Hip hop dance: Wikis


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Hip-Hop Dance
A b-boy performing in a cipher in Turkey.
A b-boy performing in a cipher in Turkey.
Main Styles
Breaking: Nonspecific Toprock – Downrock – Freezes – Power Moves
Don Campbell
(Ro)boting (predecessor)
Sam Solomon
Waving- LiquidStrobing – Animation – TuttingGliding – Ticking – Vibrating – Twist o Flex – Snaking
Cultural Origins
African AmericansLatino AmericansSouth BronxNew York CityBrooklynFresnoComptonCaliforniaUnited StatesHip-hop cultureUprockFunk musicHip-hop musicTurntables
KrumpingTecktonikJerkin' – Jazz Funk – Studio/New StyleTurfingMemphis Jookin'Lyrical hip-hop – Flexing/Mutation

Hip-hop dance refers to social or choreographed dance styles primarily danced to hip-hop music or that have evolved as part of hip-hop culture. This includes a wide range of styles notably breaking, locking, and popping which were developed in the 1970s by Black Americans. What separates hip-hop dance from other forms of dance is that it is often freestyle (improvizational) in nature and hip-hop dancers frequently engage in battles—formal or informal freestyle dance competitions. Informal freestyle sessions and battles are usually performed in a cipher, a circular dance space that forms naturally once the dancing begins. These three elements—freestyling, battles, and ciphers—are key components of hip-hop dance.

More than 30 years old, hip-hop dance became widely known after the first professional breaking, locking, and popping crews formed in the 1970s. The most influential groups are the The Lockers, the Rock Steady Crew, and the Electric Boogaloos who are responsible for the spread of locking, breaking, and popping respectively. Parallel with the evolution of hip-hop music, hip-hop dancing evolved from breaking and the funk styles into different forms: moves such as the "running man" and the "cabbage patch" hit the mainstream and became fad dances. The dance industry in particular responded with studio/commercial hip-hop, sometimes called new style or L.A. style, and jazz funk. These styles were developed by technically trained dancers who wanted to create choreography for hip-hop music from the hip-hop dances they saw being performed on the street. Because of this development, hip-hop dance is now practiced at both studios and outside spaces.

Internationally, hip-hop dance has had a particularly strong influence in France and South Korea. France is the birthplace of Tecktonik, a style of house dance from Paris that borrows heavily from popping and breaking. France is also the home of Juste Debout, an international hip-hop dance competition. South Korea is home to the international breaking competition R16 which is sponsored by the government and broadcast every year live on Korean television. The country consistently produces such skillful b-boys that the South Korean government has designated the Gamblerz and Rivers b-boy crews official ambassadors of Korean culture.[1]

To some, hip-hop dance may only be a form of entertainment or a hobby. To others it has become a lifestyle: a way to be active in physical fitness or competitive dance and a way to make a living by dancing professionally.



Birth of breaking

The purest hip-hop dance style, breaking, began in the early 1970s as elaborations on how James Brown danced on TV.[2][3][4][5] People mimicked these moves in their living rooms, in hallways, and at parties. It is at these parties that breaking flourished and came into its own with the help of a young Clive Campbell. Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, was a Jamaican American DJ who frequently spun records at neighborhood teenage parties in the Bronx. In Can't Stop Won't Stop, a novel about the history of hip-hop culture, the author Jeff Chang describes DJ Kool Herc's eureka moment in this way:

"I was smoking cigarettes and I was waiting for the records to finish. And I noticed people was waiting for certain parts of the record." It was an insight as profound as Ruddy Redwood's dub discovery. The moment when the dancers really got wild was in a song's short instrumental break, when the band would drop out and the rhythm section would get elemental. Forget melody, chorus, songs—it was all about the groove, building it, keeping it going. Like a string theorist, Herc zeroed in on the fundamental vibrating loop at the heart of the record, the break... "And once they heard that, that was it, wasn't no turning back. They always wanted to hear breaks after breaks after breaks after breaks."[6]

In response to this revelation, Herc developed the Merry-Go-Round technique to extend the breaks—the percussion interludes or instrumental solos within a longer work of music.[6] When he played a recorded break on one turntable, he repeated the break on the second turntable as soon as the first was finished. He then looped these records one after the other in order to extend the break as long as he wanted. It was during these times that the dancers later known as break-boys or b-boys would perform what is known as breaking.

Breaking, the original hip-hop dance style, at MTV Street Festival, Thailand.

Breaking started out strictly as toprock,[7] footwork oriented dance moves performed while standing up. Toprock usually serves as the opening to a breaker's performance before transitioning into other dance moves performed on the floor. A separate dance style that influenced toprock is uprock (also called Brooklyn uprock or rocking). The uprock dance style has its roots in gangs.[8][9] Uprock comes from Brooklyn, New York.[10] Although it looks similar to toprock, it is more aggressive involving fancy footwork, shuffles, hitting motions, and movements that mimic fighting.[7][11] When there was an issue over turf the two warlords of the feuding gangs would uprock. Whoever won this preliminary battle decided where the real fight would be.[8][11] This is where the battle mentality in hip-hop dance comes from.[12] Because uprock's purpose was to moderate gang violence, it never crossed over into mainstream breaking as seen today except for some very specific moves adopted by breakers who use it as a variation for their toprock.[9]

From toprock, breaking progressed to being more floor oriented involving head spins, windmills, and swipes.[13][note 1] These new dance moves came about with the formation of crews—groups of street dancers who get together and create dance routines. As crews are formed by a group of friends, relationships within a crew are familial. Members are not apart of a union, nor are there a series of auditions. Unless the crew is well-established there usually isn't a studio to practice in either: rehearsal generally happens in homes and on the street.

