In association withBBC Young Dancer2015

With thanks toRobert HyltonConsultant

The development of street dance

Street dances are typically developed outside of the dance studio.

Formally known as vernacular dance, they grow within communities, groups and social gatherings, changing and adapting over time. This timeline will take you through some of the roots and influences reflected in contemporary street dance.



You need to have JavaScript enabled to view this clip.

Locking performance includes fleeting moments of Juba through rhythmic slapping of arms, legs and body.

Juba originated in West Africa. The dance includes stomping, patting and slapping of arms, legs and chest.

This became an African-American plantation dance that was performed by slaves. As slaves were not allowed instruments they would use their bodies to create sound, rhythm and movement. Patting would also be used to keep time for other dances. A European traveller made a written record of the dance in Africa in 1621. Influences from Juba are found in tap dance and the jitterbug, the Charleston and more current street dance moves related to hip hop.

Wikipedia: Juba dance


Tap dance

Getty Images

Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel

Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel, 1935.

Influenced by many dances such as Juba, Irish stepdance and clog dances, it’s believed that tap began in the mid-1800s as part of the minstrel shows.

The African-American dancer Master Juba has been called the "inventor of tap". In 1845 he had top billing in an otherwise all-white minstrel company. Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson contributed to the onscreen evolution of tap. Jim Crow laws prevented black performers from appearing alongside white performers, with the exception of playing a servant role alongside a white child. This is why so many of Robinson’s 1930s roles were as a household servant dancing alongside child actress Shirley Temple.

Tap dance styles: Traditional and modern


Early jazz and vernacular dances

Getty Images

Dancers with a jazz band

Couple dancing to a jazz band in a nightclub.

Black American vernacular dances with recognisable African rhythms, such as the Cakewalk and buck dancing, developed into jazz dancing similar to tap.

A jazz or tap dancer was traditionally part of a jazz band. Official American jazz dancers appeared around 1910. Influences included steps from tap, buck dance, Russian dance, legomania and the Cakewalk. Buck dancing is a flat-footed rhythmic dance with similarities to house footwork. Russian Katzoskys can be seen in breaking. Some other dances evolved from jazz roots such as the Charleston. Today, we can see jazz dance's influence on many styles from theatrical dancing to hip hop jazz.

The origins of jazz

Let me see you do the rag-time dance, turn left and do the cakewalk prance.

Scott Joplin: The Ragtime Dance, 1902


Lindy Hop/jitterbug

Getty Images

A couple dancing the jitterbug, circa 1938.

A couple dancing the jitterbug, circa 1938.

A member of the swing family, this 1930s American jazz dance grew alongside jazz music. It was a mixture of African and European influences.

This was a social dance, sometimes described as street dance. Breaking through racial barriers of the time, it was the first partner dance to feature acrobatic elements. By the 1940s it progressed to suit faster music, leading to the boogie woogie. Later on elements of the dance could be recognised in rock'n'roll, while another dance called the apple jack developed. The apple jack consists of many moves still recognisable in street dance today including locking, popping, breaking and hip hop.

Learning the Lindy Hop


Soul dance, social dances

Getty Images

James Brown on Saturday Night Live, 1980

James Brown on Saturday Night Live, 1980.

The complex jazz dance moves would merge into social dance and party dances through the growing popularity of R&B, rock'n'roll and soul music.

The 1950s saw the rise of many soul or social dances through to the early 1960s. Dances such as the Watusi emphasise arm movements similar to those you see in the wobble in hip hop dance. The Lindy Hop is retransformed through rock'n'roll. The Pony’s emphasis on footwork is similar to some house dance steps. James Brown later mashed up many dances of the 50s and 60s with gymnastic moves such as the splits. His moves are still recognised as part of the hip hop dance movement today.

BBC Music: James Brown


Funk styles and breaking

You need to have JavaScript enabled to view this clip.

‘Animation’ is associated with both popping and 1970s dances.

The funk-style dances locking, popping and boogaloo originated in 1970s California. Breaking, or b-boying or b-girling, was from the South Bronx.

Locking is based on freezing/locking poses in funky social dances. Popping includes changing body angles to the beat, and is often combined with moves such as the ‘back slide’, known to many as Michael Jackson's moonwalk. Other associated dances include strobing and animation. Funk-style moves can be recognised within hip hop today. Breaking is inspired by percussive drum patterns from rock funk to Latin rhythms. Top rock moves such as the charlie rock are similar to the Charleston.

Breakdance and b-boying: An introduction

When the public changed it to 'breakdancing' they were just giving a professional name to it, but b-boy was the original name for it.

Santiago 'Jo Jo' Torres, Rock Steady Crew


Hip hop dance

You need to have JavaScript enabled to view this clip.

‘Bounce’, rocking the head and torso backwards and forwards to the beat, is seen, along with groove, as one of the foundations of hip hop dance.

A mixture of social dances and street styles. Core hip hop dances include breaking, locking and popping and are performed to hip hop music.

Styles and moves, including those inherited from funk styles and breaking, were all brought together under the term ‘hip hop’ by DJ and hip hop activist Afrika Bambaataa during a magazine interview in 1982. An array of influences from other dances can be recognised as far back as Juba through to jazz dance and Lindy Hop. Hip hop moves are blended into a freestyle-based dance that emphasises self-expression. The influence of hip hop can be seen in current dance trends such as house and krumping.

The world of hip hop dance


House dance

Getty Images

Frankie Knuckles

Pioneering Chicago DJ Frankie Knuckles, pictured here in 2013, was often known as the godfather of house music.

This is often improvised, combining smooth upper body movements with fast and intricate footwork, and is danced to house music.

Originating in the clubs of Chicago and of New York, the three main elements to the dance are jacking, footwork, and lofting. It is influenced by the rhythms of the music, taking disco in a new direction and sharing influences including African, jazz funk and hip hop. Tap dance contributes to the elaborate style of footwork, focusing on the subtle rhythms and grooves of the music. While jacking is a very fast movement of the upper body, lofting is very smooth and sensual.

Street dance masterclass on house dance



You need to have JavaScript enabled to view this clip.

Demonstration of krumping, from BBC Young Dancer 2015.

This street dance originated as a way for African-Americans in Los Angeles to release frustration in a non-violent way while avoiding gang life.

Characterised by free movement enabling dancers to express their personality, krumping’s exaggerated movement is danced to upbeat music. It can be regarded as an off-shoot of clown dancing, with faces were painted colourfully to represent clowns, although this has become an individual’s choice. Krumping is a major part of hip hop culture, and is used frequently in street dance battles. On 30 December 2005 Krumping was introduced to the world with the release of documentary film Rize.

Try waving, locking and krumping