B-boys, b-girls, poppers, lockers, krumpers ... Chances are you've seen their moves, but do you know what they're called or where they came from?
What's the difference between street dance styles like popping, locking and breaking—and why does it matter?
Like all forms of dance, each style has its own characteristics and cultural roots. But each one is grounded in the same human need to move, perform and create. And over the last few years, hip hop dance has exploded in popularity—not just in urban centers but all over the world.
But hold up. Let's rewind for a sec.
The origins of dance
You can't talk about the origins of hip hop dance without a nod to dance itself.
Truth is, nobody knows exactly how dance became a part of our collective history. But experts guess it's as old as the human species itself. Prehistoric paintings depict dancing figures on Indian caves and Egyptian tombs—some estimated to be 9,000 years old. Anthropologists believe that early dance was a basic form of communication before the invention of written languages. Cultures used dance to pass stories from generation to generation.
A method of expression
Dance was also rooted in ritual, ceremony, healing and performance. Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America—societies all over the world created and innovated their own styles over time.
From African dance to Italian ballet and Spanish flamenco, dance has always played a role in the way people expressed themselves: their passions, their cultures, their art.
Hip hop & street dance explosion
The origins of hip hop dance are no different. It’s all about self-expression and identity.
The explosion of modern dance in the 20th century gave rise to studios and innovative styles that broke away from tradition.
In 1970s America, new forms of dance emerged in urban, largely African-American and Puerto Rican communities. But it wasn't happening in dance studios. It was on the street: at block parties, school yards and nightclubs.
Street dance was deeply ingrained in the hip hop culture of the time. Many credit DJ Kool Herc (aka Clive Campbell, the "Father of Hip Hop") for inspiring a new wave of hip hop culture and dance. While DJing parties, he noticed dancers got the most crowd hype during the instrumental breakbeats of a song. So he began using two turntables to loop the beats, over and over. The longer beats gave dancers more time to do their thing.
This was the origin of breaking (later referred to as breakdancing). It was highly improvisational and led to the numerous styles of street dance popular today.
A quick guide to street dance styles
Okay, here's the thing. "Street dance" and "urban dance" and "hip hop dance" are often used interchangeably. But there are actually unique differences between each label—and some people get really fired up about it.
So, here's a basic rule of thumb: Street dance is generally a good umbrella term for hip hop dance and other styles that evolved outside dance studios. Hip hop dance, to be specific, refers to dance forms that originated in hip hop culture, like breaking. Urban dance evolved out of hip hop dance and usually refers to heavily choreographed dance pieces, often performed as a group.
You don't have to be a dance expert to recognize the moves. Here are some of the most common street dance styles and what they look like:
1. Breaking / b-boying / b-girling / breakdancing: Big, aerobatic movements like flips and spins; quick footwork (known as toprock) and floor-based movements (downrock) and sudden full-body stops (freezing)
2. Popping: Coordinated body movements that hit on the beat by contracting and relaxing the muscles
3. Locking: Swinging movements ending with joints in "locked" positions, though not always a full-body stop, like freezing
4. Krumping: Raw, exaggerated movements marked by their emotion and intensity (derived from a similar style known as clowning)
5. House: Lots of footwork—moves like shuffling, skating and stomping—and fluid torso movements known as jacking
6. Electric boogaloo: A funk variant of popping with limbs creating a rolling or twitching effect
7. Floating: Smooth, contained movements, typically with the feet, creating the allusion of floating across the ground
8. Jerkin': Swift, in and out movements of the legs or knees
9. G-walk / Gangsta Walk / Memphis Jookin: This can encompass a variety of the movements above, including quick steps, twists, stomping, or a more crunk-style pushing off the floor (or pushing off other dancers)
This is just a short list, and depending on who you talk to, some of these moves are considered only techniques, not outright dance styles. But the point is that street dance is a world of its own, and it's constantly evolving.
Why it matters to us
Street dance played an important role in how our founder started a.fatti, and our brand is deeply ingrained in the hip hop culture.
To us, street dance is an inspiration. We're inspired by the breakers, krumpers and other street dancers who are constantly challenging themselves, working harder, dropping new dope moves. Street dancers don't get nearly as much credit as they deserve, and we're here to support them 100%. Self-expression … art … creativity … pushing the limits … that's what a.fatti is all about.