"We didn't know what the f--- no capoeira was, man. We were in the ghetto! There were no dance schools, nothing. If there was a dance it was tap and jazz and ballet. I only saw one dance in my life in the ghetto during that time, and it was on Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx and it was a ballet school. Our immediate influence in b-boying was James Brown, point blank."
—Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón;
Rock Steady Crew[8]

Rock Steady Crew (RSC) is the most famous breaking crew in the world.[11] Along with Afrika Bambaataa's Mighty Zulu Kings they are also one of the oldest continually active.[note 2] RSC was founded in 1977 in the Bronx.[17] For others to get into the crew they had to battle one of the Rock Steady b-boys[17]—that was their audition so to speak. The crew flourished once it came under the leadership of Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón. Crazy Legs opened a Manhattan chapter of the crew and later made his friends and fellow b-boys Wayne "Frosty Freeze" Frost and Kenneth "Ken Swift" Gabbert co-vice presidents.[17][note 3] Rock Steady appeared in the movies Wild Style and Beat Street—'80s films about hip-hop culture. They also performed at the Ritz, at the Kennedy Center, and appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.[17] RSC is now worldwide with member units in Japan, the UK, and Italy.[19]

It is easy to arrive at the conclusion that breaking came from the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, "a form of self defense disguised as a dance."[3] Capoeira is hundreds of years older than breaking, uprock is similar in purpose to capoeira, and both breaking and capoeira are performed to music. However, considering how there were no capoeira films or capoeira schools in the South Bronx in the '70s, it is unlikely breaking would have been birthed from it.[3] One major difference between both art forms is that in capoeira a competitor's back can never touch the ground.[20] In contrast, a breaker's back is always on the ground. With the South Bronx being a disenfranchised African American and Puerto Rican American community[11] the young innovators at the time had no frame of reference to draw from.

Funk Styles and the California renaissance

As breaking was developing and evolving in New York, other styles of dance were developing at the same time in California.[21] Unlike breaking, the funk styles—which originated in the '70s in California—were not originally hip-hop dance styles: they were danced to funk music rather than hip-hop music and they were not associated with the other cultural pillars of hip-hop (DJing, graffiti writing, and MCing).[21][22] The funk styles are actually slightly older than breaking considering that (ro)boting (a predecessor to locking) was performed in the late 1960s.

Like breaking, the different moves within the funk styles came about with the formation of crews. The Lockers were founded in Los Angeles by Don "Campbellock" Campbell who created locking.[23] They began as all black males but later women and Latinos were added to make up for the complaints of the lack of racial diversity. One of these additions included choreographer Toni Basil who served as their manager. The Electric Boogaloos are another funk styles crew founded in Fresno by Sam "Boogaloo" Solomon. Boogaloo Sam is credited for developing popping and electric boogaloo.[21] Popping got its name because when Boogaloo Sam was performing it, he would say "pop, pop, pop" under his breath as he was popping his muscles to the music.[24][25] Electric boogaloo is a combination of boogaloo—a dance style characterized by rolling hip, knee, and head movements—and popping. Sometimes it is mistakenly called electric boogie. The bugalú dance was created in New York City by Cubans and Puerto Ricans and danced to mambo, soul, and R&B music.[26] Therefore calling it "electric boogie" leaves out the original essence of where the dance came from. Electric boogaloo lost popularity after the '70s but it is still a respected dance form. It is the signature dance style of the Electric Boogaloos (the crew).[24] Members of the Electric Boogaloos are still active traveling and teaching dance classes. Timothy "Popin Pete" Solomon and Steffan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente are both faculty members at Monsters of Hip Hop dance convention.[27]

Though breaking and the funk styles are different stylistically they have always shared many surrounding elements such as their improvizational nature and the way they originated from the streets within Black and Latino communities. The funk styles were integrated into hip-hop in the 1980s when the culture reached the west coast of the United States.

Ever since hip-hop culture was embraced by the west coast, California has remained a hot bed of activity consistently producing regional dance styles. In the '70s while Fresno was known for popping and Los Angeles for locking, Oakland was known for a style called struttin.[3] The associated struttin' crews did not have as much staying power as the Electric Boogaloos or The Lockers. Thus, struttin' faded and never became mainstream. The new millennium gave rise to a new Oakland dance style called turfing, a fusion of miming and gliding that places heavy emphasis on storytelling (through movement) and illusion. Other than Bay Area pride, turfing has maintained its endurance due to local dance competitions and local youth programs that promote the dance as a form of physical activity.[28] On the heels of its exposure there's another style rising out of L.A. called jerkin'. What separates this style from others is that the dancers who jerk typically wear skinny jeans.[29] This is similar to locking dancers in the '70s who traditionally wore black and white striped shirts and socks.[25][note 4] Although established locally, both turfing and jerkin' have not managed to break out of their own regions the way krumping has.

"Expression is a must in krump because krump is expression. You have to let people feel what you're doing. You can't just come and get krump and your krump has no purpose."
—Robert "Phoolish" Jones;
Krump Kings[30]

Krumping came about in the late '90s within the African American communities of Compton, CA.[31] It was only seen and practiced in the Los Angeles metro area until it gained mainstream exposure by being featured in several music videos[32] and showcased in the krumping documentary Rize. Clowning (not to be confused with the clown walk), the less aggressive predecessor to krumping, was created in 1992 by Tommy the Clown.[32] Tommy and his dancers would paint their faces and perform clowning for children at birthday parties or for the general public at other functions as a form of entertainment.[32] In contrast, krumping focuses on highly energetic battles and movements which Tommy describes as intense, fast-paced, and sharp. "If movement were words, [krumping] would be a poetry slam."[31]

Compared to the funk styles, turfing, jerkin', and krumping are relatively new. The cultural similarities between these street dance styles, the funk styles, and breaking have brought them together under the same subculture of hip-hop which has helped to keep them alive and evolving today.

Naming debates

Breakdancing vs. Breaking/B-boying

The 1970s media applied the term "breakdancing" to what was called breaking or b-boying in the street.[33][34][35] A break is a musical interlude during a song—the section on a musical recording where the percussive rhythms are most aggressive and hard driving. When 1970s hip-hop DJs played break beats, dancers reacted to those breaks with their most impressive dance moves.[3][34][36] DJ Kool Herc coined the terms "b-boys" and "b-girls" which stands for "break-boys" and "break-girls."[34]

Breaking/B-boying vs. Funk Styles

When the movies Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo came out, they put all the styles of dance performed under the "breakdance" label causing a naming confusion domestically. In addition Breakin was released internationally as Breakdance: The Movie causing a naming confusion abroad.[37] The media followed suit by calling all represented styles "breakdancing".[3][24][33] Breaking originated in the Bronx while the funk styles came from the west coast during the funk era.[22] They are called funk styles because they were originally danced to funk music rather than hip-hop music.

