Duce Martinez, p/k/a “Deuce,” joined the Dynamic Rockers around 1981, and later he was a part of the Dynamic Breakers – one of the most prolific b-boy crews out of NYC in the ’80s. The Dynamic Breakers toured overseas, won The Big Break Dance Contest in ’83, performed in numerous music videos and commercials and even released two records of their own on Sunnyview Records. Duce considers being a part of the national Fresh Fest tours with Fat Boys, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC and others to be one of the highlights for him and the crew. Here, as part of the run-up to our screening of The Big Break Contest tonight, Thursday, March 28th (buy tickets, HERE), we asked Duce to reflect on some of his experiences as a member of his world famous b-boy crew.
Bottom of picture – Spyder / Middle row Left – Duce / Middle row Right – Airborn / Top Left – Kano / Top Right – Flip
How did you get down with Dynamic Rockers?
Duce Martinez: Actually, it was through a cousin of mine. His name is Reuben and he introduced me to the guys. I’m originally from Spanish Harlem but I moved to Flushing, Queens in the late ’70s. I always used to go to Skatetown U.S.A. where my cousin would be dancing on roller-skates. I used to always see them break dance there.
The founder [of the Dynamic Rockers'] name is Glyde. Later him, Spider and Airborne started recruiting b-boys from around their neighborhood in Jamaica, Queens. They all used to go to the same school. As for myself, I started dancing even before I got with the Dynamic Rockers. I got with them a little bit later, maybe a year or two after it was founded. When I moved from Flushing, Queens to Newark, NJ, I was already down with Dynamic. I was going to school in New Jersey and traveling all the way to Queens to practice for 4 -5 hours at the time. It was really intense.
How did the Dynamic Breakers crew evolve out of the Dynamic Rockers?
Duce Martinez: Dynamic Rockers must have had at least 20 members and it became a little difficult and very expensive when traveling. We decided to take the top 5 b-boys and create the Dynamic Breakers. The Dynamic Rockers continued doing what they were doing. We took off in a different direction and escalated to something different. We were always in contact with them though. We are family and, you know, family never breaks up.
Who were the five b-boys that became Dynamic Breakers?
Duce Martinez: It was Spider, Flip, Kano, Airborne and myself, Duce Martinez. Later on we decided to incorporate a good friend of mine by the name of Tiny and another person named Felix. He was actually third degree black belt and we used to dance with his swords and all types of stuff. We loved to have different variety of entertainment in our crew.
Can you describe each of the original five member’s style?
Duce Martinez: Spider speaks for himself. He used to dance, do wind mills and stuff, and suddenly he looked like a spider. Airborne was an acrobat. He would do back flips and like his name says he was air born and flew all over the place. Kano and Flip, they used to be a double-team [and do routines together]. They were also gymnasts. Everyone brought something different to the table. I was the head spin specialist. No one in the group did head spins. I was the craziest head spinner you can ever imagine. I remember one time, I was battling someone and I said, “Okay, you want to mess with me?” I decided to take my pants off and moon the guy while spinning upside down. [laughs]
I’m very proud to say that I’m one of the originators in this movement because if it weren’t for us, Dynamic Rockers, The Breakers, New York City Breakers and Rock Steady Crew, the new generation wouldn’t know what break dancing was.
What’s your memory of The Big Break Dance Contest?
Duce Martinez: We really trained hard for that competition because we knew that there was going to be so many strong competitors. We trained hard and we came up with some new ideas [for routines]. Even our outfits were totally different from everybody else’s. We wanted to stand out and we wanted to make sure that everybody looked at us said, “These guys are on to something.” It was always about entertainment for us.
And what’s your memory of the actual night of the competition?
Duce Martinez: It definitely put all of us on the map. We did get a lot work from it. It was amazing being there and watching all the great talent that came through. The competition was really intense and watching my family and our managers’ faces when we won is one of my biggest memories from that night.
By winning the contest you were supposed to appear in Harry Belafonte’s classic movie Beat Street. What happened?
Duce Martinez: We decided to go on an international tour. They started filming and we didn’t make it back in time for the movie. They decided to replace us with Rock Steady Crew and New York City Breakers.
I heard that there were some differences between your managers and the film’s producers.
Duce Martinez: I wouldn’t know because of the fact that I was a lot younger [than everybody else]. I kind of stayed away from a lot of the things that were going on [behind the scenes]. I was 15-years-old. I was a happy youngster going to Italy and London, just traveling. A lot of the stuff that happened in-house, I really didn’t pay too much mind. I really didn’t know much [about that sort of stuff].
The Dynamic Breakers were signed to a management company named Breakdance International. How did that work?
Duce Martinez: We had three managers. They were already managing Dynamic Rockers [before we signed with them as Dynamic Breakers]. [The people behind the company] was Court Hamilton, Larita Rock and Terry Noel. They ran the company as an entertainment company and it was doing well. They had us and they also had the Dynamic Dolls, which was group that was all girls. Brenda K. Starr [and Kim-A-Kazi] were members of the Dynamic Dolls.
What was it like to be touring and going overseas to perform at 15 or 16-years-old?
Duce Martinez: It was a crazy experience! We were really like superstars. I remember at one point we were walking down a side street in Sardinia in Italy and all of sudden there was a mob of kids running after us. We ended up doing a show right in the middle of the street with the cops holding everybody back. They were really captivated by what we were doing. Not too many 16-year-olds get to experience anything like that. We were really blessed to be at the right place at the right time.
What was the end of the Dynamic Breakers?
Duce Martinez: It faded away, maybe around ‘87 or ‘88. Some of us had children (by then). I was a father at a very young age and I [felt that I] needed to step up my game. I didn’t want to be one of those dads that had the wife take care of the kids so I decided to be a father. The dance starting to fade away but we learned how to adapt to the situation.
Since the demise of the Dynamic Breakers, Duce Martinez has become a DJ with a busy schedule. You can find more info on his gigs and whereabouts on his Facebook page.