What Are Street Dances? What is Streetdance?

“Streetdance” was a term coined originally to describe dances that developed outside of the studio setting and in a social space like streets, clubs and parks. The original street dances in include Breaking, Popping and Locking. Younger forms of streetdance include Krumping and House.

People who practiced these dances did not originally call themselves “street dancers” or their dances “street dancing”. In fact, these dances originated at different times and places. For example, Breaking is said to have evolved in the 1970s in New York with its roots in older dance forms such as The Rock Dance from the 1960s, whereas Popping originated in California in the late 1960s. People who were Breaking called themselves Bboys or Bgirls or sometimes Breakers. People who were Popping called themselves Poppers. People who were Locking called themselves Lockers. Sometimes Lockers and Poppers call themselves Funkstylers.

The term “street dance” or “street dancing” came later, along with the terms “breakdancing” and “poplocking”, when these dances were popularised in the mainstream in the 1980s.

Nowadays the terms “streetdance” and “Hip Hop dance” are often used to refer to a studio-based version of the forms which came about after established teachers and choreographers of Jazz, Ballet and Contemporary tried to copy the “street” styles when they were popularised. Since this style did not evolve naturally in a social space, it does not have defined steps, which means that anything can be included within it and be put under the umbrella of “street dancing”. You may have seen this style in music videos (especially commercial Hip Hop) or performed by backing dancers at music shows.

The main difference to understand is that this type of “Streetdance” was invented in studios to be taught in classes and to be performed on stages and videos. In contrast, the original street dances were not invented but evolved, and evolved on the streets, clubs and parks rather than the studio or the stage.

This is often a point of confusion for people who are just becoming interested in dance, especially since the distinction is not always clear in the midst of hype and marketting. Thankfully, the terms “commercial street dance” and the more catchy “LA Style” are starting to be used to describe the commercial, stage style in dance circles. It might be a while before these terms find their way down to Devon, however, so in the mean time you will have to make the distinction yourself.

There is little credible written documentation on the history of “streetdance” and street dances, but if you’re interested in learning more about the origins of street dance styles, I consider the following resources invaluable:

The History of the BBoy – Freshest Kids [DVD]

Turn It Loose – The Real Street Dance [DVD]

Foundation: B-boys, B-girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York. Joseph Schloss. Oxford University Press 2009.

The Routledge Dance Studies Reader. Routledge, Alexandra Carter

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
For streetdance-related music and films, please look at the links to your right, or just check out the music page.

If you plan to cite this article in an academic context (which you’re more than welcome to) – whether that’s part of your university thesis or just a high-school essay, – I’d be very interested to hear about it, so please drop me an email at matt@just4funkproductions.com just to let me know.

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©2009 – 2012 Just 4 Funk Productions

Related articles:

What is Breaking?

What are Funk Styles?