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Home > Hip Hop Dance

...and Hip Hop was Born

Hip hop today can be found everywhere. It’s become a regular and well known form of dance. We find it in gyms where members dance just for fitness; we find it in dance studios, in music videos and on film as well. All we hear is that it is a form of ‘street dance’. This street dance has quite a history of development that led up to the coined phrase ‘hip hop’. Most practicing dancers today are trained in the hip hop ‘technique’ and take classes to perform a specific executed series of steps to hip hop natured music. This is actually a far cry from the origins.

break dancers
People gather to watch the young break dancer on cardboard

The phrase ‘hip hop’, was coined by DJ Afrika Bambaataa, in reference to the urban movement that was happening in the 80’s. The words ‘hip hop’ were also used by early DJ’s as a form of rhyming and audience hype. The roots of hip hop were formed in New York City and Brooklyn; the public saw it as a ‘funk movement’. A lot of elements were formed on the west coast as well, but the east coast is where it all started. Whether called ‘b-boying’, ‘uprocking’, ‘breakin’ or ‘top rockin’, it all led to the very dance form we know today as hip hop. The movement developed from a mixture of break dancing, turntable DJ music, martial arts, jazz, pop locking and hip hop music development. Breakdancing is a huge part of hip hop; it has now developed into an independent form of dance. It began as an improvisational battle between dance ‘crews’ that would cover anything from gymnastics and intricate balances, to simulated assault and aggressive physical humor to ‘break the opponent’. The winner would be the crew with the most difficult moves spanning from back and head spins and balanced ‘freezes’, to fast sharp aggressive movement and robotic body trembles. When hip hop music started developing, so did hip hop dance. As soon as it began being staged for an audience, aside from the original interactive audience, it began to take on a new form.

Another influence on hip hop was a martial arts form from Brazil, originated by the African American slaves living there. The slaves would practice this fighting technique form and disguise it as dance when in all reality; they were getting strong to fight. Many glorified martial arts movements are very prominate in the hip hop technique. This movement was inspired by not only martial arts, but street fighting as well. A lot of this dancing was performed with ‘crews’, and would be done to ‘humiliate’ the opponent. They would form lines and would call the dancing a ‘battle’.

break dancers
From the movie 'You Got Served'

Hip hop made it’s most recent mark in films today such as ‘Bounce’, ‘Hustle & Flow’, ‘Honey’, the documentary ‘The Freshest Kids; A History of the B-Boy’, ‘You Got Served’, as well as many, many more... The hip hop style is still developing today and now we see a new style addition starting to get national acclaim. This style is known as ‘krumping’ which was highlighted in the documentary ‘Rize’. This style originated in South Central Los Angeles. Krumping has a deeper African tribal influence including face painting, tribal movement and group dance. It’s a very aggressive yet positive energetic dance movement that has served as an evolvement in the dance style. Hip hop is a movement and it continues to grow and change with the times.

crunk dancers
Dancers from the documentary 'Rize'

Most people usually think of rap videos when they think of the dance related word ‘hip hop’, but it is much more than that. It has a thick history and an endless future. It is one of the most innovative dance styles out there today. Dancers have quite a respect for this dance form; it’s by no means easy and requires such a large amount of energy to execute, that it’s actually one of the most difficult forms outside of ballet. It is exciting enough to entertain millions of people, difficult enough to dazzle the most seasoned dancers, yet has a side to it that can reach out to the non-dancer as well. This is why it isn't unusual to see gym members learning it in no time, and enjoying themselves in the process! It is based in that primal desire to move and to emote to aggressive movement. Watching the hip hop movement grow and change in the world today is a pleasure. We see hip hop influence in many dance styles; especially tap and jazz. Hip hop is a dance style that has many faces. Tomorrow might produce a completely different movement; it’s one to watch and to enjoy.

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