Hip-hop dance

Hip-hop dance
Hip-hop dance
B-boy breakdancing.jpg
A b-boy performing in a cipher in Turkey.
Main Styles


UprockRoboting – Boogaloo – TuttingGlidingWaving – Liquid – Strobing – Animation
Social (Party) Dances
the cabbage patch, the roger rabbit, the running man, the humpty, the worm, the Kid n' Play kick-step, the Harlem shake, the Dougie, cha cha slide, the Soulja Boy, the butterfly
Derivative Styles
Street Turfing – Jerkin' – KrumpingMemphis Jookin'
Studio New Style – Jazz Funk – Lyrical hip-hop
Cultural Origins
African AmericansLatino AmericansTurntablesJames Brown – South Bronx – Fresno – Los AngelesUnited StatesHip-hop culture – Funk music – Hip-hop music

Hip-hop dance refers to 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 created in the 1970s by African Americans.[note 1] What separates hip-hop dance from other forms of dance is that it is often freestyle (improvisational) 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."[6] These three elements—freestyling, battles, and ciphers—are key components of hip-hop dance.

More than 35 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 Rock Steady Crew, The Lockers, and the Electric Boogaloos who are responsible for the spread of breaking, locking, and popping respectively. Due to the popularity of these street styles, the dance industry responded with a studio based version of hip-hop—sometimes called new 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 home of Juste Debout, an international hip-hop dance competition, and Germany is the home of Battle of the Year, the largest team-based breaking competition in the world. 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 in 2008 the South Korean government designated the Gamblerz and Rivers b-boy crews as official ambassadors of Korean culture.[7]

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.



Hip-hop dance as seen today is a broad category that incorporates a variety of old and new urban dance styles. The older styles that were created in the 1970s include uprock, breaking, and the funk styles.[8] These dance styles all started independent of each other, half of them in New York and the others in California. Uprock was created in Brooklyn, N.Y. and breaking was created in The Bronx. In its earliest form, breaking began as elaborations on James Brown's "Good Foot" dance[8][9] which came out in 1972. Breaking at this stage was not primarily floor oriented as is seen today; it started out as toprock which is performed standing up. In 1973, DJ Kool Herc invented the breakbeat.[10][11] A breakbeat is a rhythmic musical interlude of a song that has been looped over and over again to extend that instrumental solo. Kool Herc did this to provide a means for dancers who attended his parties to show their skills.[11] B-boy and b-girl stands for "break-boy" and "break-girl"; b-boys/b-girls dance to the break of a record.[11] Another influence on toprock was uprock.[12] Uprock looks similar to toprock but it is more aggressive and is meant look like a fight. Unlike toprock, uprock was not performed to break beats. The song was played from start to finish.[13] Also, uprocking is done with partners but in breaking each person takes turns dancing.[14] Further influenced by martial arts[15] and gymnastics, breaking went from being a purely upright dance style—toprock only—to becoming more floor oriented.

The funk styles refers to several street dance styles created in California in the 1970s that were danced to funk music.[16] These styles include roboting, bopping, hitting, locking, bustin', popping, electric boogaloo, strutting, sac-ing, dime-stopping, etc.[6] Similar to breaking, James Brown also had a big impact on the boogaloo style of dance. One of Sam Solomon's inspirations for creating boogaloo was James Brown's dance "the popcorn"[17] and the name of the dance was taken from the title of the James Brown song "Do the Boogaloo".[18] The most popular and widely practiced of the funk styles are locking and popping. Locking is the older of the two and was created by Don Campbell in the late 1960s. Popping was created by Sam Solomon in the 1970s. The 1980s media incorrectly brought these styles under the "breakdance"/"breakdancing" label causing a confusion about their origin.[19][20] They were created on the west coast separate from breaking and came out of the funk cultural movement rather than from the hip-hop cultural movement.[21] The television show, Soul Train, helped to spread locking and popping's popularity. Both The Lockers and the Electric Boogaloos—dance crews responsible for the spread of locking and popping—performed on this show.[16] Today, the funk styles are performed to both hip-hop and funk music.

