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In a recent post, I mentioned that there are subcategories that make up what most people recognize as hip-hop dancing.  That means that multiple core hip-hop techniques meld together to create the dynamic hip-hop routines that audiences see on shows like America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance.

Read below to learn more about the different movement vocabularies that comprise major styles of hip-hop dancing, and about how and where those styles were born.


Popping originated in the 1970s in Fresno, Cal., and is considered to be one of the original funk styles of dance. To create a jerking motion, called a “pop” or a “hit,” dancers quickly contract and relax muscles in an isolated part of the body. The dance style appears to be very rhythmic in nature, rarely involves floor work and focuses on sharp contrasts in movement. Poppers often transition between robotic, rigid movement to movement that is loose and flowing.

Many poppers integrate illusory styles and techniques into their performances to add variety. The term “popping” can be used as an umbrella term to refer to these illusory techniques.

Check out this clip of popper Robert Muraine and Phillip Chbeeb battling on So You Think You Can Dance.




Locking is a style of funk dance that proceeded popping by about 10 years. The term “locking” refers to the concept of locking movements, freezing in a position after a faster movement and then continuing on at the same speed. Locking is often very theatrical and allows dancers to play to the audience for support. Acrobatics are utilized frequently in performance, in addition to waving the arms, pointing, walking in place, and grabbing and rotating one’s cap or hat. Like popping, locking is also highly rhythmic and is tightly synched with the music.

Here’s a clip of locking masters Hilty and Bosch doin’ their thang. Can you spot their nod to Michael Jackson?




The terms Break-dance, B-boying and Breaking refer to a style of dance that was born in Manhattan and the South Bronx of New York City in the early 1970s. Breakers dance to music that has often been remixed to extend the instrumental breaks between lyrics. Breaking involves four main stylistic elements: toprock, downrock, freezes and power moves.

Toprock refers to any string of steps performed in an upright position. It typically comprises the beginning of a breaker’s set and allows the dancer to warm-up and to transition into more difficult moves.

Downrock, in direct contrast, refers to all footwork performed on the floor. The most commonly recognized form of downrock is the 6-Step. It typically transitions into power moves, such as the windmill, that require momentum
and physical power to execute.

Freezes are often seen at the end of a set and require the breaker to stop his or her motion in a stylistic pose. Poses such as the headstand or pike are the most difficult, as they require the dancer to suspend his or her body of off the ground.

**It is important not to refer to breakers (also B-boys, B-girls) as breakdancers. Many breakers feel that the term was an attempt by the mass media to recast their dance as a nonthreatening form of musical acrobatics, scholar Joseph Schloss writes in his book “Foundation: B-boys, B-girls, and Hip-Hop Culture in New York.” The term “breakdancing” has also been used as an umbrella term that includes popping, locking, B-boying and an array of other funk styles, making it inaccurate as a description of breaking alone.

Check out this clip of two highly acrobatic breakers on America’s Got Talent. Focus on their floor work (which is a term that you know now, right?).




Voguing is a newer style in the commercial dance arena;its inclusion on popular dance shows brings light to a dance movement that has been underground since as early as the 1930s. Vogue or “voguing” is highly stylized and integrates photo model-like poses with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements. Madonna’s “Vogue” music video popularized the dance form that has now established itself in gay dance clubs in New York, and other big cities throughout the United States: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago are among these cities.

Voguing is made up of three distinct styles, or “schools”: Old Way (pre-1980), New Way (post-1990) and Vogue Fem, which began around 1985. Old Way is characterized by the formation of lines and symmetry in the body, as well as by precision and graceful fluidity of movement. New Way features more rigid, geometrically patterned movement that is interspersed with “clicks” (limb contortions at the joints) and “arm control” (sleight of hand and wrist illusions). Vogue Fem features exaggerated feminine movements and is influenced by ballet and modern dance.

Here’s a clip of Miss Leyomi Mizrahi in a Voguing Battle. It takes a few seconds to get started, but it is worth it.



Check out the cutest little hip-hoppers around: Future Funk. Can you spot the different styles of hip-hop in their routine?



Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about Bone breaking, Krumping and Tutting. Let me know if you would like me to cover another style that I’ve left out!