The Story of Hip-Hop Dance

By | April 7, 2021

The Beginning of Hip Hop Music

According to Jorge Pabon’s article, ‘Physical Graffiti,’ hip hop culture began in the 1970s in New York City, but it was not the name as such until the 1980s. Hip-hop music arose when a mixer named Kool DJ Herc took two identical records and played one behind the other on two turntables. In this way he extended the break (the part of the song where all sounds fall apart except the drums) and dancers who moved to this rhythmic part of the song became known as ‘break dancers’. DJ Herc started calling them ‘b-boys’ and ‘b-girls’, ‘b’ stood for break.

Early Break Dancing

B-boys and b-girls from New York started dancing in a form called uprocking or top rocking, where the movement was done upright, with the dancer standing on his feet. Pabon writes that the best rocking has many influences: knocking, lindy jumping, James Brown, various African and Native American dances and martial arts films.

Brooklyn Uprocking

Brooklyn Uprocking, popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, featured two opponents who engaged in a series of steps, jerks and weapon miming, called a ‘war dance’. Soon, dance staff began competing in war dances. According to Pabon, a successful dancer had the fastest movement and best jumps, drops and freezes, but can also use humor to lose his opponent. Jerking became the highlight of Brooklyn Uprocking, and it continues to be a popular style today.

Break Dancing Moves to the Floor

From the beginning, break dancing had a very competitive character. To practice other dancers, some extended their movements to the ground with ‘footwork’ and ‘freezing’. According to Pabon, this consisted of fine leg movements on the ground, with the body supported by the arms, which was also called ‘floor swinging’. Over time, the movements became more sophisticated, difficult and dynamic as dancers tried to brag to each other. ‘Freeze’ movements, during which the dancer stops all movement briefly, were often used to mock or humiliate the opponent in a challenge. In 1977, he formed a group of b-boys from the Bronx Rock Steady Crew, who are still a strong force in hip hop today. In the early 1980s, break dancers began to make ‘spins’, such as pen, butt and wind mask. This gave way to what is called power and acrobatics.

West Coast Hip-Hop

During the 1970s, the west coast was also involved in a new cultural movement called funk. In Los Angeles, Don Campbell started a dance phenomenon called ‘locking’, which combined ‘sharp, linear extremities and elastic-like movement’, according to Pabon. Campbell’s group, Lockers, appeared on TV series such as the Johnny Carson Show, and the style became hugely popular.

Electric Boogaloo

In 1976, the group called Electric Boogaloo Lockers Fresno, California was formed. Some of their inspirations were Chubby Checker and James Brown. Their style included isolated sharp angles, hip rotations and the use of all parts of the body. A member of the group, Timothy Solomon, started the style called ‘popping’. ‘According to Pabon, popping was a term that describes sudden muscle contractions that accentuated the dancer’s movement and caused a rapid, jolting effect. Since its inception, many other forms of dance have evolved. Pantomime elements were soon combined with dance, and some combined the two styles into ‘pop-locking’. Other cities in Central California created their own original dance forms, and they have all contributed to the mixed hip-hop style we see today.

Hip-Hop Fusion

East Coast and West Coast dance styles were fused by the media in the 1980s because of the music that was common between them. But, as Pabon writes, each dance form had a different musical influence, dress code and terminology. Today, ‘hip-hop’ is an umbrella term for all of these styles, and some choreographers mix them together, while some artists specialize in a particular form. In the early 1980s, music videos by artists such as Rod Stewart and films such as ‘Flashdance’ featured hip-hop dancers, which helped bring the style from the streets to the mainstream media. In the 1990s, hip hop dance spread all over the world, with dance crews as far away as Japan. Since 2000, as hip-hop culture has taken the world by storm, hip-hop dance has been accepted as a great choreography style. Hip-hop dance began as a movement in the streets and clubs as a reaction to a new style of music, but within 20 years it had taken the dance world by storm. Today, most regular dance schools teach hip hop courses along with ballet and crane. But even now, the original b-boys, who learned on the streets, can not be surpassed in style and technique.