Worldwide exposure

Hip-hop dance is now practiced worldwide. There were many steps in its history for it to come to the international acceptance it has today.

Year Contributor Event
1970 Don Cornelius Cornelius creates and executive produces Soul Train—the song-and-dance television program featuring R&B, funk music, soul music, and social dancing.[38] Soul Train was broadcast in South Korea via the U.S. Armed Forces Korea Network.[1] Before officially becoming a group, The Lockers made several appearances on this show.[39]
1973 Don Campbell The Lockers, originally called The Campbellockers, are founded in Los Angeles by Don Campbell.[25]
1974 The Jackson 5 The Jackson 5 performs "Dancing Machine" on Soul Train popularizing (ro)boting.[40]
1977 Sam "Boogaloo" Solomon The Electric Boogaloos are founded in Fresno, California by Sam Solomon.[25][41] Their name was originally the Electric Boogaloo Lockers but "Lockers" was dropped the following year.[25][42] The Electric Boogaloos also appeared on Soul Train.[22]
Jamie "Jimmy D" White;
Santiago "Jo Jo" Torres
The Rock Steady Crew is founded in New York City by b-boys Jimmy D and Jo Jo.[19]
1982 Ruza "Kool Lady" Blue Manager Kool Lady Blue organizes the New York City Rap Tour featuring Rock Steady Crew, Afrika Bambaataa, Cold Crush Brothers, the Double Dutch Girls, and Fab 5 Freddy.[43] This tour travels to England and France.[43][44]
Rock Steady Crew Wild Style opens in Japan.[44] Rock Steady Crew b-boys from the film perform breaking in Harajuku shopping district in Tokyo.[45]
1983 Michael Jackson Jackson performs the moonwalk (called the backslide in popping context) on ABC's Motown 25 TV special. This performance is broadcast all over the world.[46][note 5]
Rock Steady Crew;
Norman Scott
Flashdance is released and becomes the first Hollywood film to feature b-boying[44] with a young Crazy Legs serving as a body double for Jennifer Beals' character Alex.[11] Crazy Legs, Frosty Freeze, Ken Swift, and Norman Scott (popper) all danced in this film that contributed to the exposure of hip-hop dance upon international release.
Rock Steady Crew RSC performs for the Queen of England at the Royal Variety Performance.[11][19]
1984 Breakin films Although Breakin' and its successor Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo caused a naming confusion, it did contribute to the exposure of popping, breaking, locking, and electric boogaloo upon international release. Dancers featured include Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers, Adolpho "Shabba Doo" Quinones, Timothy "Popin Pete" Solomon, and Bruno "Popin Taco" Falcon.
New York City Breakers;
Rock Steady Crew
Beat Street a film about hip-hop culture is released in West Germany introducing breaking, graffiti writing, and DJing to this part of Europe.[47] The film features a battle between the Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers.
1985 Tony "Go Go" Lewis Tony Go-Go, one of the original members of The Lockers, opens a locking school in Japan.[note 6][23]
1990 Thomas Hergenröther Hergenröther organizes Battle of the Year, the first and largest international breaking competition, in Germany.[48][49]
1994 Asia One The first international B-Boy Summit is held.[50] It was founded by b-girl Asia One.[51]
2005 Rize This krumping documentary directed by David LaChapelle premieres at the Sundance film festival and is later screened internationally.[52] Pioneers of krumping Ceasare "Tight Eyez" Willis, Christopher "Lil' C" Toler, Marquisa "Miss Prissy" Gardner, and the inventor of clowning Tommy "The Hip-Hop Clown" Johnson all appear in this film.[53]
2007 University of East London UEL's Institute for Performing Arts (IPAD) starts intake for the only BA Dance degree program in the world specializing in hip-hop, urban, and global dance forms.[54]

Television, film, music videos, international performances, dance classes offered abroad, and now the Internet have contributed to the spread of hip-hop dance across the the world. Although these styles first appeared on their own independent of each other they are all now accepted within the bigger hip-hop dance schema.

Main styles

This list gives a general overview of the main hip-hop dance styles: breaking, locking, and popping. Theses styles are the oldest and most established of all the hip-hop dances. They have achieved worldwide notability, are durably archived on film, and are the most commonly exercised in international competitive hip-hop dancing.

A b-boy in an airchair freeze at Street Summit 2006 in Moscow.


Breaking was created in the Bronx, New York during the early 1970s. While Black Americans are responsible for creating breaking it was the Latinos that kept the momentum of breaking alive when it was considered "played out" in the late '70s.[55][14] It was Afrika Bambaataa that classified breaking as one of the five pillars of hip-hop culture along with MCing, DJing, graffiti writing, and knowledge.[56][57][58][59] Due to this status it is considered the purest form of hip-hop dance. Breaking includes four foundational dances: toprock, footwork oriented steps performed while standing up; downrock, footwork performed on the floor using the hands to support your weight;[note 7] freezes, stylish poses done on your hands;[note 8] and power moves, difficult and impressive acrobatic moves.[note 9] In breaking, a variation to the traditional cipher is the Apache line. Ciphers work well for one-on-one b-boy battles; however, Apache lines are more appropriate when it is crew versus crew. In contrast to a cipher, opposing crews can face each other in this line formation and execute their burns. In 1981 the Lincoln Center in New York City hosted a breaking battle between the Rock Steady Crew and The Dynamic Rockers.[44] "This event, which was covered by the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Daily News, National Geographic, and local news stations helped b-boying gain the world’s attention."[61]


