Hip-hop dance is not, by nature, a studio-derived style. Street dancers developed it in urban neighborhoods without a formal process. All of the early sub styles and social dances were brought about through a combination of events including inspiration from James Brown, DJ Kool Herc’s invention of the break beat, the formation of dance crews, and Don Cornelius’ creation of the television show Soul Train. More than 40 years old, hip-hop dance became widely known after the first professional street-based dance crews formed in the 1970s in the United States.
The History of Hip-Hop dance encompasses the people and events since the late 1960s that have contributed to the development of the early hip-hop dance styles: uprock, breaking, locking, roboting, boogaloo, and popping. Black Americans and Latino Americans created uprock and breaking in New York City. Black Americans in California created locking, roboting, (no, it wasn’t Devo) boogaloo, and popping, collectively referred to as the funk styles. All of these dance styles are different stylistically. They share common ground in their street origins and in their improvisational nature.
The most influential groups were Rock Steady Crew, New York City Breakers, The Lockers, and The Electric Boogaloos who are responsible for the spread of breaking, locking, and popping respectively, hence “pop lock and drop it”. The Brooklyn-based dance style uprock influenced breaking early in its development. Boogaloo gained more exposure because it is the namesake of the Electric Boogaloos crew. Uprock, roboting, and boogaloo are respected dance styles but none of them are as mainstream or popular as breaking, locking, and popping.
Parallel with the evolution of hip-hop music, hip-hop social dancing emerged from breaking and the funk styles into different forms. Dances from the 1990’s such as the Running Man, the Worm, and the Cabbage Patch entered the mainstream and became fad dances. After the millennium, newer social dances such as the Cha Cha Slide and the Dougie also caught on and became very popular. Who hasn’t Dougie’d or done the Cha Cha slide at reception.
Hip-hop is a prime example of the underground leaking into the mainstream.
It started out as an original form of self-expression for a limited group of people but caught the attention of a nation. The next time you find yourself popping, locking or dropping please try to remember who gave you this dance. Just don’t think about how much better they can do it than you.