The robot is a well-known style of dance, though it is commonly disregarded as a joke. You may already be thinking of dads long past their time who take to the dance floor and put their arms out at the side, bending their elbows back and forth simulating a lever. This is a form of the robot, sure, but it is far from the extent that robotic dancing has reached today. Modern robot dancing incorporates many styles of expressive and contemporary dance and its best performers are known for putting all these ingredients together into a single piece that emphasises the extent of their abilities. The entire movement has come in leaps and bounds over the few decades in both the west and the east, continually influencing each other in a back and forth of improvement the outcome is that some of the best modern dancers are now capable of previously unseen moves. Here are some notable components in the realm of modern robot dancing.
Beginning in the 70s and popularised in the 80s as the hip-hop movement took over America and beyond, popping is a variation of dance where muscles are contracted and relaxed very quickly to create visually pleasing jerk-like movements. Popping came about as street dancing rose in popularity and clubs began filling with people ready to show the crowds what they could do. Thanks to the competition aspect of this, such as dance off’s and awards for best dancers, those in the movement were constantly trying to innovate in order to one up their rivals. Popping is still a major component in modern robot dance as specific muscular control is what creates the robotic feel, whether static or in motion.
As music styles changed, the dances began to incorporate more of the same mood as their backing. When electro crept into the scene and more synthesised sounds became more pleasing to common ears, dancers embraced the robotic side of their movements and took things to the next level. The animation style of popping began here as the high energy moves that were often interlaced with break dance were dialed back. The full body movements that street dance was known for such as jumps, flips and headspins just didn’t flow as well with the new sounds as the more static and controlled movements. Animation style gets its name from the way that performers move their body parts in quick jitters that causes a visual illusion whereby it seems the dancer could be being animated in stop-motion, a style of visual animation shot frame by frame.
As music continues to change, the accompanying tracks that back dance numbers by those who practice robot dancing has continued to alter. More recently genres such as chillstep, glitch-hop and more experimental electronic styles have paired wonderfully with the robotic movements of dancers. Noticeable electronic sounds, computer noises, purposeful tweaks in pitch and modulation are all frequent and varied in these styles of music and often become a basis for dancers who want to develop even more non-humanist style moves.