As breaking, locking, and popping were emerging in the 70s, hip-hop social (party) dancing was growing as well. Popular novelty and fad dances such as the roger rabbit, the cabbage patch, and the worm appeared in the 1980s followed by the running man and the humpty dance in the 90s. The cha cha slide, the Soulja Boy dance, and the dougie hit the mainstream in the 2000s. The previously mentioned dances are only a sample of the many social dances that have appeared since hip-hop was born. Just like hip-hop music, hip-hop social dancing will continue to change as new songs are released and new dances are created to accompany them.

Main styles

This list gives a general overview of the main hip-hop dance styles: breaking, locking, and popping. These 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. Breaking is the original hip-hop dance style. At the time of its creation it was the hip-hop dance style because it was, and still is, one of the pillars of hip-hop culture. Locking and popping at the time of their creation were only known as funk styles. They were adopted into hip-hop once the culture reached the west coast and "hip-hop dance" became an umbrella term encompassing all of these styles.

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.[8] It was Afrika Bambaataa who classified breaking as one of the five pillars of hip-hop culture along with MCing, DJing, graffiti writing, and knowledge.[22][23][24] While African Americans are responsible for creating breaking[3] it was the Latinos (specifically Puerto Ricans)[4] that kept the momentum of breaking alive when it was considered "played out" in the late '70s.[5][25] 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; freezes, stylish poses done on your hands;[note 2] and power moves, difficult and impressive acrobatic moves.[note 3] Transitions between toprock and downrock are called "drops."[27] In breaking, a variation to the traditional cipher is the Apache Line. A cipher is a circular shaped dance space formed by spectators that breakers use to perform in.[6] Ciphers work well for one-on-one b-boy (break-boy) battles; however, Apache Lines are more appropriate when the battle is between two crews—groups of street dancers. In contrast to the circular shape of a cipher, competing crews can face each other in this line formation, challenge each other, and execute their burns[28][29] (a move intended to embarrass the opponent, i.e. crotch grabbing, during a battle). In 1981, the Lincoln Center in New York City hosted a breaking battle between the Rock Steady Crew and the Dynamic Rockers.[30] "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."[31]


Locking, originally called Campbellocking, was created in Los Angeles by Don Campbell and introduced to the country by his crew The Lockers.[1] Other than Don Campbell, the original members of The Lockers were Fred "Mr. Penguin" Berry, Leo "Fluky Luke" Williamson, Adolpho "Shabba Doo" Quinones, Bill "Slim the Robot" Williams, Greg "Campbellock Jr" Pope, and Toni Basil who also served as the group's manager.[1][32] 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.[33] Locking looks similar to popping and frequently gets confused with popping to a casual observer. 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."[34] A locker's dancing is characterized by consistently locking in place and after a quick freeze moving again.[2] It is incorrect to call locking "pop-locking".[2][35][36] Locking and popping are two distinct funk styles with their own histories, their own set of dance moves, and their own competition categories. Locking is more playful and character driven whereas popping is more illusory.[2] Locking has specific dance moves that identify it from popping and other funk styles. These moves include "the lock, points, skeeter [rabbits], scooby doos, stop 'n go, which-away, and the fancies."[34] A dancer can do one or the other but not both locking and popping at the same time.[2] It was only after seeing The Lockers perform on TV that a young Sam Solomon was inspired to create popping and electric boogaloo.[18]


Popping was created by Sam Solomon in Fresno, California and performed by his crew the Electric Boogaloos.[2] 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 other closely related illusionary dance styles[37] such as strobing, liquid,[38] animation, and waving[37] that are often integrated with standard popping to create a more varied performance.[note 4] In all of these sub-genres it appears to the spectator that the body is popping hence the name. The difference between each sub-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.[38] The opposite of this is strobing (also called ticking) in which the movements are static, sudden, and jerky.[40]

"While Sam was creating popping and 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[18]

