The words “hip hop” can mean lots of different things to lots of different people. If you started asking around, some of the answers you might hear would include a type of music, a type of dance, a cultural movement, and a way of life. And in truth, all of them would be 100% correct. But no matter what “hip hop” means to you, it is undeniably a powerful and significant aspect of American popular culture and has been since the early 1970s.

In today’s blog from Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial, we’ll take a look at the aspect of hip hop that we know best — hip hop dance. However, we’re not just going to focus on the style. We will also take a look at the social movement and history of where this incredible and intoxicating variety of dance styles blossomed.

If you’re interested in starting to learn hip hop dance, visit our dance class registration page online and find the class that’s right for you.

The Social Scene That Gave Birth To A Movement

Hip hop was born in the 1970s in the black urban communities of Harlem, Queens, Baltimore, and Chicago. Although a distinct culture movement was also emerging on the West Coast in cities like Los Angeles and Oakland, most people agree that the primary influences of hip hop culture seeded on the East Coast first.

Hip hop culture centered on a few different aspects of importance in the black communities of these major cities, including dance, music, community gatherings, sports, and political protest. Each of these was represented in the movement through break dancing, early hip hop music and the “boom box,” MCing and DJing events, basketball, and the rise of graffiti as a politically charged art form, respectively.

By and large, the hip hop movement was a black movement created to empower, define, and project black-American culture within a larger social context where the black community was largely disenfranchised, marginalized, and economically disadvantaged. 

Hip Hop Coast To Coast

Different styles of dance that would eventually meld together and become known under the broader term of hip hop dance developed distinctly in different pockets around the United States, but just like hip hop music, were primarily distinguished between the East and West Coast movements.

East Coast Hip Hop

East Coast hip hop evolved in alleys and street corners where young black men and women spent their time, oftentimes to escape crowded project housing where privacy and individual expression were stifled.

The style of dance that is known as “B-Boying,” or more commonly as break dancing, was born in cities like New York and Chicago. It involved powerful, aggressive movements, jumps, and ground-based acrobatic and balancing stunts, and was often performed on top of a piece of cardboard laid on the sidewalk or blacktop.

There were no hip hop dance classes and early dancers prided themselves on the originality of their steps, stunts, and moves — a tradition or originality that runs deep in the hip hop dance psyche even today.

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West Coast Hip Hop

West Coast hip hop evolved through the hybridization of Latin influences, soul, rock n roll, and the new hip hop music before taking on more distinct forms. Along the West Coast, Boogaloo, a style of Latin and African combined dances focused on rolling hip motions, hinging, and fluidity.

Pioneers like Tommy the Clown and Don Campbell helped new styles evolve and planted the seed for a growing West Coast dance movement that today is often referred to as “popping” and “locking.”

Recognized Styles of Hip Hop

There many different subgenres of hip hop dance — far too many to cover in an article like this, as a matter of fact. But below, we will cover the primary influencers, long-standing styles, and emerging forms in a little detail. These are styles of hip hop dance that will be taught and referred to in almost any hip hop dance class setting, given enough time.

  1. B-Boying/Break Dancing – As we mentioned above, break dancing, performed by b-boys and b-girls, was an East Coast movement that focused on balance, spins, power moves, and was typically only performed for a portion of a song during a musical interlude.
  2. Boogaloo – Boogaloo is a hybrid form of Latin and African dance that stays largely isolated to the lower body and uses sweeping, fluid motions in time with the beat.
  3. Popping – Boogaloo Sam developed the style of popping in the early 1970s. Popping took the same rolling, fluid motions from boogaloo dance and applied it to the entire body and runs along with the counter-tempo of a song.
  4. Locking – Don “Campbellock” Campbell founded the dance group known as The 70s Lockers. Locking consists of more sharp, short, and exaggerated gestures that are often described as being “robotic.”
  5. Krumping – Krumping evolved from Clown dancing, later known as C-walking, and was heavily influenced by Tommy the Hip Hop Clown. A part performer who used dance and James Brown-esque foot movements, Tommy the Clown positively influenced urban children who later adopted the style for their own. Krumping involves staccato, aggressive movements, exaggerated facial expressions, and the “burn” elements of up rock dance.
  6. Up Rock – Up rock dance is a battle-style of dance that consists primarily of drops, jerks, and burns, a series of sharp, on the beat, explosive movements that are meant to challenge and impress an opponent. Unlike other forms of hip hop dance, up rock is based entirely in competitive dance and strictly adheres to a formation known as the “Apache Line” — as opposed to circling around competing dancers.
  7. Stepping – Stepping is a form of uniform, synchronized group hip hop that features stomping, clapping, and highly technically hand and arm sequences.
  8. Funk – Funk dancing is a highly choreographed form of hip hop that borrows more from the soul and rock aspects of music and movement that many other forms of hip hop.
  9. Reggae – Like funk dancing, reggae dancing combines an established music influence with a choreographed form of hybrid hip hop dancing.

Get Started With a Hip Hop Class At Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial

If you want to learn hip hop dance, join one of the many hip hop dance classes offered at Mercury Academy of Dance in Centennial today.