Locking, originally called Campbellocking, was created in Los Angeles by Don Campbell and introduced to the country by his crew The Lockers. Modern locking looks similar to popping and thus frequently gets confused with popping. In locking a dancer holds their positions longer. The lock is the primary move used in locking. It is similar to a freeze or a sudden pause. A locker's dancing is characterized by consistently locking in place and after a quick pause moving again.[25] It is incorrect to call locking pop-locking.[25][42] Popping and locking are two distinct funk styles with their own histories, their own set of dance moves, and their own competition categories. A dancer can do one or the other but not both at the same time. It was only after seeing The Lockers perform on TV that a young Boogaloo Sam was inspired to create popping and electric boogaloo.[24] The Lockers were composed of a prior smaller group of lockers and robot dancers.[23][61] Other than Don Campbell, some of the original members were Fred "Mr. Pinguin" Berry (Rerun on the 1970s TV sitcom What's Happening!!), James "Skeeter Rabbit" Higgins, Adolpho "Shabba Doo" Quinones, Tony "Go Go" Lewis, Charles "Robot" Washington, and Toni Basil—the group's manager.[23] In honor of her instrumental role in giving locking commercial exposure, Basil was honored at the 2009 World Hip Hop Dance Championships as the first female recipient of the Living Legend Award.[62]


A popper dancing at Solntsevo industrial building in Moscow.

Popping was created by Sam Solomon in Fresno, California and performed by his crew the Electric Boogaloos. It is based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancer's body, referred to as a pop or a hit. Each hit should be synchronized to the rhythm and beats of the music. Popping is also used as an umbrella term to refer to a wide range of 10+ other closely related illusionary dance styles such as strobing, liquid,[22] animation, and waving that are often integrated with standard popping to create a more varied performance. In all of these sub-genres it appears to the spectator that the body is popping hence the name. The difference between each genre is how exaggerated the popping is. In liquid the body movements look like water. The popping is so smooth that the movements do not look like popping at all; they look fluid.[22] The opposite of this is ticking in which the movements are static, sudden, and jerky.[63]

Popping—as an umbrella term—also includes gliding, floating, and sliding[22][note 10] which are lower body dances done with the legs and feet. When done correctly a dancer looks like they are gliding across the floor as if on ice.[note 11] Opposite from gliding is tutting which is an upper body dance that uses the arms, hands, and wrists to form right angles and make geometric box-like shapes. Sometimes the arms are not used at all and tutting is only done with the wrists, hands, and fingers. In both variations, the movements are intricate and always use 90° angles. When done correctly tutting looks like the characters on the art of ancient Egypt hence the name—a reference to King Tut.

"While Sam was creating popping and [electric] boogaloo, others were creating and practicing unique styles of their own. Back in the day many different areas in the west coast were known for their own distinct styles, each with their own rich history behind them. Some of these areas included Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco."
—The Electric Boogaloos[24]

While popping as an umbrella term is popularly used by hip-hop dancers and in competitive hip-hop dancing, Popin' Pete of the Electric Boogaloos disagrees with the use of the word "popping" in this way. He states "There are people who wave and there are people who tut. They’re not popping. I say this to give the people who created other styles their just dues and their props."[25] Many of these related styles (animation, strobing, tutting, etc.) can not be traced to a specific person or group. The Electric Boogaloos themselves acknowledge this (see quote box). Other styles may have influences earlier than hip-hop. Earl "Snake Hips" Tucker was a professional dancer in the 1920s who appeared in the film Symphony in Black and performed at the Cotton Club in Harlem.[61][64] Because hip-hop did not exist in the '20s his style was considered jazz but his "slithering, writhing" movement foreshadowed modern waving and sliding[65] (see external link videos).

International competitions

There are several international hip-hop dance competitions. Most of these competitions have regional tournaments limited to a specific country or continent. These tournaments not only offer crews or soloists a regional title but also serve as qualifying rounds for the final international championship.