Popping—as an umbrella term—also includes gliding, floating, and sliding[37][38][note 5] 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. 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 popping as an umbrella term is popularly used by hip-hop dancers and in competitive hip-hop dancing, Timothy "Popin' Pete" Solomon of the Electric Boogaloos disagrees with the use of the word "popping" in this way. Many of these related styles (animation, liquid, tutting, etc.) can not be traced to a specific person or group. Popin' Pete 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."[2]

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 held in Montpellier, France.[41] 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 by b-girl Nancy "Asia One" Yu in San Diego, CA.[42][43] 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.[42] 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."[42] There's also competitions for lockers and poppers as part of the "Soul Fest" portion of the conference.[44] 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.[45] 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 United Kingdom. The world finals also include the "Fresh Awards" (best dressed) which are hosted and judged every year by Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón—the president of Rock Steady Crew.[46]
  • Freestyle Session was started in 1997[47] in Southern California by graffiti writer and DJ Chris "Cros1" Wright.[48] It is the largest breaking competition in the United States.[49] The main competitive event is for b-boy crews but there are also popping and locking competitions for solo competitors.[48]
  • The Notorious IBE is a Dutch based international breaking competition founded in 1998.[50] IBE (International Breakdance Event) 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.[50] 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.[50] 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.[50] IBE also host the European tournament for the UK B-Boy Championships.
  • Hip Hop International: World Hip Hop Dance Championships is a hip-hop dance competition founded in 2000 in the United States where both crews and soloist compete.[51] 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.[52] HHI also runs the USA Hip Hop Dance Championships.
  • Juste Debout is a street dance competition held annually in Paris, France since 2002.[53] Competition categories include popping, hip-hop (new style), locking, house, toprock, 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 and toprock categories are only for solo dancers; popping, new style, locking, and house are for duos.[53] Juste Debout also publishes a free bimonthly hip-hop dance magazine of the same name.[54]
  • United Dance Organization: World Street Dance Championships is a hip-hop dance competition based in the UK that was started in 2002.[55] People can compete as solo dancers, in duos, in quads (4 people), or in teams.[56] UDO also host the European Street Dance Championships and the USA Street Dance 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.[57] It was created in 2004 by Red Bull and is hosted in a different country every year.[57] Past BC One participants include Ronnie Abaldonado from Super Cr3w, Menno "The Seagull" Van Gorp from Mighty Zulu Kings, and Mauro "Cico" (pronounced CHEE-co) Peruzzi.[note 6]
  • R16 Korea is a South Korean based breaking competition started in 2007 by Asian Americans Charlie Shin and John Jay Chon.[7] Like BOTY and Red Bull BC One put together, Respect16 is a competition for the top 16 ranked b-boy crews in the world.[60] 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.[7]
  • World of Dance Tour (WOD) is a traveling hip-hop dance competition founded in 2008 in Pomona, CA by Myron Marten and David Gonzales.[61] It differs from other competitions because there is no final championship. WOD travels to different cities around the world and holds a competition in each location which is why it is called a tour. Each event is meant to be a stand alone competition, they are all related to each other in name only. For 2012, WOD established a regional hub in the United Kingdom; the tour will travel to Cardiff, Manchester, and Birmingham.[62]


Dance crews

A dance crew is a group of street dancers who get together and create dance routines. As hip-hop culture spread throughout New York and California, the more breaking crews got together to practice and battle against each other. It was during this time that the different dance moves within breaking would develop organically.[63][note 7] The same can be said about different dance moves within the funk styles – popping and locking – and decades later 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. They also form for a variety of other reasons such as theme, gender, ethnicity, and dance style. 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 8] 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.

