Hip-Hop Dancing: How It Evolved From The Street To The Internet And Television

A style of dance that has gone from humble beginnings to insanely viral.

When looking at hip-hop dancing, you must look at the history of hip-hop music and how it gave birth to specific dance styles. You'll see an evolution from what started in the streets of America on both the East Coast and West Coast to a style of dance that has transcended and become a staple of pop culture. With the advent of the television and the internet — especially post-2000 — we've seen widespread adoption and consumption of hip-hop culture in the dance world and beyond.


As mentioned, hip-hop dance originated in Black and Latino communities — much like voguing did with the drag queen community in the ballroom scene of the 1960s — in both New York City and California in the 1970s. These individuals created styles such as uprock, break dancing (with those doing this style known as b-boys), roboting, boogaloo, and popping and locking. Each of these styles, which consisted of unique dance steps often made up on the fly, giving these talented street dancers an opportunity to improvise as the music would change over time.

While there was a distinct rise in hip-hop music in the 1990s, which would often feature people dancing in hip-hop videos, it wasn't until the advent of the internet — specifically YouTube, beginning when it was created in 2005 — which saw hip-hop dance videos dominate the web. By showing their best hip-hop dance moves, these choreographers and dancers proved that they could gain and reach massive audiences by simply showing their ability to dance hip-hop to some of the best hip-hop dance songs of the time.

Television, though it had been around prior to the internet, only saw a shift in focusing on hip-hop dance with the increase in dance-focused shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, which began in 2005, America's Got Talent, which premiered in 2006, America's Best Dance Crew, which got its start in 2008, and, most recently, World of Dance, which hit the small screen in 2017. These TV programs gave contestants a nationwide platform to showcase their work and, in thanks to YouTube, those hip-hop videos have a place to reside for a long time, such as Kyle Hanagami's recent clip featuring dancers performing to Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do," and Brian Friedman's recent routines set to Becky Hill's "Rude Love" and Vera Blues' "Lady Powers."

Given how much hip-hop dance songs have been able to permeate into society, it was only a matter of time before it began to have an influence on other styles. We have seen the rise of genres such as hip-hop ballet that have been able to thrive alongside other niche styles such as salsa dance and swing dance — just to name a few. There's no telling how the style will continue to thrive and expand in the coming years.

Now it's super easy for those who want to learn how to dance hip-hop because, in addition to dance classes for other styles, many dance studios will have specialized hip-hop dance classes — with some dance studios even being specifically hip-hop dance studios. With access to hip-hop classes — whether they be purely academic or performance in nature — everyone can become a hip-hop star if they excel at learn to embrace the history of hip-hop.

Cover image via chaoss / Shutterstock


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