Hip Hop culture originated in New York amongst young Hispanic and African American communities during the late 1960’s. Synonymous with rap, scratch music and graffiti art, the style encompasses the movements of break-dancing and body-popping, and has been internationally recognized since the 1970’s.
The 1980’s saw the emergence of a new style of hip hop into rap videos, distinguished from original break dancing styles by its concentration on footwork as opposed to acrobatics. Hereafter, the emergence of house music saw hip hop re-invent itself again with a broader range of influences and freer expression.
Old School / New School, General History
The Old School Hip Hop Styles such as Locking, Popping and Break dancing or B-boying emerged from the USA in the 1970’s, and were a result of improvisational steps and moves from the streets and clubs. Old-school music had fast beats which matched the breaking moves.
Music videos of artists such as Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe, Heavy D, and M.C. Hammer proved that a new way of dance was coming alive and young dancers were ready to explore this new form. New moves were and are continually being invented by creative and innovative versions and mixing of the Old School Styles. Current trends, cultures and disciplines such as Martial Arts, Reggae and Soul Train also had an effect and resulted in New School Hip Hop styles evolving in the late 1980’s. Moves were very simple with steps such as Running man, Roger Rabbit, and Robocop were popular in this era. These were moves that everybody could do unlike the Old School Styles. However, new school dance in present time is much more evolved and complex. Many dancers have ‘twisted’ popping or electric boogie and put in their own moves.
Today, Funk and Hip Hop have many individualized styles but the roots are still in Old School Hip Hop and in New School Hip Hop. The blending of music styles and dance moves influenced by many factors which are then personalized by a choreographer, makes it impossible to define Funk and Hip Hop styles unambiguously.
General – Locking & Popping
Both locking and popping, or ticking, originally came from Los Angeles. Popping was created by street dance crew Electric Boogaloo. Locking was created by The Lockers. Both locking and popping existed a long time before breaking was born. During the breaking era, b-boys started to put popping and locking into their dance. Nowadays, so-called “Breakdance” consists of breaking, locking, and electric boogie or popping.
Locking (originally Campbellocking) can be traced back to the late 1960’s and was created by Don Campbell. It is a style of funk and street dance and originally danced to traditional funk music such as James Brown.
The name is based on the concept of locking which means freezing from a fast movement and “locking” in a certain position, holding that position for a short while and then continuing in the same speed as before. It relies on fast and distinct arm and hand Hip Hop Manual movements combined with more relaxed hips and legs. The movements are generally large and exaggerated, and often very rhythmic and tightly synced with the music.
Locking includes quite a lot of acrobatics and physically demanding moves, such as landing on one’s knees and the split. These moves often require knee protection of some sort. Other important stylistic features are waving of arms, pointing, walking stationary and grabbing and rotating the cap or hat. Don Campbell created the original freezes, incorporating his unique rhythm and adding gestures such as points and handclaps.
In the early 1970s this set off a movement of Locking dance groups, notably Campbell’s group The Lockers. Another locker called Greggery ‘Campbell Jr.’ Pope and others set the foundation for locking dance and clothes style. Lockers commonly use a distinctive dress style, such as colorful clothing with stripes, suspenders, pegged knee length pants, hats and gloves.
Locking is quite performance oriented, often interacting with the audience by smiling or giving them a high five, and some moves are quite comical in nature.
The best way to describe the movement of popping would be to imagine a force of energy going through the body causing it to move like a wave. This style is difficult to manage at the technical level as it requiring command of isolations, a perfect knowledge of the body, and a good sense of the rhythm with major use of counter-tempo. The style demands continuous contraction of the muscles to the beat to give a jerky/snapping effect – a bouncy style.
Electric boogie is a style of popping (ticking) but the major difference is that Popping creates a soft wave whereas Electric Boogie creates more jerky waves with micro wave moves, executed with a high velocity more difficult than classical popping. The Robot, and the more smooth and controlled movements of mime are characteristic. Instead of throwing the body in and out of control like locking, or in total hydraulic control like The Robot, energy is passed through the body popping and snapping elbows, wrists, necks, hips and just about all the body joints along the way. Electric Boogaloo is more like mime in the sense that it imitates a live wire of electrical current or rippling river, but it still needs the control of The Robot to give it style.
Breakdance / B-Boying
Breaking or b-boying, commonly called breakdancing, is a style of dance that evolved as part of hip-hop culture among Black and Latino American youths in the South Bronx during the 1970s. It is danced to both hip-hop and other genres of music that are often remixed to prolong the musical breaks.
Four basic elements form the foundation of breaking. The first is Toprock, a term referring to the upright dancing and shuffles. The second element is Downrock which refers to footwork dancing performed on the floor. The third element is the Freeze, the poses that breakers throw into their dance sets to add punctuation to certain beats and end their routines. The fourth element is the Power Moves. These are the most impressive acrobatic moves normally made up of circular motions where the dancer will spin on the floor or in the air.
