What Hip Hop Dance is All About?

Hip hop dance is one of the pillars of the hip hop culture. It is an energetic combination of a very diverse range of street dance styles which has become quite popular lately among people around the world. Here is a short video from Urban Dance Camp to give you an example of how professional hip hop dance choreography may look like.

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History of Hip Hop Dance

Why is it called Hip Hop?

In its early years, the genre of music which is now known as hip hop had no name. The term hip hop, however, was connoted by Keith Wiggins, who was one of the first MCs of the genre. He happened to be teasing a friend who had joined the army, and it was the term he used to mimic the sounds made by a marching soldier’s cadence. The name somehow made its way to stage and with time, it slowly grew and eventually was used to describe a whole subculture.

Who, where and when invented it?

With the discovery of the new genre of music, hip hop, by DJ Kool Herc in New York specifically the Bronx back on August 11th, 1973, this type of music was able to bring up an uprising that to date is unstoppable. The dance itself, however, emerged in the late 60s and early 70s and was able to grow thanks to the individuals who had no training in dance, taking it to the streets and just dancing to their natural movements. This was not a dance for the academics but a form of expression. The dancing is said to have been inspired by the very complex rhythms and movements of African dance styles. With regard to this, music and movement were able to merge, hence creating a new form of art i.e. hip hop dance. Individuals were able to improvise new dance styles on the streets as this was one of its distinctive factors as it brought an edge to the competition.

Toprock, Uprock & Breaking

Some older dance styles that were invented prior include the funky style, breaking and up rock. Created in the Bronx, breaking was famous in the Latino communities as well as the African American. Starting off as toprock, the dance move later evolved to uprock which is similar to toprock but is more aggressive and looks like a fight. When it comes to uprock, partners are normally involved but in toprock and breaking, in general, each person takes turns dancing. With time breaking got influenced by gymnastics and martial arts hence the dance was able to evolve from top rock to becoming a more floor oriented dance.

Locking, Popping, Roboting and Others

In California, other styles were being created collectively known as funk styles which included roboting, bopping, hitting, locking, popping, bustin’, electric boogaloo, strutting, sac-ing as well as dime-stopping. With regard to all the mentioned dance moves, boogaloo happens to be the oldest of all.

In the 80s however, breaking started dying off as culture started changing. The music began becoming slower and dancing was replaced with a ‘head nod’ or ‘boom bap’ sound.  Hip hop freestyle was introduced and accepted as the new style of hip hop expression which led to more movements suited by the music.

The Main Styles of Hip Hop Dance

There is quite a big number of style related to or associated with Hip Hop dance. The main ones are popping, locking, breaking and new commercial styles such as lyrical hip hop and others. Each day dancers come up with new variations of existing sub styles thus contributing to creation of completely new dances, so don’t worry if you won’t find all them here 😉


It is a type of dance whereby a dancer jerks his or her body in a manner that resembles having muscle contractions. It was first formed by a group known as Electric Boogaloos however, the dance’s creation is credited to an individual known as Sam Solomon who was from California.


This dance style was developed by Dan Campbell of California who danced to Original Funk. The dance move consists of fast movements of the upper half of the body as well as the arms which then are able to lock in different positions for short periods of time. This movement happens in tune with the beat and makes for an almost dramatic series in moves.


Is also known as b-boying or b-girling. It is actually the type of dance instinctively associated with hip hop. As a dance move, it has no real formation as the dancers use improvised moves while on their feet, but the most typical part of this dance is the moves done while the dancers are on the ground doing different poses.


When it comes to this type of dance, most of the movement is based on the hips and legs. The dancers are said to move in a manner to suggest that they have no bones in their bodies creating movements which sometimes are referred to as ‘snakin’ or ‘old man’


Can be said to be a soulful, competitive street dance which uses rhythms of soul and funk music. It consists of turns, spins, freestyle movements, foot shuffles, jerks and hand gestures known as burns. For one to actually be a guru in the dance style there is a need for them to have patience, discipline, soul, and knowledge.


This type of style came up in the late 60s from the West Coast of the United States due to the reaction of disco and soul as well as early RnB and Hip hop music. In addition, the style is normally highly choreographed and is a mixture of fluid and sharp movements, locking and popping and animated expressions.