Although dance crews are more prevalent in hip-hop, dance companies do exist in both the United States and abroad. Examples include Culture Shock (USA), Lux Aeterna (USA),[note 9] Boy Blue Entertainment (UK), Bounce Streetdance Company (Sweden), 2Faced Dance (UK), Funkbrella Dance Company (USA), Blaze Streetdance Company (Netherlands), and Zoo Nation (UK).[note 10]

Derivative styles

Decades after breaking, locking, and popping became established other regional dance forms evolved. Three of these styles came from California. Turfing, an acronym for Taking Up Room on the Floor, was created in 2002 by street dancer Jeriel Bey in Oakland, CA.[39] Turfing is 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 turf dance competitions and local youth programs that promote turfing as a form of physical activity.[67]

On the heels of its exposure another style came out of Los Angeles called jerkin'. Jerkin' was popularized in 2009 by the New Boyz rap song "You're a Jerk"[68][69] which went viral via their YouTube and MySpace pages[68]:3 before they had a manager or were signed to a record label. After hearing about the song Los Angeles radio station Power 106 hired the New Boyz to perform at local high schools which eventually led to the song entering the radio's playlist.[68]:2 Later in the year, rap duo Audio Push released the song and video "Teach Me How to Jerk" which showcased the different dance moves within jerkin' including the rejectthe running man done in reverse/backwards.[69][70] Producer Jeremy "J-Hawk" Hawkins is credited with creating the sound and beat pattern that is characteristic of jerk music.[69] Jerk music is to Los Angeles what snap music is to Atlanta and hyphy is to the San Francisco Bay Area.[69][68]:2 Other than the movement, what separates this dance style from others is that the dancers who jerk typically wear bright colors, skinny jeans, Mohawks, and Vans sneakers.[68]:1,5[71] This is similar to locking dancers in the '70s who traditionally wore black and white striped shirts and socks.[2] Of the dance, journalist Jeff Weiss from LA Weekly stated "For a youth culture weaned on the cult of individualism, jerkin’ is its apotheosis."[68] Similar to the 70s styles breaking, locking, and popping, Jerkin's popularity spread through several dance crews. The most notable include the Go Go Power Ranger$ and the Rej3ctz who created the reject.[68]:2, 4

Although nationally known, both turfing and jerkin' have not reached the same zenith that krumping has.

Krumping was created in the early 2000s by Ceasare "Tight Eyez" Willis and Jo'Artis "Big Mijo" Ratti[72] in South Central, Los Angeles.[73] It was only seen and practiced in the Los Angeles metro area until it gained mainstream exposure by being featured in several music videos[74] and showcased in the 2005 krumping documentary Rize. Rize was screened at several film festivals before being commercially released[note 11] in the summer of 2005.[75] Clowning (not to be confused with the clown walk), the less aggressive predecessor to krumping, was created in 1992 by Tommy the Clown.[74] 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.[74] 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."[73]

Compared to breaking and 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.

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[76]

The dance industry responded to hip-hop dance by creating a more commercial version of it. It is referred to by several names including commercial dance, studio hip-hop, or simply choreography. This studio hip-hop, often called new style, is the type of hip-hop dance seen in most rap, R&B, and pop 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.[77]

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.[8][77] Also meshing different dance styles together dissolves their structures and identities.[8] In an interview with The Bronx Journal, choreographer and artistic director Safi Thomas expressed a similar qualm as Buddha Stretch concerning hip-hop instruction within the studio:

In a lot of studios what you find is people just doing movement to hip-hop music. So if there's hip-hop music in the background and they're moving they're calling it a hip-hop class. The problem with that is let's say that I wanted to teach a ballet class and I just come in and I throw on Mozart and I just start moving and I'm not doing any of the foundational elements. I am not doing any of the movement vocabulary of ballet. I can not call that a ballet class and that's what happens in relation to hip-hop... within the studio realm there is no standard for the art form and [the teachers] don't know what the foundational elements of the art are. They know nothing about popping, nothing about locking, nothing about boogaloo, breaking, or the hip-hop dance—the social dances—or any of that. They know none of the history which spans over 30-35 years and so they cut off any type of edification a dancer can have.[78]