The term breakdancing, though commonly used, is frowned upon by those immersed in hip-hop culture because the term created by the media to describe what was called breaking or b-boying in the street. The majority of the art form’s pioneers and most notable practitioners refer to the dance as b-boying.
Uprock is a soulful, competitive street dance using the rhythms of Soul, and Funk music. The dance consists of foot shuffles, spins, turns, freestyle movements, sudden body movements called “jerks” and hand gestures called “burns”. Uprock is said to be mastered with discipline, patience, heart, soul, and knowledge.
Funk dancing originated on the West coast of the United States, where it developed in the late 60’s as a reaction to the fusion of Soul and Disco, as well as early R’n’B and Hip Hop music.
It is a highly choreographed dance form, similar to dances seen on commercial video clips. It features a mixture of sharp and fluid movements, popping & locking and animated expression.
Streetdance is very physical and incorporates dance moves from all over the world. Various dance styles are mixed with a multi-cultural influence and funky tunes. Generally a Streetdance routine can include locking and popping, street style and funk. Streetdance is a FUSION of styles from the Hip Hop genre.
Tutting or Tetris is a dance style that mimics the angular poses common to ancient Egyptian art. Whoever coined the term probably imagined that this was how King Tut danced. The style is rapidly evolving but there are some constant rules that define it.
The most important stylistic convention is that limbs form 90 degree angles. While this constraint is fundamental, and for the most part is not violated, other aspects of the dance are in flux. Dancers used to utilize a limited set of static hiero-inspired poses, but they now have begun to create more complex geometric patterns involving interaction between multiple limbs.
A battle is a freestyle where dancers ‘fight’ against each other on the dance floor without contact. They form a circle and take turns trying to show each other up by using either a better style, more complex combinations, or harder moves.
Liquid dancing (or liquiding) is a form of gestural dance that sometimes involves pantomime. The term invokes the word liquid to describe the fluid-like motion of the dancers’ body and limbs. It is primarily the dancers’ arms and hands which are the focus, though more advanced dancers work in a full range of body movements. Liquid dancing is similar to the styles of popping or locking.
A fluid style, that uses every part of the body and involves using angles and smooth movements to make everything flow together. It often uses rolling of the hips, knees, and the head and is often used as a transition.
This is a dance style originating (in the late 70’s) from street dance by Afrojamaïcans, Afrocarabians, which uses music which evolved from classical Reggae with a hip hop influence. The style used is a combination between hip hop moves, afro moves with latin influences with sensuality. It requires very good physical condition, as many muscles are involved in the Raggajam, particularly in the lower part of the body. Correct execution requires good technique.
House is a group of dance styles primarily danced to house music that have roots in the clubs of Chicago in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The main styles include Footwork, Jacking and Lofting. Like hip hop dance it was created by black and latino Americans and is often improvisational in nature. It emphasizes fast and complex foot oriented steps combined with fluid movements in the torso.
House dance incorporates movements from many other sources such as Capoeira, tap, jazz, bebop, and salsa. It includes a variety of techniques and sub-styles that include skating, stomping, and shuffling. One of the primary elements in house dancing is a technique called jacking and involves moving the torso forward and backward in a rippling motion, as if a wave were passing through it. This movement is repeated and sped up to match the beat of a song. This technique is the most important movement in house dancing. All footwork in house dancing is said to initiate from the way the jack moves the center of gravity through space. Other than footwork, jacking, and lofting, house dance has grown to include other related styles such as vogue, wacking and hustle.
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. Lyrical is “hip-hop with emotion”. It focuses more on choreography and performance and less on freestyles and battles.
The name lyrical comes from the word “lyrics” because dancers use the lyrics of a song or instrumental music to inspire them to do certain movements or show expression. The goal of a lyrical dancer is to use gesture, facial expression, and controlled movements in order to execute their movements and emotions fully. Besides emotional connection to music, lyrical dance typically encourages use of articulation, line, weight, and movement qualities.
Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations.
Stepping may also draw from elements of gymnastics, tap dance, march, or African and Caribbean dance, or include semi-dangerous stunts as a part of individual routines. Some forms of stepping include the use of props, such as canes, rhythm sticks and/or fire and blindfolds.
The tradition of African stepping is rooted within the competitive schoolyard song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the mid-1900s
Free running or freerunning is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures. It incorporates efficient movements from parkour, adds aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics, such as tricking and street stunts, creating an athletic and aesthetically pleasing way of moving. It is commonly practiced at gymnasiums and in urban areas (such as cities or towns) that are cluttered with obstacles.
