Hip Hop Dances From the 80s & 90s

Written by douglas quaid
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Hip Hop Dances From the 80s & 90s
A break dancer performs on the street. (teen dancing on the contest image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

Dance has always been an integral part of hip-hop culture from its origin in the block parties of New York City to the present day when it holds a near hegemony over pop music. Hip-hop dance is energetic, creative and free-form. The main idea is always to embody the energy of the music while showing off your best stuff. Many hip-hop dance styles, such as break dancing, first got national exposure in the 1980s and '90s.

Break Dancing

Perhaps the dance style most widely associated with hip hop, break dancing began in the early 1970s in New York City, but began to gain nationwide recognition in the 1980s. Hip-hop originated in the block parties of the South Bronx and Harlem, where the MC would mix and scratch records from two turntables while rhyming over the beat. Break dancing was invented at the same parties, when B-boys and B-girls would face off and dance competitively, with individuals and crews all trying to one-up one another. Break dancing is a free-form, creative and athletic style, where the dancers try to impress the crowd with acrobatic moves like balancing on one hand or spinning on the ground. Today B-boy culture is alive and well and has received mainstream recognition in films like "You Got Served."

The Hammer Dance

The hammer dance famously appeared in the music video for MC Hammer's 1990 smash hit "U Can't Touch This." The dance is all about the trousers: you can't hammer dance without hammer trousers. Hammer trousers are essentially parachute trousers: ultra-baggy, colourful, lightweight trousers that flap around when you shake your legs. The hammer dance involves a complicated series of jumps, spins and dips meant to keep the trousers in motion. After "U Can't Touch This," Hammer's career went into decline as the hip-hop world turned to darker, more complex rhymes and beats from MCs like Dr. Dre, Tupac and Biggie, and groups like the Wu-Tang Clan, Gang Starr and Mobb Deep.


Hip-hop, like other forms of music and dance, has a strong tradition of local scenes with a style and character unique to a certain place. Bounce music and dance only exists in Louisiana, especially in and around New Orleans. Bounce originated in the early 1990s and quickly became the heart of the New Orleans hip-hop scene. Bounce is based on rapid, repetitive booty beats, and the dance keeps the whole body, especially the legs, in lightning fast but fluid motion. Call and response is a central part of bounce, and the MC calls out lyrics and dances for the crowd to repeat. A fascinating and unique subset of bounce called "Sissy Bounce" is performed by gay male MCs for a mostly female audience. At sissy bounce shows, women get up on stage around the MC, get down on the floor and shake what they've got. Today bounce is thriving, and is beginning to get national attention.

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