  • Battle of the Year (BOTY) was started in Germany in 1990. It is exclusively a breaking competition for crews. There are several BOTY regional competitions that lead up to the final international championship that is always held in Braunschweig, Germany. BOTY was featured in the independent film Planet B-Boy that documented the story of five crews training for the 2005 championship.
  • B-Boy Summit is an international four day conference created in 1994 in San Diego, CA.[50][66] The conference includes a breaking competition, panels, workshops, and a marketplace. The difference between the B-Boy Summit and other hip-hop dance competitions is that the B-Boy Summit places a lot of emphasis on the history of hip-hop culture and the value of b-boys/b-girls across the world understanding the roots of where it came from.[50] For this reason the conference brings together rappers and DJs for a talent showcase and graffiti artists to do live paintings so that "each element of Hip-Hop combine[s] together to make the cipher complete."[50] There's also competitions for lockers and poppers as part of the "Funk Fest" portion of the conference and a Battle of the Sexes Super Jam. The B-Boy Summit is the only international competition that does not have regional tournaments.
  • UK B-Boy Championships was started in 1996 in London. There are four world championship titles: breaking crew champions, solo b-boy champion, solo popping champion, and locking 2-on-2 champions.[67] Contrary to what the name may imply, this competition is not exclusive to the British. It's called the UK B-Boy Championships because the international final is always held in the UK. The world finals also include the "Fresh Awards" (best dressed) which are hosted and judged every year by Crazy Legs.[68]
  • Freestyle Session is a U.S. based competition for b-boy crews started in 1997.[69] Although not as publicized, freestyle session also includes popping and locking competitions.[70]
A screenshot from The Notorious IBE 2009 trailer showing a b-boy performing within an Apache line surrounded by one of IBE's large multilevel ciphers.
  • The Notorious IBE is a Dutch based international breaking competition founded in 1998.[71] IBE is a non-traditional competition because there are no stages and no judges. Instead, there are timed competitive events that take place in large arena-style ciphers—circular dance spaces surrounded by observers—where the winners are determined by audience approval.[71] There are several kinds of events such as the b-girl crew battle, the Seven 2 Smoke battle (8 top ranked b-boys battle each other to decide the overall winner), the All vs. All continental battle (all the American b-boys vs. all the European b-boys vs. the Asian b-boys vs. Mexican/Brazilian b-boys), and the Circle Prinz IBE (International Breakdance Event).[71] The Circle Prinz IBE is a b-boy knockout tournament that takes place in multiple smaller cipher battles until the last standing b-boy is crowned.[71] IBE also host the European tournament for the UK B-Boy Championships.
  • United Dance Organization: World Street Dance Championships is a hip-hop dance competition based in the UK. People can compete as solo dancers, in duos, in quads (4 people), or in teams.[72] UDO also host the European Street Dance Championships and the USA Street Dance Championships.
  • Juste Debout is a street dance competition held annually in Paris, France.[73] Competition categories include popping, new style (studio/commercial hip-hop dance), locking, house, and experimental. Breaking is not included to put more focus on hip-hop dance styles done while standing up, hence the name (French for "Just Upright"). There are no group or team trophies at Juste Debout. The experimental category is only for solo dancers; popping, new style, locking, and house are for duos.[73] Juste Debout also publishes a free bimonthly hip-hop dance magazine of the same name.[74]
  • Hip Hop International: World Hip Hop Dance Championships is a hip-hop dance competition based in the US where both crews and soloist compete.[75] For hip-hop crews there are three divisions: junior (ages 7–12), varsity (12–18), and adult. Each crew must have five to eight people and must perform a routine that showcases three styles of hip-hop dance. Solo dancers compete in locking and popping. Crews compete in breaking also but the breaking category is only for adults. For the 2009 competition there were 120 crews representing 30 countries.[75] HHI also runs the USA Hip Hop Championships.
  • Red Bull BC One brings together the top 16 b-boys from around the world that are chosen by an international panel of experts.[76] It was created in 2004 by Red Bull and, like Freestyle Session, is hosted in a different country every year.[76] Past BC One participants include Ronnie Abaldonado from Super Cr3w, Menno "The Seagull" Van Gorp from Mighty Zulu Kings, and Mauro "Cico" Peruzzi (pronounced CHEE-co).[note 12]
  • R16 Korea is a South Korean based breaking competition started in 2007 by Asian Americans Charlie Shin and John Jay Chon.[1] Like BOTY and Red Bull BC One put together, R16 is a competition for the top 16 ranked b-boy crews in the world.[79] What sets it apart from other competitions is that it's sponsored by the government and broadcast live on Korean television and in several countries in Europe.[1] The competition also host the Korean tournament for the UK B-Boy Championships.[80]


Hip-hop novelty and fad dances are popularized dance moves rather than dance styles that are often performed at parties. Many of these fad dances were created by musical artists such as MC Hammer, who created the Hammer dance, and Digital Underground, who created the Humpty dance.[81] The Hammer dance and the Humpty dance were nationally known dance moves that became wildly popular and then faded as the song they were associated with lost popularity. Other examples include the running man, Harlem shake, soulja boy, aunt jackie, crip walk, the shoulder lean, and the snap dance.

Tecktonik is a style of dance combining vogue, breaking (toprock), and popping (waving) that started at the Metropolis nightclubs in Paris, France.[82] Like hip-hop dance, it is associated with urban youth and tecktonik dancers do engage in battles both on the street and in the clubs[82] but due to its music and club origins, this style is more appropriate under the house dance category.

Aside from the party scene, hip-hop dance has established itself on the Internet through social networking. Websites such as DanceJam and West Coast Poppin were created specifically for dancers to create profiles and interact. West Coast Poppin is focused toward poppers and lockers while DanceJam is inclusive of all hip-hop dance styles. Dance Jam was founded by Geoffrey Arone, Anthony Young, and MC Hammer in 2008.[83] Their website hosts online dance battles and posts online tutorials on how to do popular hip-hop dance moves.

Dance crews

As stated earlier, a dance crew is a group of street dancers who get together and create dance routines. As hip-hop culture spread throughout New York, the more breaking crews got together to practice and battle with each other. It was during this time that the different dance moves within breaking would develop organically.[84][note 13] The same can be said about different dance moves within the funk styles and – in the '90s – with krumping. Being a part of a crew was the only way to learn when these styles began. Forming and participating in a dance crew is how you practiced, improved, made friends, and built relationships. In the beginning, crews were neighborhood-based and would engage in battles in their respective cities. Today, crews can battle in organized competitions with other crews from around the country and around the world.

Crews still form based on friendships and neighborhoods (ex: Diversity). They also form for a variety of other reasons such as theme (Jabbawockeez), gender (Beat Freaks), ethnicity (Kaba Modern & Quest), and dance style (Krump Kings). Crews are not exclusive. It is common for dancers to be involved in more than one crew, especially if one particular group is style specific (popping-only for example) and a dancer wants to stay well-rounded.[note 14] Furthermore, dance crews are not just formed within the hip-hop context anymore. The FootworKINGz is a dance crew that performs footwork, a style of house dance, and Fanny Pak does contemporary.

Dance industry

"Street dancing was never ever ever to a count. You do not count a 1,a 2,a 3,a 4, a 5, a 6 to hip hop. It should be a feeling by making noise like "ou" "ah" "aw" "tsi", that's how we count, right there."
—Timothy "Popin Pete" Solomon;
The Electric Booglaoos[35]

The dance industry responded to hip-hop dance by creating a more commercial version of it. This "studio hip-hop", sometimes called new style or L.A. style is seen in most rap and R&B music videos and concerts. From the point of view of someone deeply immersed in hip-hop culture, anything that looks like hip-hop dance that did not come from the streets is not a true hip-hop dance form. In an interview with Dance magazine, hip-hop dance teacher Emilio "Buddha Stretch" Austin, Jr explains how he sees it:

"There are a lot of jazz dancers out there doing pseudo hip hop. A lot of teachers don't know the history, they're just teaching the steps. They're learning from videos, but they don't know the culture. If all you see is Britney Spears, you think that's hip hop, but that's never been hip hop. It's completely watered down. And studios could [sic] care less, because hip hop is one of their biggest moneymakers."[86]

Many people echo this sentiment, as stage performance can restrict the free flowing process of improvization which defined hip-hop dance early in its development.[3][87] Also meshing different dance styles together dissolves their structures and identities.[3]

From a technical aspect, hip-hop dance (new style) is characterized as hard-hitting involving flexibility and isolations—moving a certain body part independently from others.[88] The feet are grounded, the chest is down, and the body is kept loose so that a dancer can easily alternate between hitting the beat or riding through the beat. This is in contrast to ballet or ballroom dancing where the chest is upright and the body is stiff. In addition, new style hip-hop is very rhythmic and emphasis is placed on musicality—how sensitive your movements are to the music—and being able to freestyle.

