July 12, 2024

Styles Of Dance

Dance Styles Unite in Harmony

Here’s Your Street Dance Styles 101

10 min read
Red Bull Dance Your Style is back, and the top street dancers on the planet are coming together once again to tear up the floor, wow crowds and go head-to-head in the hugely hyped all-styles battle for a chance to etch their name onto the world stage. Like its predecessors, 2021’s Red Bull Dance Your Style will host phenomenally talented rising stars and heavy hitters from street dance scenes worldwide. There is no judge. The DJ selects the soundtrack for each round, and the champ is decided by the crowd.

Choosing the winner won’t be easy—especially since these dancers possess otherwordly musical prowess, raw passion, bracing confidence and next-level originality. At Red Bull Dance Your Style, you can trust they will flex all of the above and push their character, showmanship and theatrics to a maximum. Today street dancers are not only masters of their own genres, but they’re battle-ready with dynamic skill sets and an arsenal of moves from other styles that they can swerve onto in a blink of an eye.

Dancehall and West African dances like Afrobeat undoubtedly influenced freestyle hip-hop. While hip-hop became the backbone for almost all street dances. Fast forward to 2021 and contemporary dancers are Krumping and Bone-Breaking. Funk dancers are flexing a variety of Popping and Locking styles you’ve likely not even have heard of!!! Latin street styles like Salsa have been integrated into footwork as well as Capoeira and martial arts have been fused into tricks. Dancers are clocking viral hits on IG with old-School party dances like Boogaloo, Hustle and Shuffle. While Disco social dances like Vogue and Waacking are landing their own HBO shows!

In the end, deciphering Chicago Footwork from Memphis Jook is no easy task for even the most seasoned street dancer and judge. So fret not, as the competition heats up, we’re breaking down all the styles you’re about to witness and giving you the cheat codes so that you know the history behind the styles as well as the moves. Get ready because the Red Bull Dance Your Style competitors are coming back with more fire, fierce creativity and hunger to win than ever before!

Popping comes from Fresno, California. The dance is centred around the technique of isolating and stopping movement by quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to create a jerking effect (“a pop or hit”) in the body. One of the most recognizable moves is ‘The Backslide’ (aka the Moonwalk), which incorporates footwork techniques that create the illusion that your feet are moving smoothly across the floor. Popping is an extremely music-centred funk dance with the dancer often trying to catch as many accents with their body as possible. Animation is a variety of popping meant to simulate an animated character moving frame-by-frame. The technique involves abrupt tensing of the muscles to create a stop-motion illusion.

Popping evolved from Boogaloo and is a loose, fluid dance that gives the impression of the body having no bones. It incorporates isolated circular rolls of body parts. Sectioning out hips, chest, shoulders, knees and head, one at a time, especially the rib cage from the hips. Boogaloo also makes heavy use of angles and various steps to transition from one spot to the next. Another variant is Tutting. It was inspired by the Egyptian pharaoh “King Tut,” tutting exploits and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because of this, dancers create angular shapes and pictures with their body parts, usually arms or hands, that replicate the artwork.

Angyil and Dassy pose for a portrait in Washington, D.C.

Angyil and Dassy pose for a portrait in Washington, D.C.

© Jeremy Gonzalo / Red Bull Content Pool

Footwork is an insanely fast house/street dance style that originated in Chicago in the late 1980s and ‘90s. It was born in the city’s housing projects by disenfranchised black communities of dancers and DJs looking for a creative outlet to cope with corrupt police, poverty, violence and racism.

Sonically, footwork music is a deliberate shredding of the ‘rules’ of house music, and the movements don’t conform to easy rhythmic patterns either. Footwork is about blowing people’s minds and expectations—whether that was your opponent or the audience. Then similar to Krump, more deeply, it was about expressing anger and venting frustration to a society that demonized the young black people living in Chicago’s projects.

The dance involves fast movements of the feet with accompanying twists and turns to rapid rhythms delivered at 160 BPMS. The dance eventually exploded into its own musical genre that spread from west to south Chicago all the way to being played at pummeling decibels in clubs worldwide and most recently in London and Bristol accompanied by a feverish wave of dancers.

