Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones, a Chicago native whose high-energy break-dancing was showcased in the two “Breakin’ ” films of the 1980s, has died at 65.
Singer-dancer Toni Basil, his former teammate in the Lockers street-dance crew, posted on her Facebook page, “It is with extreme sadness the Lockers family announces the unexpected passing of our beloved Adolfo Shabba-doo Quiñones. In this difficult time we are requesting privacy.”
Quiñones grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing development, where he learned to invent his own aggressive but fluid dance moves.
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“I’m self-taught, and therefore everything I do is what feels right to me,” Quiñones told the Sun-Times in 1990. “Trained dancers may have a difficult time figuring out why I do things the way I do. But for me, my style has worked. It’s the only way for me.”
He attended Robert A. Waller and Edwin G. Cooley high schools and, with his sister Fawn, was a dancer on TV’s “Soul Train,” both in Chicago and at the show’s later home in Los Angeles. In California, he helped found the Lockers along with Basil (singer of the pop hit “Mickey”), Don “Campbellock” Campbell, Fred Berry (of TV’s “What’s Happening”) and others.
As break-dancing became a national phenomenon, he showed off his moves as a dancer in the video for Chaka Khan’s 1984 cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You,” a top 10 pop hit, and in “Breakin’,” a surprise box-office sensation. The sequel was made quickly enough to debut later that year.
The two films marked the first big-screen appearances of rapper and actor Ice-T, who on Wednesday tweeted a montage of Quiñones’ dance routines and wrote, “I just lost ANOTHER close friend,” calling Quiñones an “LA dance legend.”
Quiñones went on to a busy career as a dancer and actor, appearing in films including “Tango & Cash” (1989) and “Lambada” (1990). “I’m happiest when I’m busiest,” he said in the 1990 interview. “I live to work. That’s why I’m in this business. If I expected everything to be easy, I’d get a job at Disneyland and just dance down Main Street as Mickey.”
Quiñones also branched out into choreography, dancing in and creating the steps for Lionel Richie’s smash video “All Night Long” and collaborating with Michael Jackson on several projects including “Bad.”
“Shabba-Doo was a genius and innovator who put body and soul into his dance and choreography,” Jackson’s estate said in a statement, adding that the pop music superstar “loved and admired him greatly.”
Quiñones also choreographed and danced in Madonna’s 1987 world tour.
“Without dancing or music, the world would be dead,” he told the Sun-Times that year. “We might as well paint everything gray. The planet would be a big prison. It would be Riverview without the roller coaster. Terrible!”