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.[79] 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 moving 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 self expression, swagger, musicality—how sensitive your movements are to the music—and being able to freestyle (improvise). As long as dancers maintain the foundational movements, they can add their own (free)style and have a performance that is still hip-hop.[80]

Another style the dance industry created was jazz funk. Jazz funk (also called street jazz) is a hybrid of hip-hop and jazz dance.[38] This style is used by artists like Beyoncé.[38] 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 relevé (on the balls of the feet). However, these methods are used in jazz funk and in jazz dance in general.[38] Dance studios responded to these developments 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 (L.A.),[note 12] Broadway Dance Center (New York), Edge Performing Arts Center (L.A.), Pineapple Studios (London), The Vibe – The International Hip Hop Dance Center (Oslo), Boogiezone (L.A.),[note 13] Debbie Reynolds (L.A.), Sunshine Studios (Manchester), DREAM Dance Studio (Vancouver), Ones to Watch (Japan & Hong Kong), and KJD Dance Studio (Sydney).

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.[81] Its faculty roster includes Dave Scott, Teresa Espinosa, Popin' Pete, and Marty Kudelka among others.[82] Nappytabs is the first line of dancewear made specifically for hip-hop dancers.[83] Their line is only sold at dance clothing stores, online through their official website, and at their only retail location and studio in Los Angeles. Because Nappytabs is made for the urban dance community they do not sell leotards/unitards, tights, or leg warmers. Their line consist of tanks, shorts, t-shirts, sweats, and hoodies.

Threader is an online distribution outlet for hip-hop dance inspired streetwear created by hip-hop choreographers and dance crews.[84][85] It was founded in 2009 by Traci Copeland, Marc David, and choreographer Luam Keflezgy. Threader has distributed clothing for brands/dancers such as Shoeture, Poreotics, Wildchild,[note 14] Beat Freaks, Dance2XS, and Laurie Ann Gibson.[84][86]

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. British hip-hop choreographer Kate Prince describes it as "hip-hop with emotion."[87] 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 four of the reality dance competition So You Think You Can Dance.[88] 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' song "Bleeding Love".[88]

"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 [89]

Due to Shankman's comment and their subsequent work on seasons four through seven, Tabitha and Napoleon are credited with developing this style.[90][91][92][93][94] 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.[88]

Some hip-hop purists feel the interpretive and softer style means it is not hip-hop at all.[88] 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.[88] 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,[95] Norway,[96] the United Kingdom,[87][97] and the Netherlands.


Breaking started to become 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 15] 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 several hip-hop dance films. The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy, B-girl, and Planet B-Boy all showcased breaking. Films such as Honey, You Got Served, How She Move, Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, StreetDance 3D, and Saigon Electric showcased all forms of hip-hop dance especially new style hip-hop. Rize, The Heart of Krump, and Shake City 101 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. Soul Train, which premiered in the 1970s, was the earliest dance show that showcased the funk styles on a consistent basis. Other hip-hop dance shows that came about in 1990s and 2000s were Dance Fever, Dance 360, MTV's The Grind, The Wade Robson Project, and Nickelodean's Dance on Sunset. America's Best Dance Crew (ABDC) is a reality hip-hop dance competition on MTV created in 2008 by Howard and Karen Schwartz, founders of Hip Hop International—the organization that runs the USA and World Hip Hop Dance Championships.[52] 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, We Are Heroes, Fanny Pak, Poreotics, and I.aM.mE. These crews now have official websites, make club appearances, perform in different locations/competitions, and appear as guests on news programs. The JabbaWockeeZ have their own resident show in Las Vegas called MÜS.I.C. at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. MÜS.I.C. is the first hip-hop dance stage show on the Las Vegas Strip.[98] Both Poreotics and Hokuto "Hok" Konishi from Quest were nominated for a 2011 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography.[99] Poreotics was nominated along with singer Bruno Mars for his video "The Lazy Song". Hok was nominated for LMFAO's video "Party Rock Anthem"; the rest of Quest crew appeared in the video as featured dancers.[99]