Afrobeat is a music genre that blends West African music with soul, jazz, funk, and electronic music. Like the music, dancers combine styles the same way. In the ’70s Afrobeat music was primarily danced in its birthplace and soundtracked by the legendary star of the genre like Fela Kuti.

In recent years, Afrobeats have been given an electronic lick, and the African diaspora’s dance styles have undeniably gained popularity. They’ve since swelled outside the continent into the rest of the world. The prime TikTok and chart positions are dominated by Afrobeat artists and dancers. With both, fusing Africa with Western-Pop. Niche styles include the incredibly popular Azonto from Ghana. It began with one- or two-step movements and advanced to more complex and acrobatic moves. Outside of that, Azonto is based on hand movements miming everyday actions such as ironing clothes, washing, driving, boxing, praying, swimming, etc.

Many other Afrobeat styles and dance crazes have gone viral thanks to the songs accompanying them, like Shaku Shaku, Kupe, Naira Marley’s Soapy Dance. Many of these feature a selection of exaggerated hand claps, knee-bending and winding hip movements. There have also been new styles to come out of the UK, such as Afro-Swing and rare dance styles re-emerge like Etighi from Nigeria, consisting of leg and waist movements.

House dance was born in the underground house music scene of Chicago and New York. It is typically danced to loud and bass-heavy electronic dance music provided by DJs at clubs or raves. The main elements of House dance include “jacking,” “footwork,” and “lofting.” “Jacking,” or the “Jack” by far, is the most famous dance move associated with the dance. It’s characterized by the torso’s ecstatic, sex-driven rippling movement and even found its way onto numerous record titles. ‘Lofting’ is acrobatic floor work that is much more smooth and controlled than breaking.

As for the footwork element, house dance emphasizes fast and complex foot-oriented steps that combine fluid movements, pivot spins, and “ball change” steps. There is an emphasis on the subtle rhythms and riffs of the music. It’s much more bouncy and soft than Chicago Footwork.



© Jeremy Gonzalo / Red Bull Content Pool

Waacking was created in the LGBTQ+ clubs of Los Angeles in the ’70s disco era. It was created by Black, Latino, and Asian men who found the freedom to express themselves through movement, despite the oppressive environments they faced in day-to-day life. Originally called Punking, Whacking emerged as a style that focused on empowerment and strength. The style is distinguishable by striking arm movements and rolls, intricate hands gestures, posing, and a supreme emphasis on expressiveness. The moves were influenced by the glamour and drama of classic Hollywood film actresses, the over-the-top action of 1960s comic book heroes, and the sharp, quick movements of 1970s martial arts films.

Not to be confused with Waacking, voguing, is a highly stylized, modern house dance originating in the late 1980s that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in New York City in the 1960s. Ballroom culture was an African-American and Latin American underground LGBTQ+ subculture.

Vogueing battles, or “balls”, are divided into categories that mix performance, dance, drag, lip-syncing, modelling. There can be elaborate hair flipping or ‘hair-ography,’ miming applying makeup (a move called “beat face”), pretending to don extravagant clothing through dance moves, even pinning the opponent to the floor in a high fashion pose. The most notable move that separates waacking from vogueing is the use of jaw-dropping drops commonly called ‘death drops’ where the dancer can drop to the floor from multiple spins, duck walks where the dancer is squatting on their heels and kicks their feet out as they move forward on the beat. There’s sensual floorwork that includes rolls, twists, and back arching. Catwalk walking with exaggerated legs crossing over and above all else, and anything that will steal the crowd’s attention.

Dancehall is a type of dance and music that branched off of reggae in 1970s Jamaica. It was often enjoyed by inner-city Jamaicans and not welcome in posher dance clubs because of its sexually free nature. Like many street dances, dancehall was driven by disenfranchised youth. It’s characterized as a dance that is high on attitude as much as it is on energy and dance moves. The bass culture that came with dancehall had people feeling the music in crowded dancehall venues organically. Because of the sweat-soaked, packed place, they began creating various isolated moves, often on the spot or closely pressed to each other.