Another style the dance industry created was jazz funk. Jazz funk (also called street jazz) is a hybrid of hip-hop and jazz dance.[22] This style is used by artists like Beyoncé.[22] Although it borrows from hip-hop dance, it is not considered a style of hip-hop because the foundational movements are jazz. In hip-hop – even in lyrical hip-hop – there are no pirouettes or arabesques and you do not dance on releve’ (on the balls of the feet). However, these methods are used in jazz funk and in jazz dance in general.[22] Dance studios responded to these new styles by hiring technically trained dancers and offering hip-hop (new style) and jazz funk dance classes. Large scale studios around the world that teach hip-hop and jazz funk dance classes include Millennium (LA),[note 15] Boogiezone (LA),[note 16] Edge Performing Arts Center (LA), Debbie Reynolds (LA), Broadway Dance Center (New York), Pineapple Studios (London), Sunshine Studios (Manchester), The Vibe – The International Hip Hop Dance Center (Oslo, Norway), DREAM Dance Studio (Canada), and Ones to Watch (Japan & Hong Kong).

Other developments in the industry came about in response to the growing popularity of hip-hop dance. On the traveling convention circuit there were tap, ballet, and jazz dance conventions but there were none specifically for hip-hop. The same void also translated to dancewear. There was dancewear for tap, ballet, and jazz dancers but none for hip-hop dancers. Monsters of Hip Hop and Nappytabs dancewear were formed to cater to both needs. Monsters of Hip Hop is the first all hip-hop dance convention. It was founded in 2003 in Baltimore by Andy Funk, his wife Becky, and her sister Angie Servant.[89] The convention now travels to multiple US cities and to Mexico.[90] Its faculty roster includes Dave Scott, Teresa Espinosa, and Marty Kudelka among others. Nappytabs is the first line of dancewear made specifically for hip-hop dancers.[91] Because Nappytabs is made for the urban dance community they do not sell leotards/unitards, tights, or leg warmers. Their line consist of tanks, b-ball shorts, t-shirts, sweats, and hoodies. They are currently endorsed by Beat Freaks—the runner-up on season three of America's Best Dance Crew.[92]

Lyrical hip-hop

Lyrical hip-hop is a fluid and more interpretive version of new style hip-hop most often danced to downtempo rap music or R&B music. It focuses more on choreography and performance and less on freestyles and battles. Lyrical hip-hop first gained mainstream exposure, and its name, on season 4 of the reality dance competition So You Think You Can Dance.[93] The actual term has been credited to Adam Shankman, a choreographer and judge on the program, who made a comment in reference to a routine choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo to Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love".[93]

"The great thing about this show is that we've really explored a totally new thing which is lyrical hip-hop and [Tabitha and Napoleon] nail it. This show has shown that hip-hop is just a completely legitimate beautiful genre in and of its own and you can tell such beautiful and heart breaking stories."
—Adam Shankman [94]

Due to Shankman's comment and their subsequent work on seasons 4 and 5, Tabitha and Napoleon are often credited with developing this style.[95][96][97][98][99][100] According to Dance Spirit magazine what differentiates lyrical hip-hop from standard new style hip-hop is that dancers interpret the beat differently.

What makes lyrical hip hop unique is that your dance movements have to tell a story to the lyrics of a song. Expect isolations (especially of the chest), slow, fluid movements (like gliding and body waves) and contemporary-inspired turns (but not pirouettes). There’s popping, but not the hard-hitting kind. Dancers are meant to look like they’re unwinding, unraveling and floating.[93]

Some hip-hop purists feel the interpretive and softer style means it is not hip-hop at all.[93] Others, such as hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks, feel that it is hip-hop but not different enough for it to be in its own genre.[93] Out of all the sub genres of hip-hop dance, lyrical hip-hop is the newest. Although Tabitha and Napoleon are known for this style, other choreographers have created lyrical hip-hop pieces on sister So You Think You Can Dance versions in Poland,[101] Norway,[102] and the UK.[103][104]


Breaking started becoming a form of entertainment shortly after its birth in the '70s. The first hip-hop films Wild Style and Beat Street were made in the early '80s. Wild Style was the first movie centered around hip-hop culture; however, Flashdance was the first Hollywood film to feature breaking.[note 17] The movies Breakin and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo, also released in the '80s, introduced the funk styles to the big screen. The new millennium produced The Freshest Kids, Honey, You Got Served, Step Up 2: The Streets, How She Move, B-girl, and Planet B-Boy. Rize, The Heart of Krump, and Shake City 101, also released after the new millennium, are documentaries about krumping and the street dancers who developed it. These movies/documentaries are all examples of films where the plot and theme surround hip-hop dance and how it affects the characters' lives.

The JabbaWockeez, winners of the first season of America's Best Dance Crew.

Hip-hop dance later moved from cinemas to the television. Early dance shows include MTV's The Grind, Dance Fever, Dance 360, and The Wade Robson Project. America's Best Dance Crew (ABDC) is a reality hip-hop dance competition on MTV created by Howard and Karen Schwartz, founders of Hip Hop International the organization that runs the USA and World Hip Hop Dance Championships.[75] On the show different crews from across the country compete in dance challenges and battle against each other each week. ABDC has contributed to the exposure of Jabbawockeez, Quest, Kaba Modern, Beat Freaks, Super Cr3w, and SoReal Cru. These crews now have official websites, make club appearances, perform in different locations/competitions, and appear as guests on news programs.

