Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Blogs

These Are The Breaks: History of Hip-Hop Dance

Depending on whom you ask, hip-hop can have many definitions and meanings. Hip- hop culture is inseparable from the music genre that shares its name, but its origin lays in four distinct “elements”: the DJ, the MC, the breakdancer and the graffiti artist. All four were symbols of individuality and a rebellion against accepted behaviour and roles in society. The first of these symbols began appearing in the mid-to-late 1970s, rising to cultural prominence in the 1980s and beyond.


Graffiti artists’ canvas was the street, taking an act of petty vandalism and turning it into a piece of unique art. DJs would scratch records for effect, sampling and cutting existing songs to create new sounds and rhythms. MCs took poetry and infused it with the soul of their people and urban surroundings, rapping out their lyrics over this new music. Finally, breakdancers or “breakers” would build on and borrow from the long history of dance to create their own intense, complex and acrobatic form of art.


Hip-hop dance is always evolving, but one thing remains the same: it owes much to its influences. Modern hip-hop dance draws from other forms such as contemporary and ballet– just as it did when it was popularized in the 1980s. Except at that time popping, locking and breaking were all individual styles of dance that intermingled to create modern hip-hop.

Popping: contracting muscles to “pop” your body or body parts rhythmically

Locking: locking your body or body parts into place as you move to the beat

Breaking: intricate footwork featuring acrobatic moves and displays of athleticism.


Those styles, among others, did not originate in a studio or on a stage. They were born out of informal freestyle competitions on street corners and in community halls, often in lower income neighbourhoods. With a disproportionate amount of African and Latin communities living in these areas, the founding styles of hip-hop were of course heavily influenced by those cultures’ dance and music, both traditional and modern. With roots stretching back as far as the turn of the century and even tribal Africa– free from dance studios and rigid structure– this is where modern hip-hop dance was born. Hip-hop dance continues to change and renew itself, built on the foundations of sampling, reimagining and innovating dance as a whole.

If you are curious about hip-hop dance, contact Elite Dance Studio and enroll in a class today. Our staff boasts many experienced teaching professionals and we welcome any and all ages and skill levels.