Eventually, the attitude side of the dance took over, and Dancehall battling became widespread in the streets, clubs, ghettos, wherever. Dancehall artists started to create songs that either invented new dances or hyped the moves done by dancehall goers. The movements are fluid and natural. The style can be characterized mainly by isolations, body waves, pointing, twisting, sensual floor work. The most classic Dancehall move is ‘The Wine,’ which involves gyrating the pelvis to the beat, whether in a handstand, on different levels, or even the splits.

Over the past 45 years, Locking has carved out a legacy that stretches all the way from the inner city streets of LA to the glitter-covered dance floors of “Soul Train.” Much of that is owed to a dancer named Don Cambellock, who created the genre by accident. While trying to attempt another popular move in his school cafeteria called the “Robot Shuffle”, he created an entirely new dance that everyone in the room loved even more, to his surprise. Soon they were shouting “Do that Lock, Campbell, do that Lock!” and the rest is locking history.

Word got out about Don’s emerging dance style, and soon he found himself and his crew of dancers called ‘The Lockers’ on “Soul Train” performing the genre to worldwide masses. The dance is hugely characterized by self-expression, self-love and hyping yourself up. There are popular Locking moves like “Giving Yourself Five,” holding one hand behind your ear waiting for applause, pointing to the audience etc. Outside the above, the most notable moves in Locking are wrist rolls, jazz splits, high kicks, knee drops, and other stylistic steps like grabbing and rotating your hat.

Bone-Breaking or FlexN is a style of dance based on exactly what the title suggests. It started in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York and is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movements and unreal levels of flexibility. The dance is often performed shirtless to show off the complexities of the moves. It also has an interpretative style and flowing, liquid rhythms that make it unique.

Unlike other street dance styles originating in the United States, Bone-Breaking did not come from hip-hop dance, funk music, or hip-hop culture. It evolved from a Jamaican style of street dance called Bruk-up. The dance roots are traced back to dancehall and a reggae style of animation. When it emerged from Jamaican dancehalls in Brooklyn, it upended the dance world.

Krump was born in Watts and the South Central districts of Los Angeles as a means to escape gang life and “to express raw emotions in a powerful but non-violent way.” It evolved from ‘Clowning,’ which had a fierce spirit, but was still a softer style, characterized by painted faces and more comical elements. Both became startling hip-hop subcultures that kicked down the doors of what people knew about hip hop dance. With Krumping, the moves were so unlike anything anyone had seen that when critics saw them on film and TV, they questioned whether or not the moves have been sped up, modified, or were a joke.

Krumping is wildly explosive. It’s intense physically, emotionally and mentally. It consists of footwork and upper body movements to upbeat and fast-paced music. In a battle, krumpers might taunt each other to the point of striking their opponent, but the dance does not promote fighting or aggression—moves are meant to take up space and challenge other dancers to feed off and return the energy. Stylistically there are four basic moves in Krumping: stomps, jabs, chest pops, and arm swings.

Rogue poses for a portrait in Miami, FL, USA on July 1, 2021

Rogue poses for a portrait in Miami, FL, USA on July 1, 2021

© Daniel Zuliani / Red Bull Content Pool

Memphis Jookin consists of many slides and glides and toe spins and a bounce that’s very native to the city it came from. What makes Jookin so original is how the dancers get from one place to another and move across the floor. Jookin emphasizes footwork in a way that focused the crowd’s attention on the feet.

Memphis Jookin is often viewed as a form of self-expression of the hardships of living within the inner city. It was pioneered by Memphis gangsters and evolved from a street dance called The Gangsta Walk, commonly performed to crunk music due to the particular ‘bounce’ (as mentioned) in the beat and the movement the dancers made to keep with it. In the 1990’s Jookin took the classic steps from Gangsta Walk and combined a much smoother look when the music changed in Memphis.

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Red Bull Dance Your Style

Red Bull Dance Your Style is an international mixed-style dance competition. The twist? The crowd decides who wins by voting for their favourite dancers.


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