Dance Blog

Streets to the Screen

Hip Hop is widely known as a genre of music, but as this progressive and thoroughly urban culture arose in the 70’s the term meant more than just rappers. Hop-Hop dance, often confused with Street Dance, which regularly incorporates many elements of the former, is a style that has risen to popularity and drastically changed in the eye of the public. The way in which it formed and those who took part in it would never have known just how widespread the movement has reached today.

Known as a Godfather of Hip-Hop; turntablist Afrika Bambaataa once claimed that that break-dancing was one of the cornerstones of the movement. This of course is one of the most iconic parts of the dance style. By using momentum to continually twist and turn the body while alternating its support, performers of ‘breaks’ instantly become dance machines. This impressive and mesmerising style began life in Brooklyn as people would improvise a new set of movements to the backing of African American music which ranged from James Brown to The Sugarhill Gang. Quickly being elaborated on, the style added new moves such as locks which are where dancers would freeze themselves in outlandish positions for periods of time that caused a strain on muscles that newcomers may not have built up. In fact from the very beginning Hip-Hop dance was as much a feat of athleticism as it was a stylistic variation of freeform dance.

Unlike typical ‘dance floor’ moves of the time where crowds were instructed by MC’s to step in directions or raise their hands and so on, the moves performed by B-boys (as performers are commonly known) had a significant learning curve. A formidable level of strength, flexibility and balance are all needed to execute even the most pedestrian of moves. Because of this and likely due to the mesmerising nature of the often gravity defying dances, this movement was always tied with performance. Its commonly depicted that in subways poor people in urban areas would break dance for crowds for change, this shows just how deep the style penetrated New York culture.

Soon though, the style spread, as did the popularity of the beats and rhymes that backed the dances. Within a few years the movement had spread globally and the fascination with this new dance took off. By the 90’s big name studios in TV and film were keen to capitalise on the movement and break dancing and its elements were brandished on everything from cartoons to video games. Growing steadily as hip hop moved from its late 80’s depiction as ‘violent street music’ to its household dynamic. As the rise of contest shows grew in the early 2000’s the scene flourished as dance troupes became hit sensations and Hollywood cashed in on the phase by green lighting several films all focused around dance. Honey, Save The Last Dance, Step Up and others became the widely known hits that continued to showcase the dance to the public. Today hip hop is a much different creature but the dances that were once started on the impoverished streets of New York are now taught in dance schools all over the globe.

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