The reality dance competition So You Think You Can Dance encourages dancers from all backgrounds, including hip-hop, to compete. It has a similar premise to the American Idol series of singing competitions, with nationwide auditions leading to the discovery of the next big star. "Bringing these styles together in a competition that also features ballroom, ballet, and jazz helps to legitimize hip-hop dance as a serious form of expression."[57] In 2008 poppers Robert "Mr. Fantastic" Muraine and Phillip "Pacman" Chbeeb auditioned during season four. Neither made it to the final "top 20", but the judges were so impressed with their dancing that both were invited back to participate in a popping battle against each other on the show's live finale.[105] Dancing to Kanye West's Stronger Muraine impressed the judges with his fluid mime and contortionist style while Chbeeb responded with quick transformer-like moves. According to Muraine this was the first popping battle that was nationally televised.[105] After the battle Joshua Allen, a hip-hop dancer, was declared the winner of season four of the competition.[106] The same year Mona-Jeanette Berntsen, a hip-hop dancer from Norway, was crowned the winner of the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Scandinavia.[107]

Though hip-hop dancing has managed to establish itself on film and television, it has not gained the same momentum in theater. Two of the earliest hip-hop stage shows were 1991's off Broadway musical So! What Happens Now? and 1995's Jam on the Groove both performed by the Rock Steady Crew, Magnificent Force, and the Rhythm Technicians.[17][108][109] Aside from the pioneers in New York was Rennie Harris' Puremovement hip-hop theater company founded in 1992 in Philadelphia.[110] The company is still active and has toured all over the world showcasing its original works such as March of the Antmen, P-Funk, Endangered Species, Facing Mekka, and Rome & Jewels.[111]


Today hip-hop dance is recognized by dancers and trainers alike as an alternate form of exercise. Hip Hop International, the organization that runs the USA and the World Hip Hop Dance Championships, was founded as a subsidiary of Sports Fitness International.[112][note 18] According to Lance Armstrong's health and fitness website LiveStrong.com, hip-hop dancing is particularly helpful in building abdominal muscle:

Many of the hip-hop movements isolate the abs, so this area really gets a good muscle-sculpting workout. There is a great deal of hip rolling, waist and pelvic rolling and popping in hip hop and all of these work the abs. The hip-hop "popping" is a technique that is a quick punch on the emphasis of a beat, many times danced in a combination with arm movements and the abdominal area being "popped" in the same count sequence. Doing these popping movements in repetition is an excellent abdominal workout.[113]

In the mid '90s MTV's The Grind premiered. It was a television program that showcased social hip-hop dancing to rap, R&B, and house music. Due to the show's popularity MTV released two The Grind Workout videos hosted by Eric Neis with assistance from choreographer Tina Landon (Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin).[114][115] In the early 2000s Nike launched an international campaign promoting dance as sport and enlisted the help of choreographer and creative director Jamie King (Madonna) to developed the Nike Rockstar Workout for use in gyms worldwide.[116] He later released a companion workout book and DVD titled Rock Your Body.[116] Other choreographers have used fitness as a platform to promote hip-hop dance as a way to stay in shape. Titles include Darrin's Dance Grooves Vol. 1 – 2, Groovin' with the Groovaloos Vol. 1 – 3, and Breakin' It Down with Laurie Ann Gibson.


  1. ^ Crazy Legs invented the continuous back spin better know as the windmill.[14][11]
  2. ^ The Mighty Zulu Kings (MZK) were founded by Afrika Bambaataa in 1973—the same year he founded the Universal Zulu Nation.[15] Three of their members are Asia One, founder of the B-Boy Summit; Nacho Pop, choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance Australia; and Luis "Alien Ness" Martinez, MZK's president.[16]
  3. ^ Wayne "Frosty Freeze" Frost passed away on April 3, 2008.[18] He invented the suicide,[18] a move in which a dancer does a front flip and lands on their back.
  4. ^ A signature dance move in jerkin' is the rejectthe running man done in reverse/backwards.
  5. ^ Although Michael Jackson is responsible for popularizing the moonwalk, he did not invent it.
  6. ^ Former locking world champions Hilty and Bosch are Japanese (see external link videos).
  7. ^ Twins Keith and Kevin Smith are credited with developing downrock.[11][34]
  8. ^ Robbie Rob from Mighty Zulu Kings invented the chair freeze.[60]
  9. ^ Head spins, back spins, flares, jackhammers, swipes, and windmills are all examples of power moves.
  10. ^ The moonwalk is an example of sliding.
  11. ^ Two regional sub styles that developed out of gliding are jookin' (also called Buckin)[22] from Memphis, TN and turfing from Oakland, CA.
  12. ^ Cico holds the world record in 1990s. A 1990 is a move in which a breaker spins continuously on one hand—a hand spin as opposed to a head spin. Cico broke the record by spinning 27 times.[77][78]
  13. ^ Crazy Legs invented both the windmill and 1990 b-boy moves by accident.[14]
  14. ^ Steffan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente is a member of both the Rock Steady Crew and the Electric Boogaloos.[85]
  15. ^ Out of Millennium's 21 faculty members, 18 are hip-hop or jazz funk dance teachers.
  16. ^ Boogiezone is actually an online dance community akin to Facebook but for the dance world. There are profiles of both unsigned/unrepresented dancers and crews as well as industry professionals (dancers, club promoters, studios, etc.). Boogiezone.com provides downloadable dance classes and also runs the Boogiezone University, a series of dance conventions, workshops, dance camps, master classes and one-on-one private lessons.
  17. ^ Wild Style was produced in New York and independently released.[44]
  18. ^ Howard Shultz, the president of Hip Hop International, is also the president of Sports Fitness International.[112]


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  • Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin's Press., 2005. ISBN 0-312-30143-X
  • Kugelberg, Johan. Born in the Bronx. New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0-7893-1540-3
  • Wisner, Heather. "From Street to Studio: Hip Hop Comes Inside." Dance Magazine 80.9 (2006): 74–76. ISSN 00116009

External links

, often considered the original hip hop dance style, performed at MTV Street Festval, Thailand.]]

