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From its origins in the streets of the South Bronx in the 1970s, Hip Hop has become a global cultural phenomenon, influencing everything from music and fashion to film and television. At the heart of this movement is Hip Hop dance, a style of movement characterized by its energy, rhythm, and individuality. In this article, we’ll explore the history and evolution of Hip Hop dance and culture, from its roots in African American and Latino communities to its global impact today.

Hip Hop Dance

It has deep historical and social roots in African American culture, having emerged in Black communities living in 1970s New York. Hip Hop dance is part of a whole culture of Hip Hop, that includes Deejaying, Graffiti, Emceeing, Breaking, and Knowledge. The thing about Hip Hop Freestyle and Hip Hop Dance is that these dances all have a foundation and techniques to them, bounces and rock. 

The 5 elements of Hip Hop

Hip Hop dance is more than just a dance style – it’s part of a broader culture that includes Deejaying, Emceeing, Graffiti, Breaking, and Knowledge.


MC stands for “Master of Ceremonies” also known as MCing or rapping, is the voice of the hip hop party or event, and is responsible for hyping up the crowd, introducing the DJ and other performers, and keeping the energy and flow of the event going. They often use their voice to express their unique style, personality, and message, and freestyle rap to improvise lyrics on the spot to respond to the energy and vibe of the crowd and the music.

“And if I ever went to solo…
…my favorite MC would be me – Phife Dawg”

MCing has become a hugely popular art form and has had a major influence on popular music around the world. Many hip-hop MCs have achieved great success and acclaim, both within the hip-hop community and beyond, and have used their music to express important social and political messages.


Breaking, also known as break dancing, is the original dance style that came out of the Hip Hop community. It is a highly acrobatic and athletic dance style that incorporates a wide range of movements, including Top Rocks, Fast Footwork, Back Rocks, Freezes, and Power Moves.

Breaking has evolved over the years and continues to be a popular dance style around the world. It is often performed in competitions and battles, where dancers showcase their skills and creativity.


This is the art of expressing oneself about everyday life using spray paint in public spaces. Graffiti has a long history in hip hop, and is often used as a means of expressing social and political messages, as well as personal experiences and perspectives. Graffiti artists often use their art to challenge mainstream culture and to claim public space as their own. 

Although artists identify as part of the hip-hop community, neither hip hop artists, however, graffiti has played an important role in the development and spread of hip-hop culture, and remains an important form of artistic expression within the hip-hop community and beyond.


Also known as turntablism, DJs use record players and DJ mixers to manipulate and blend different sounds and beats to create a continuous mix of music that keeps people dancing and engaged.

In Hip Hop, the DJ is often considered to be the backbone of the genre, as they are responsible for creating the beats and sounds that rappers and other performers use to showcase their skills. DJs also play a crucial role in creating the atmosphere and energy of hip-hop parties and events, and are often respected and celebrated within the hip-hop community for their skills and contributions.


Knowledge of self” is a term used in Hip Hop to describe the process of gaining self-awareness and understanding of one’s cultural identity and history. This concept emphasizes the importance of knowing one’s history and cultural roots to fully understand oneself and one’s place in society. It is often seen as a means of empowerment for marginalized communities, as it can help individuals reclaim their identity and gain a sense of pride and belonging.

In addition to promoting individual empowerment, Hip Hop culture also emphasizes the importance of community and social change. Many Hip Hop artists and activists use their platform to advocate for social justice and give back to their communities. This includes supporting local businesses, organizing community events, and addressing issues such as police brutality, poverty, and inequality.

Where it all started

Hip Hop emerged as a cultural movement in the 70s and around the 80s by giving New York, especially the South Bronx, a new start because the youth, particularly the African Americans and Latinos, was surrounded by drugs, crime, poverty, gang violence, overall struggle, and were neglected by mainstream institutions. Desperate for a way to escape their everyday struggles, they invented their art forms to empower themselves and connect. These art forms, which they embodied in the way they dressed, talked, moved, and expressed themselves, soon became a lifestyle and culture.

