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10 Basic Hip-hop Dance Moves Every Dancer Can Perform

26 Mar 2024

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3 min read

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Hip-hop dance moves

Born in the streets of New York City and California, hip-hop dance is one of the expressions of hip-hop culture that developed in the early 1970s as a response to a crumbling socio-political and economic situation.

The four pillars of hip-hop include rapping or MCing, DJing, graffiti art, and B-boying. It was this B-boying -  the earliest hip-hop dance form, which was later refined as Breakdancing. Later, other influences such as uprock and funk styles helped shape the hip-hop dance form.

In due course of time, with constant improvisation of the hip-hop dance moves, contributions from eminent dancers - enriched this dance form into one of the most popular and globally acclaimed dance forms.

In its current avatar, hip-hop has evolved into a dance form that stands for high energy, style, and attitude. It is marked by agile and acrobatic body movements, stunning postures, super quick footwork, and an unapologetic attitude.

Words fall short when capturing the enigma of hip-hop dance moves. Still, here is an attempt to recreate the magic of the famous and the most aspirational dance form through this article.

10 Most Popular Hip-hop Dance Moves

1. The Camel Walk

2. The Moon Walk

3. Boogaloo

4. The Mashed Potato

5. Funky Chicken

6. The Split

7. Freestyle

8. Locking

9. Popping

10. Krumping

1. The Camel Walk 

The Camel Walk is one of the basic B-boying moves. Popularized by one of the hip-hop pioneers, James Brown, the Camel Walk features nimble footwork in bent knees and suave body movements in synchronization with the music. 

It is a forward movement where you walk alternating between your heels and toes. And you walk to the beats of the music. Performers use the Camel Walk while holding the microphone, or while entering or walking around the stage interacting with or engaging the audience.

2. The Moon Walk

The Moon Walk - the very mention of the term brings forth a slender and dapper personality sliding backward on his feet under a white spotlight. He steals the show and keeps the eyeballs fixed on his slender, animating physique in a well-fitted suit, cropped pants, white socks beneath, and pointed black shoes. Need we say more? It’s none other than the king of pop - Michael Jackson.

If you observe it closely - it’s the Camel Walk in reverse gear. Just as The Camel Walk takes you ahead, the Moon Walk walks you back. The same shifting your body weight from the heel to the toe alternatively but in a backward movement. It is one of the basic steps of hip-hop.

It might look fairly simple, but to achieve the correct movement gait, and smoothness, you need to learn the right technique and practice.

3. Boogaloo

You take a single step and move sideways in a rhythm of 4/4 time signature. It is an energetic sway-to-the-beats dance move that compliments the high-paced rap music.

Swift footwork, rhythmic isolation, and fluid body movement - primarily define the dance move boogaloo. This dance move is influenced by different dance forms such as funk, salsa, mambo, and soul.

Boogaloo is one of hip-hop's most vividly used freestyle dance moves, including body isolations following a sequence of quick footwork. These feature in the choreographies of all acclaimed hip-hop performers from James Brown to Chris Brown and Missy Elliot.

4. The Mashed Potato

A simple swing-your-heels-in-and-out followed by a low sidekick - as if you are mashing potatoes with your feet and sliding them aside. This hip-hop dance move that emerged in the 1960s as a part of soul music has now become a staple in every Western dance choreography.

The Mashed Potato dance emerged in the 1960s as a part of soul music. Synchronized with twists, arm movements, and suave gait, this dance move is performed with a syncopated rhythm to music such as soul, R&B, or early rock and roll.

5. Funky Chicken Dance

How does a chicken walk by jetting its head out repeatedly? Add to this the action of flapping wings, wobbling on its two tiny feet - what you have is a dancing chicken. It surely has a poise that even humans love to copy.

When the humans copy these steps on their little-stronger-than-the-chicken legs and slender bodies - it certainly adds an element of fun to the choreography. The Funky Chicken gained popularity during the 1960s and became a fun and lighthearted dance that people of all ages could enjoy.

