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Breaking it Down: A Guide to the Diverse Styles of Hip Hop Dance

Hip hop dance is a vibrant form of dance



that includes a variety of styles. It originated in the 1970s and has evolved significantly over the decades, influencing and being influenced by the music, culture, and fashion of various eras.


Each style within hip hop dance has its own history, techniques, and unique flair.


Here's a look at some of the most popular types of hip hop dance and their main characteristics


1. Breaking (B-boying or B-girling)





Origin: Breaking originated in the Bronx, New York City, in the early 1970s as a part of the hip hop culture. It was initially a form of street dance performed by African American and Puerto Rican youths.


Main Characteristics:


  • Athletic and Acrobatic: Breaking includes footwork, power moves, freezes, and toprock. Dancers often engage in battles, showcasing their skills in a competitive format.

  • Musicality and Improvisation: Dancers use the beats and rhythms of hip hop music to guide their movements, often improvising and adding their personal style.

  • Cultural Expression: It's not just a dance but a way to express one’s identity and social realities.

2. Locking





Origin: Locking was created by Don Campbell in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and gained popularity through TV shows like "Soul Train."


Main Characteristics:


  • Wrist Rolls and Points: These distinctive movements are often exaggerated and done with a sense of humour.

  • Freeze and Lock: Movements are often punctuated with a freeze, where the dancer holds a position, or a lock, creating a dramatic and often comical effect.

  • Funky and Groovy: Locking is performed to funk or soul music, emphasising the groove and rhythm.

3. Popping





Origin: Popping originated in Fresno, California, in the late 1970s, developed by Boogaloo Sam and his crew, the Electric Boogaloos.


Main Characteristics:


  • Isolation and Contraction: Dancers contract and relax muscles to create a jerking effect, known as a pop or hit.

  • Robotics and Waving: Incorporates movements that mimic robots or create the illusion of waves moving through the body.

  • Animation: Dancers often use popping to mimic cartoon-like movements or to tell a story through their dance.

4. Krumping





Origin: Krumping originated in South Central Los Angeles in the early 2000s, developed as a way for the youth to express their emotions in a positive and energetic way.


Main Characteristics:


  • Expressive and Aggressive: Krumping is characterized by its free, expressive, and explosive movements, often resembling a form of battle.

  • Emotional Release: It serves as an emotional outlet for dancers, allowing them to express feelings of anger, frustration, joy, or any other intense emotion.

  • Face Paint and Costumes: Dancers often wear face paint and elaborate costumes, adding to the theatricality of the dance.

5. Hip Hop Freestyle





Origin: Hip hop freestyle is less of a distinct style and more of an approach to dancing that emphasizes improvisation and personal expression, evolving alongside hip hop music.


Main Characteristics:

  • Improvisation: Dancers spontaneously create movements to the music, showcasing their creativity and individuality.

  • Influence from Other Styles: Freestyle can incorporate elements from all hip hop dance styles, as well as from other dance forms.

  • Battles and Cyphers: Freestyle is often showcased in battles and cyphers, where dancers take turns performing in the center of a circle formed by the audience.



Each of these styles contributes to the rich diversity of hip hop dance, reflecting the creativity, resilience, and spirit of the communities from which they emerged. Whether through the intricate footwork of breaking, the comedic gestures of locking, the precise hits of popping, the raw energy of krumping, or the spontaneous creativity of freestyle, hip hop dance continues to evolve and inspire dancers around the world.

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