Here is KRS-One explains the origins of “Hip Hop”

Hip Hop is a culture, a mindset, a way of life. The forms associated with it – dance (Breakdance, Freestyle Hip Hop, and Litefeet), art (graffiti), spoken word (emcee/rap), and music (DJ, production), fashion, and so on… They are ways that the culture of Hip Hop manifests.”

– Buddha Stretch

Hip Hop party/social dance

Not all of them were able to perform the athletically demanding breaking moves, various types of Hip Hop music inspired people to move in a new way – one that is social, light-hearted, and enjoyable.

With the arrival of dancers like Buddha Stretch, Hip Hop party dances were born!

Many hip-hop clubs came up throughout New York City as the dance culture grew. The Latin Quarter and Union Square are two well-known examples. When one thinks of “old hip-hop dances,” one typically thinks of the dances that emerged during this time period.

Some examples of these social or party dance moves include the Snake, Chicken-head, Cabbage Patch, Harlem Shake, and Running Man.

Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, hip hop music expanded to include various instruments and rap streams, resulting in new routines. New school dances adapted from newer songs include the Whip, Nae Nae, Dougie, and Cat Daddy.

Other “Hip Hop” styles?

Styles like Popping/Boogaloo, House, Locking, and Whacking are often mistakenly grouped under the Hip Hop “umbrella.” However, these are not hip-hop styles, but their own individual dance styles with their own techniques, vocabulary and origin. Ballroom Dances developed in the 1980s, such as lock and pop, are more accurately referred to as “West Coast Funk” styles.

The global impact of Hip Hop dance

Hip hop dance has had a significant global impact in many different ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. Cultural exchange: Hip hop dance originated in African American and Latino communities in the Bronx in the 1970s. Since then, it has spread around the world and has been embraced by people from all backgrounds. As a result, hip hop dance has facilitated cultural exchange and helped to break down barriers between different groups of people.
  2. Pop culture: Hip hop dance has had a major influence on popular culture, from music videos to movies and television shows. Many of the dance moves and styles associated with hip hop have been adopted by mainstream culture and are now widely recognized and imitated.
  3. Fitness and wellness: Hip hop dance is a great way to stay in shape and improve overall fitness. It’s a high-energy form of exercise that combines cardio, strength training, and flexibility. Many gyms and fitness studios offer hip hop dance classes as a fun and engaging way to get in shape.
  4. Education and empowerment: Many dance programs and workshops use hip hop as a way to engage young people and teach them about self-expression, teamwork, and discipline. Hip hop dance can also be a way for marginalized communities to reclaim their identity and celebrate their culture.

Overall, hip hop dance has had a profound impact on global culture and society, from promoting cultural exchange and breaking down barriers to influencing popular culture and promoting fitness and wellness.

Yo! I wanna learn some moves!

If you want to learn to dance hip hop, start with the music. On the one hand you have to understand that everything comes from the music, you have to be able to enjoy hip hop music before you can apply everything to it. If you can’t, you just can’t do the dance because it doesn’t work that way. Every music has a different feel, if you start to get in touch and in the essence of that music that you’re listening to, a particular type of movement will come out. So, fall in love with the music first and the dance will come kind of naturally with it.

“Music makes you move”

– Pranvas Siripongpun aka KZgirl, Co-Owner of D Maniac Studio

In addition to listening to hip hop music, it’s also helpful to watch videos of hip hop dance performances to see how dancers interpret the music with their movements.

You can also take classes or workshops with experienced hip hop instructors to learn specific techniques and styles, and to receive feedback and guidance on your dancing.

D Maniac, one of the popular dance studio in Bangkok, Thailand. Most dance style here is based on Hip Hop


Hip-hop history is a fascinating topic that deserves to be explored further. Since its start in the 1970s, this cultural movement has seen significant development and evolution. What started as a local effort in New York City to create a haven for African-American and Puerto Rican adolescents has become a worldwide phenomenon. Hip hop is still a dominating cultural force that influences people all over the globe.

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