This dance step in its basic form can be performed even by non-dancers. When mixed with the twists, knee bends, body movements, and footwork, these benign actions of flapping arms and tapping feet can turn into a euphoria.

6. The Split

A very common feature of Michael Jackson’s - is spinning on the heels and splitting or kneeling after a highly energy-packed performance. It is a kind of culminating of the entire momentum in one final pose - either for a pause in between the dance sequence or at the end of it.

The split dance move is a dynamic and visually impressive stunt or action that involves quickly dropping into a split position, typically while dancing. It requires flexibility, strength, and control to execute properly.

The challenge of this dance pose is that the dancer has to perform it as a continuation of a sequence of very fast-paced dance steps. And then again slide back to the feet from the split position. Hence, it calls for immense body fitness and flexibility.

Also read: 10 Western Dance Styles - Always High On Demand

7. Freestyle Dance Moves 

Freestyle and hip-hop are two distinct dance forms but they often exchange techniques and elements from each other.

Freestyle - as the name suggests - is open to impromptu improvisations. It requires a very well-acquired dance acumen, an understanding of your body’s capacity, and of course, a creative flair to put together a sequence of dance that would look coherent and well choreographed.

Hip-hop dance provides a rich foundation for creative expression within freestyle dance. Freestyle dancers often integrate elements of hip-hop dance into their improvisational practice, exploring the diverse range of styles and techniques within hip-hop culture. This fusion of styles results in a dynamic and eclectic approach to freestyle dance, where dancers blend hip-hop influences with other dance forms to create a unique and expressive movement language.

8. Locking

Locking is one of the signature steps that exude dynamism and energy. This style originated in the 1960s in Los Angeles, California. It developed as a part of funk music and culture, pioneered by artists such as Don Campbell, James Brown, and George Clinton. Locking is characterized by its distinctive movements, including "locking" positions, energetic arm gestures, and playful expressions.

Don Campbell created this style as a response to the upbeat and funky music of the time. The key feature of this style includes ‘locks’ which are sudden pauses in movement while transitioning between a sequence of exaggerated poses.

Sharp, angular arm movements known as "points," wrist rolls, and knee drops where dancers quickly lower themselves to the ground and pop back up with precision and control - are some of the signature steps of locking.

9. Popping

Popping is another signature step characterized by sudden, jerky movements, known as "pops" or "hits," which are executed by tensing and releasing muscles to create a sharp, rhythmic effect. Popping is often combined with other elements such as locking, waving, and ticking to create intricate and visually captivating routines.

Popping dance moves involve quickly tensing and releasing specific muscles, usually in the arms, chest, shoulders, or legs, to create a sudden, sharp movement. These are blended with other steps such as wave, boogaloo, strobing, and nimble footwork.

10. Krumping

Krumping is characterized by its aggressive and explosive movements, which include rapid arm swings, stomps, chest pops, and jumps. Dancers often use their entire bodies to create powerful and dynamic movements that convey intensity and emotion.

Krumping is often performed in freestyle battles and competitions, where dancers face off against each other in improvised dance-offs. These battles are highly competitive and intense, with dancers showcasing their skills, creativity, and stage presence in front of judges and audiences.

There are several aspects including clowning which includes playful and comedic gestures and ciphers or dance circles that stand for informal gatherings where dancers come together to showcase their skills and exchange energy.

As We Wrap…

From the rhythmic precision of popping and locking to the explosive energy of krumping, the playful funky chicken dance, clowning, and much more - each style carries its history, innovation, and spirit of expression.

Hat’s off to the pioneers who laid the foundation, the innovators who push the boundaries, and the community that keeps the culture alive and thriving.

Whether you're hitting those sharp pops or riding the waves of boogaloo, remember to embrace your individuality, unleash your creativity, and always dance with heart and soul.

If you aspire to master these steps, explore online hip-hop dance lessons.

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