop culture website Icon Vs. Icon in 2014. “I think dancing is strong enough to hold its place and we don’t need all of this trickery.”
He called the “Step Up” movies “cotton candy versions” derived from “Breakin ‘,” adding, “I want a fair and accurate portrayal of the life of a street dancer.”
And while he was comforted by the news about the Olympics, he told Yahoo Life that he was concerned the roots of his art form were being forgotten.
“Street dancing is a personal journey for most of us,” he says. “How are you going to get these judges to judge this?”