The term free running was coined during the filming of Jump London, as a way to present parkour to the English-speaking world. However, the term free running has come to represent a separate, distinct concept to parkour — a distinction which is often missed due to the aesthetic similarities. Parkour as a discipline emphasizes efficiency, whilst free running embodies complete freedom of movement — and includes many acrobatic maneuvers. Although the two are often physically similar, the mindsets of each are vastly different.
The founder and creator of Free running Sébastien Foucan defines free running as a discipline to self development, following your own way, which he developed because he felt that parkour lacked enough creativity and self-expression as a definition of each free-runner to follow your own way.
This style came in 1970s from the West coast, directly Los Angeles, where it was developed in clubs and underground scene. Punking was first spotted in gay clubs in Hollywood. Dancers began to represent it on television and it became well-known thanks to Soul Train. Punking then became a part of many shows from Hollywood to Las Vegas.
Some of the first dancers of punking : Billy Goodson, Tinker, Lanny and Aka Micheal Angelo, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones, also dancers from the group Dancing Machine, which was founded in 1975 by Jeff Kutachem, who later created the show , called Splash in Las Vegas. Show was danced in the 70s and early 80s. Dance Machine was dancing this show, members were: Stever’ Sugarfoot ‘Notario, Gino, Dino, SugarBop, Fast Freddy, Topaz Lanet, Diane, Flame, Dallas and Ana ‘Lollipop’ Sanchez.
Waacking is a name that some of the Soul Train dancers began to use instead of the initial term punking.
Some say that punking was the correct name for the underground style, while waacking or whacking came later, when the dance became popular.
However, this dance style reacted to changes of music:
• Punking-1970-1974 – at this time the music is moving in more funk direction. Clothing was very colorful, funky. Dancers had a funky feeling. This is why this style mixed with lockin. In fact, these two styles were very close to each other thanks to a funky feeling.
• Waacking-1974 – about this time broke out “Disco Madness”. Music began to take a different direction. Dancers started to wear completely different clothes. Women danced in a dress and heels, men exchanged a funky T-shirts for shirts and jackets. The style began to change more in the direction of jazz. The dance included a lot of lines, poses (which was mostly inspired by movie stars of 1930s’) and other technical design movements of hands that you wouldn’t definitely find in the punking. In particular, the overall attitude of the body has changed thanks to the footwear and clothing. Dancers began to dance everything more in upright stand unlike in punking, which was far more in the knees.
This style was “forgotten” for a while and survived in a small group of dancers who are so devoted. Today waacking and punking is experiencing a “rebirth” in different forms. For example, in NY you will see primarily jazzy form, but more funky in Japan.
Some of the biggest pioneers were: Shaba Doo, Ana ‘Lollipop’ Sanchez, Tyrone Proctor, Brian Green and others
• Names of elements: Bowls, Aligan, Cortez, Wall Around the Word, Mamma mia, waack …
Vogue is a form of modern dance, as well as waacking and was created by the gay community. The style is inspired by photos of models in poses in various positions such as posturing hands, feet, body movements in linear, angular and precise, fixed position.
Inspirational material for the dancers were fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle … which often drew inspiration from photos of extravagant models. This style of dance arose from Harlem ballrooms by African Americans and Latino Americans in the early 1960s. It was originally called “presentation” and later “performance”.
Over the years, the dance evolved into the more intricate and illusory form that is now called “vogue.” Voguing is continually developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in the gay ballroom scene and clubs in major cities throughout the United States—mainly New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Miami, Detroit, and Chicago.
Currently there are 3 different styles, or we can say “schools” in Voguing.
– Old Way (pre- 1980)
– New Way (1990)
– Vogue Fem (started around 1985)
• Old way-is characterized by the formation of symmetrical and precise lines, creating a wonderful variable action with proper attitude. Egyptian hieroglyphs and fashion poses serve as the original inspirations for old way voguing.
• New way-is characterized by a more precise geometric patterns associated movements called “Click” (arm twisting in the joint) and “arms control” (agility hands and wrist illusions, which usually make “tut” or “tutting” and locking or stopping movement. New Way can also be described as a modified form of mime. Where imaginary geometric shapes such as boxes, are presented during the move, that move progressively around the body of dancer and showing dancers dexterity.
• Vogue Fem-is largest extreme flexibility and fluidity, exaggerated feminine movements, influenced by ballet, modern dance and in the case of “dramatic” Vogue Fem, emphasize jumps and tricks.
Vogue also includes other forms of dance moves such as: Modern jazz, ballet, gymnastics, martial arts, break dancing, yoga … Some dance historians even point out that breakdance and vogue evolved together in a bilateral loan of movement, with artists from both parties interacting one another in Central Park, Christopher Street pier, Harlem and Washington Square Park.
The Godfather and biggest legend of voguing was Willi Ninja.