Street dance

This type of dance move is very physical and it is able to incorporate all types of dance moves from all over the world. It is basically a combination of styles from the hip hop genre.

Most Famous Hip Hop Dancers

Some famous male hip hop dancers in the world include the late Michael Jackson, Les Twins, Chris Brown, MC Hammer, Usher among many others. Some of these dancers have been able to invent new dancing styles such as hammer dance, running man and butterfly.

In addition to the list, ladies have also been in the dancing forefront and have chosen not to be left behind. Some ladies who’ve been able to make it to the top of the list include the late Aaliyah, Paula Abdlu, Ciara, Beyoncé just to mention but a few.

Hip Hop Music

By definition, hip hop music is a music genre that has been able to combine rhythmic music accompanied by rapping and a rhyming speech that is normally chanted. For music to be classified as hip hop there need to be specific tools used in order to actually bring out the culture through the song. Some tools used in hip hop production include turntables, DJ mixers, Drum Machines, music sequencers, synthesizers, keyboard as well as digital samples.

Some of the famous hip hop artists and songs in history include:

  • “My Name Is” by Eminem
  • “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West
  • “Dear Mama” by Tupac Shakur
  • “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G
  • “99 Problems” by Jay Z
  • “A Milli” by Lil Wayne
  • “Y State of Mind” by Nas

The above songs are just some few songs done by some of the best hip hop artists in history as well as currently.  Eminem is known in the hip hop industry as being one of the best and fastest rappers alive. He started with the name “M&M” which later evolved in “Eminem”. Want to see which rap name would suit you? You can try the rap name quiz and have some fun.

How to Dance Hip Hop?

Here is a quick video to help you getting started with your hip hop dance classes. You’ll be able to find plenty of tutorials throughout the web, so this one is just a small example to get a better understanding of the way it works. To find some hip hop dance classes in your city click here and enter you location.

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Bestselling Online Hiphop Dance Course on Udemy

Here is the bestselling Hip-hop dance course on Udemy which we highly recommend if you are thinking about taking some lessons. No previous experience needed so absolute beginners are welcome.

This is a great course for anyone with lots of useful moves, combos and footworks, that is regularly updated. Give it a try and see for yourself why thousands of people from all over the world chose it to help them learn to dance Hip Hop. By the way if you are looking for some nice dance sneakers, check out this article we’ve published recently on our website – Best Dance Sneakers for Men, Women & Kids. Wearing quality dance shoes may help evade problems with joints which many dancers sometimes suffer from and it makes dancing less stressful since regular day-to-day sneakers don’t perform very well under this type of stress.

Advice to Beginner Hip Hop Dancers

Contrary to belief, learning how to dance hip hop is not as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of beginner dance moves that one can start off with that are easy to learn such as the ice box. Nevertheless, one needs to familiarize themselves with these few concepts before delving into the art.

  1. Musicality – This is where you need to understand the music and its relationship with dance. Being in sync with the tune and actually projecting it through the dance is very crucial for any dancer
  2. Body Awareness – Your body is your greatest asset when it comes to dancing. The more you are able to familiarize your body with yourself, the more natural and controlled your movements will become.
  3. Execution and Movement – What is able to turn a set of moves to an actual dance is the variance in execution. Some dancers have been known to be dancing as if they’ve become part of the song.  This is because they have been able to understand the music as well as master their own bodies and have been able to control it in order to depict the sounds one is hearing.
  4. Dance Classes – By taking at least a few dance classes you’ll be able to absorb the attitude and feeling of the dance from your teachers. Hip Hop is not just a dance – it’s a culture. And without a proper explanation from a professional dance instructor it will be really hard to grasp.
  5. Setting Goals – Taking the first step is hard, but after that, you will need to grow from a beginner to an intermediary. Set goals, they will give you a benchmark to look at while training and in the end, when you attain your goal, you’ll realize that the sky is the limit for you.

In conclusion, hip hop is more than just another dance genre. It’s a beautiful, unique and sophisticated work of art which daily inspires millions of people around the world to forget about their problems and start dancing like no one’s watching.