Hip hop dance refers to dance styles, mainly street dance styles, primarily danced to hip hop music, or that have evolved as a part of the hip hop culture. Hip hop dance can be seen as part of the hip hop culture in the US. By its widest definition, it can include a wide range of styles such as breaking, popping, locking, house dance and even electro dance. "Cowboy" of The Furious Five is credited with coining the term "hip hop"[1]. It can also include the many styles simply labelled as hip hop, old school hip hop (or hype), hip hop new style and freestyle. However, "hip hop" and "dance" should properly be distinguished separately, as was stated by legendary "hip hopper" Ice Cube, "Gangsters don't dance, we boogie.".


History and classification

The dance style primarily associated with hip hop is breaking, which appeared in New York City during the early 1970s and came to be popularly classified as one of the four primary "elements" of hip-hop (along with rapping, DJing, and graffiti). Funk styles, such as popping and locking, evolved separately in California in the 1960-70s, but were also integrated into hip hop when the culture reached the West Coast of the United States.

Though breaking and the original funk styles look quite different stylistically, they share many surrounding elements, such as their improvisational nature, the music they are danced to and the way they originated from the streets, mainly within African American and Hispanic communities. These similarities helped bring them, and other street dance styles, together under the same sub-culture, and help to keep them alive and evolving today. Yet, this has not been without problems, often involving the media, such as when the movie Breakin' put all various styles under the label "breakdance", causing a great naming confusion that spawned many heated debates.

In the late 1980s, as hip hop music took whole new forms and the hip hop subculture established further, new dance styles began appearing. Most of them were danced in an upright manner in contrast to breaking with its many ground moves, and were in the beginning light-footed with lots of jumping. Some moves hit the mainstream and became fad dances, such as The Running Man, but overall they contributed a lot to later hip hop styles, and heavily influenced the development of house dancing.

During the 1990s and 2000s, parallel with the evolution of hip hop music, hip hop dancing evolved into heavier and more aggressive forms. While breaking continued to be popular on its own, these newer styles were danced upright, and draw much inspiration from earlier upright styles. Classifying these newer hip hop styles as a unique dance style of its own has grown common with larger street dance competitions such as Juste Debout, which includes hip hop new style as a separate category for people to compete in. Today, we see many specific styles that first appeared on their own, such as krumping and clown walking, now being danced and accepted within hip hop new style contexts.

All hip hop styles from the 1980s and beyond are sometimes collectively called new school while the distinct styles from the 1960-70s, such as breaking, uprocking, locking and popping, are considered old school. However, this classification is controversial, and often old school hip hop (or, in some areas, hype) is used solely for the late 1980s upright and jumpy hip hop styles, excluding locking, popping and breaking, and new style hip hop for the heavier hip hop styles of today. Hip hop and break dance soon became popular among Asia. Today hip hop is well known all over the world and despite cultural differences among the hip hop dancers they all follow the same moves.

Lyrical Hip Hop

Lyrical hip hop first gained mainstream exposure, and a name, on season 4 of the reality dance competition So You Think You Can Dance.[2] The actual term has been credited to Adam Shankman, a choreographer and judge on the program, who made a comment in reference to a routine choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo.[2]

"The great thing about this show is that we've really explored a totally new thing which is lyrical hip hop and [Tabitha and Napoleon] nail it. This show has shown that hip hop is just a completely legitimate beautiful genre in and of its own and you can tell such beautiful and heart breaking stories."[3]

Due to Shankman's comment and their subsequent work on seasons 4 and 5, Tabitha and Napoleon are often credited with developing this style.[2][4][5][6] Some hip hop purists feel the interpretive and softer style means it isn't hip hop at all. Others, such as hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks, feel that it is hip hop but the style isn't different enough for it to be in its own genre.[2]


There are many hip hop dance competitions around the world today, some allowing all styles to enter while others focus on more specific styles.

The World Hip Hop Championships in America is a large international competition for hip hop dance featuring the worlds most recognised dance crews and nations. Battle of the Year, the UK Bboy Championships and Juste Debout remain the choice for specific forms.

Juste Debout is a large, international and annual street dance competition held in Paris, which includes hip hop new style, popping, locking, house, and experimental as competition categories. Breaking is not included to put more focus on the upright hip hop and street dance styles.

Vertifight is a street dance competition also held in Paris, which includes electro, milky-way, breakdance, hardstyle tecktonik and sometimes vogue dancing.

The International Dance Organization (IDO) holds many competitions every year. The most important of them are the European Street dance Championships (which were held in Espoo, Finland in 2006 and in Graz, Austria in 2007) and the World Championships which are held in Bremen, Germany each year.

In the UK Hip Hop Crew Championships is a recognised event, and so are others such as the Gforce Productions StreetDance Weekend and JumpOff.

Dance Studios around the world famous for their hip hop dancing include Millenium, Boogiezone(LA), Debbie Reynolds (LA), Broadway Centre (New York), Pinapple Studios (London), Sunshine Studios (Manchester), The Vibe - The Internatinal Hiphop Dance Center (Oslo, Norway) DREAM Dance Studio (Canada), and Ones to Watch (Japan & Hong Kong). In these studios you will find choreographers and dancers who have worked with many of the entertainment industries biggest stars.


  1. '’JET magazine”, Johnson Publishing Company, April 2007pp.36-37
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Levinson, Lauren. (May/June 2009), "Lyrical Hip Hop'". Dance Spirit. 13 (5):48-50 (accessed 2009-04-25)
  3. "The Top 16 Perform". So You Think You Can Dance (FOX). June 25, 2008. http://www.fox.com/dance. No. 10, season 4. 
  4. Cheng, Peter. "Lovers of Hip Hop" Gloss Magazine. Accessed 2009-04-04
  5. "Lyrical Hip Hop Takes Center Stage" The Expressionist. June 25, 2008. Accessed 2008-04-12.
  6. Catalina Walsh (producer). (June 2, 2009). SYTYCD Season 5 - Tabitha & Napoleon. Los Angeles: Tribune Interactive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBImOb7Xs_Y&feature=fvsr. 

External links

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