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Hip Hop Dancing

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Hip hop is a lifestyle, a culture of now three generations. Although a large part of the phenomenon, hip hop cannot be only defined by the music of rap. Rap is a music style in which artists rap over a beat in time with the rhythm, usually driven by a hard, repetitive bass line. The origins of hip hop are much more dynamic.

Hip hop is a dimensional culture that consists of four main parts: breakdancing, graffiti art, rapping (or emceeing), and DJ-ing. While all of these dimensions are vitally important to what we know as hip hop today, perhaps none is more crucial to its origins than breakdancing. Breakdancing was born from the streets and really fertilized the proliferation of rap music. "Breakers" would play the music out loud on the streets on their boomboxes for all to hear, so people got used to the sound, whether they liked it or not.

In the early '80s, you could hear hip hop sounds wafting through the streets of the South Bronx (and Brooklyn, and Queens, and Harlem, lest we forget) in New York City. The magical sounds carried dancing feet for blocks to compete with the style of the street. Performers would gather on city corners with pieces of cardboard as their makeshift dance floors. They would spin, jump, flip, and get down to the sounds of The Sugar Hill Gang and DJ Afrika Bambaataa on a boombox set up on the sidewalk.

The B-Boy Influence

Also known as "B-Boys," breakdancers were a phenomenal force in the hip hop world. Their style was imitated and envied by many, but no one was more famous for his mad breakin' ability more than Richie Colon, who is still known as Crazy Legs. He and the other members of the Rock Steady Crew out of New York City made television appearances all over the world in the mid-'80s. Colon was actually the body double for Jennifer Beals during her breakdancing scenes in the movie "Flashdance."

Modern Hip Hop Dancing

Some say that breakdancing died with the introduction of Reganomics in the 1980s. However, semblances of the pop-lockin' moves and crazy flippin' styles are definitely still used today in music videos, concerts, and dance competitions. In Los Angeles, one of the pioneers of modern hip hop dance, Debbie Allen, is still teaching modern breakdancing classes to breakers of all ages.

The cultural experience may not be as strong, but other dance forms have added to breakdancing's legacy. "Crunk" music from the Deep South has proliferated its way onto pop music stations with the likes of Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz and others. "Getting crunk" is a wild, physical style of dance that involves "throwin' 'bows" (throwing your elbows around) and other bouncing, fast kinds of dance moves.

Hip hop dancing has ebbed and flowed over the years, from breakdancing in the 1980s, to "cripwalking" and "getting jiggy" in the 1990s, to "gettin' crunk" in the 2000s. All, however, have survived the years and are used today in some form in today's clubs and in the media. Old Navy, Target, and even Kmart have even used hip hop dance styles in their commercial campaigns. Hip hop and its styles of dance have taken hold of the world and don't seem to be letting go any time soon.

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