Three Des Moines Breakers dancers breakdancing on stage

Breaking Down the State Fair

by Bryon Houlgrave

On the day following the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Tammra Swartwood commemorated the milestone by leading her dance team onto a large stage at the Iowa State Fair and showcasing a style of dance perhaps unique to some fair attendees. 


The Des Moines Breakerz breakdancing company lit up the MidAmerican Energy Stage in front of a big crowd, some of whom were wearing t-shirts bearing the face of country and western musicians. Though the styles were different, the country fans stayed for the entire 45-minute performance and applauded after each showcase. 

“Today is a very special day,” Swartwood told the state fair crowd between sets. “We get to bring this showcase to you today.”

Swartwood, the owner and director of the Des Moines Breakerz, opened the studio a year ago in the Highland Park area of Des Moines to help metro youth build up their confidence and self-esteem. 

The group is a non-profit organization that teaches all styles of breakdancing.

According to a statement on their website, the dance company “strives to inspire confidence in youth, promote physical and mental health, facilitate creative expression, and provide a passionate outlet for the community.”

The Des Moines Breakerz, with several skilled instructors, provides classes for all ages and follows the four major elements of hip-hop (deejaying, rapping, graffiti, and breakdancing). 

With Des Moines’ own deejay DJ Marty McFly spinning the records, dancers stepped into the center of the MidAmerican Energy stage and began twisting and contorting their bodies to the beat. The cheers from the crowd, as well as encouragement from their fellow teammates, fed their drive to keep performing. 

“We put a lot of hard work into this the past few weeks,” Swartwood said.

If you want to catch the Des Moines Breakerz next performance, head over to the Valley Junction Farmers Market in West Des Moines next Thursday, Aug. 17. For their complete schedule, or to learn more about joining or donating, visit them online