The reality dance competition So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) 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. 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. 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.[100] After the battle Joshua Allen, a hip-hop dancer, was declared the winner of season four of the competition.[101] 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.[102]

Hip-hop dance has also been popular worldwide among viewers of the Got Talent series. In 2006, French hip-hop dancer Salah won the first season of Incroyable Talent. French b-boy Junior won the second season in 2007. In 2008, hip-hop dancer George Sampson won Britain's Got Talent and hip-hop dance crew Quick won the Norwegian version of the show. After George Sampson, street dance crew Diversity won the next season of Britain's Got Talent in 2009.[note 16] Also in 2009, South African hip-hop dancer Darren Rajbal won SA's Got Talent and Brazilian crew D-Efeitos won Qual é o Seu Talento? (What's Your Talent?). In 2010, Justice Crew won Australia's Got Talent.

The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD) is a good versus evil themed web series about a group of dancers who discover they have super powers through their dance moves.[103][note 17] Each character has a specific dance talent ranging from krumping, tutting, breaking, locking, boogaloo, and popping.[103][104] The mojority of the dancing shown in the series is hip-hop; however, other styles have been showcased as well including tap dance, stepping, contemporary, and ballet. Advertising Age gave the series good reviews stating "...each episode of 'LXD' packs a wealth of narrative sophistication into its eight or nine minutes. Combine this with the theater-worthy production values and a cast that exerts itself to an ungodly extent, and the end result is -- pun time! -- extraordinary."[105] The LXD premiered July 7, 2010 on Hulu.

Though hip-hop dancing has managed to establish itself on film and television, it has not gained the same momentum in theater. This may be due to the fact that the dance is more often performed in film and television than it is in a theatrical setting.[106] The first hip-hop stage shows were 1991's off Broadway musical So! What Happens Now? and 1995's Jam on the Groove[107] both performed by the Rock Steady Crew, Magnificent Force, and the Rhythm Technicians.[108][109] Aside from the pioneers in New York was Rennie Harris' Puremovement hip-hop theater company founded in 1992 in Philadelphia.[110] Later developments include the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in New York City and the London based Breakin' Convention. In 2008, Into the Hoods became the first hip-hop theater show to perform in London's West End.[66] It eventually went on to become the West End's longest running dance show ever.[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] In 2007 Beachbody, the makers of the P90X workout, produced Hip Hop Abs[113]—a home fitness program created by dancer and personal trainer Shaun T[113] that uses hip-hop dance, rather than crunches or sit-ups, to tone and sculpt abs. 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.[114]

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.[115][116] In the early 2000s Nike launched an international campaign promoting dance as sport and enlisted the help of choreographer and creative director Jamie King to develop the Nike Rockstar Workout for use in gyms worldwide.[117] He later released a companion workout book and DVD titled Rock Your Body.[117] Other choreographers/dancers 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, Diversity: Dance Fitness Fusion,[118] and Breakin' It Down with Laurie Ann Gibson.


In 2002, Safi Thomas founded the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory (HHDC) in New York City. Thomas' aim was to provide a comprehensive education to hip-hop dancers that was comparable to what ballet, modern, and jazz dancers would receive at their respective institutions.[119] HHDC provides a formal curriculum with both dance classes (boogaloo, freestyle, locking, etc.) and academic classes (dance theory, physiology, kinesiology, etc.) to people who want to pursue hip-hop dance as a career.[120][78] It is the only educational institution in the United States that is exclusively dedicated to hip-hop dance education. HHDC does not grant degrees. It is a non-profit organization and repertory company that grants certifications to dancers that complete the three year program.

