The Evolution of Hip-Hop Dance, From Popping and Locking to TikToking

Image Source: Getty / Leo Vals Michael Ochs Archives Steve Campbell; Photo Illustration: Aly Lim

Hip-hop culture penetrates every aspect of people’s lives, from the way they dress and speak to walk and dance. Though mostly associated with music, hip-hop from its inception has always been a lifestyle and its own subculture within Black (and eventually other minority) communities around the world. When hip-hop emerged in the Bronx during the 1970s, there were four key elements of the scene: DJing, rapping, graffiti, and break dancing. Though break dancing gained exposure because of hip-hop music’s popularity, the inspiration and origins of the dance style date back to the 1950s.

Today, hip-hop dance encompasses a variety of elements and styles, the most common being break dancing, popping, locking, krumping, and freestyle. Now, hip-hop dance is offered in dance studios throughout the world, hip-hop dance crews battle on major networks and streaming services, and we have a multitude of movies centered solely on the culture and lifestyle of hip-hop dance.

Hip-hop dance has evolved and expanded with the music of its genre, crossing over into mainstream “traditional” dance studios and reaching shores far beyond the five boroughs of New York City. Join me on the journey of hip hop’s last five-plus decades, as it’s made its way from the street corners of the Bronx to trending on social media.

  1. Late ’60s to Early ’70s New York City: Break dancing
  2. 1970s California: Locking
  3. 1970s California: Popping
  4. 1983: Hip-Hop’s First Film, “Wild Style,” Debuts
  5. Late ’80s and ’90s: Club Battles and Competitions
  6. 2000s: New Wave of Hip-Hop Dance
  7. Modern Hip-Hop and Social Media

Related: Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper Was Hip-Hop Before She Was Ever Saweetie

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