Five years later in 2007, the University of East London's Institute for Performing Arts started intake for the only bachelor's degree program in the world specializing in hip-hop, urban, and global dance forms.[121]


  1. ^ African Americans Don Campbell and Sam Solomon developed locking and popping respectively.[1][2] Breaking can not be attributed to one specific person. It was created by African Americans, but Puerto Ricans heavily influenced its development with the addition of the more acrobatic moves which is characteristic of breaking today.[3][4] In a 2001 interview Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón, the president of Rock Steady Crew, commented on how Puerto Ricans contributed to b-boying: "I think the difference is when the brothas first started doing [it] and it was at its infancy they weren't doing acrobatic moves. That didn't come into play until more Puerto Ricans got involved in the mid 70s. We then took the dance, evolved it and kept it alive. In '79 I was getting dissed. I would go into a dance and I would get dissed by a lot of brothas who would ask 'Why y'all still doing that dance? That's played out'. By 79, there were very few African American brothas that was doing this... We always maintained the flava. It was like a changing of the guard and all we did was add more flava to something that already existed."[5]
  2. ^ Robbie Rob from Mighty Zulu Kings invented the chair freeze.[26]
  3. ^ Head spins, back spins, flares, jackhammers, swipes, and windmills are all examples of power moves.
  4. ^ Two regional sub-styles that developed out of popping are jookin' (also called buckin)[38] from Memphis, TN and turfing from Oakland, CA. Turfing borrows heavily from gliding.[39]
  5. ^ The moonwalk, called the backslide in popping context, is an example of sliding.
  6. ^ 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.[58][59]
  7. ^ Crazy Legs invented both the windmill (continuous back spin) and 1990 b-boy moves by accident.[5]
  8. ^ Steffan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente is a member of both the Rock Steady Crew and the Electric Boogaloos.[64]
  9. ^ Hip-hop dancer Hokuto "Hok" Konishi is a member of both Quest Crew and Lux Aeterna dance company.[65]
  10. ^ Kate Prince, choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance (UK) is the founder and director of Zoo Nation.[66]
  11. ^ Rize had a limited release when shown in theaters.[75]
  12. ^ Out of Millennium's 21 faculty members, 18 are hip-hop or jazz funk dance teachers.
  13. ^ 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 "community classes" (held at an actual studio) and Boogiezone University—a series of dance conventions, workshops, dance camps, master classes, and one-on-one private lessons.
  14. ^ Wildchild was founded in 2006 and is owned by Wildchild Nation, the same company that owns Threader.[84]
  15. ^ Wild Style was produced in New York and independently released.[30]
  16. ^ Both Sampson and Diversity appeared in the film StreetDance 3D.
  17. ^ The director, executive producer, and writer of The LXD is Jon Chu who also directed the movies Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D.
  18. ^ Howard Shultz, the president of Hip Hop International, is also the president of Sports Fitness International.[112]


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  12. ^ Chang 2006, p.20 "Toprockin's structure and form fuse dance forms and influences from uprocking, tap, lindy hop, James Brown's "good foot," salsa, Afro-Cuban, and various African and Native American dances."
  13. ^ Chang 2006, p.21-22 "Uprocking was also done to records played from beginning to end. In Brooklyn, DJs played the whole song and not cut break beats. This allowed the uprockers to react to the song in it's entirety, responding to the lyrics, musical changes, and breaks."
  14. ^ Chang 2006, p.21 "The structure was different from b-boying/b-girling since dancers in b-boy/b-girl battles took turns dancing, while uprocking was done with partners."
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  20. ^ Chang 2006, p.18-19 "Although dance forms associate with hip-hop did develop in New York City, half of them (that is, popping and locking) were created on the West Coast as part of a different cultural movement. Much of the media coverage in the 1980s grouped these dance forms together with New York's native dance forms (b-boying/b-girling and uprocking) labeling them all "breakdancing". As a result, the West Coast "funk" culture and movement were overlooked..."
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  • Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York City: St. Martin's Press., 2005. ISBN 0-312-30143-X
  • Chang, Jeff. Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop. New York City: BasicCivitas., 2006. ISBN 0-465-00909-3
  • Kugelberg, Johan. Born in the Bronx. New York City: Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0-7893-1540-3
  • Rivera, Raquel. New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. New York City: Palgrave MacMillan., 2003 ISBN 1-403-96043-7

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