In God She Trusts

Hip Hop vs. Urban Choreography

Posted on: October 27, 2009

In class a LONG time ago, one of my first Hip Hop dance instructors told me…

“This isn’t Hip Hop.  It’s Urban Choreography.”

After a few years of experiencing the dance community, I’ve realized the need to re-evaluate my title as a Hip-Hop dancer.  As a beginner who was very NEW to street dance, I didn’t understand what he meant and continued to believe I was training as a “hip hop” dancer, when I really wasn’t.

Different languages of the world (chinese, spanish, english) are kinda like different dance styles (ballet, jazz, hip hop).  We’re able to distinguish between different kinds, because each language uses its own unique rules of grammar and sentence structure, just as each dance style uses its own steps and technique.  Over the years, languages and dance styles have changed.  We’ve used the term EVOLUTION to describe what we see now in Hip Hop versus what it was in the past.  On the other hand, I think what has emerged over time isn’t Hip Hop itself, but instead a different dance style that was INSPIRED by Hip Hop.  Urban Choreography–an entirely separate language, born and inspired by a collection of the earlier languages.  For example,  Tagalog (Filipino) was formed and influenced by the Spanish, Malaysian, English, Arabic, and Chinese languages.  Couldn’t we say that like Tagalog, our dance style was inspired by Hip Hop as well as other styles of dance, and has collected all of that to become it’s own language with it’s own unique structure?  We wouldn’t call Tagalog “Spanish-evolved” or “Chinese-evolved,” simply because the three languages follow entirely different rules.

Nowadays, people have a few different names to refer to the style of dance being taught in many Hip Hop classes:  LA style, West Coast style, commercial Hip-Hop, new-style Hip Hop, but to call it Hip Hop is to assume that it follows the basic fundamentals of Hip Hop dance.   I’m no Hip Hop head… I’ll admit it.  But when I SEE Hip Hop dance and its roots, there is no denying that there is a totally different look to THAT kind of Hip Hop compared to what we call “new hip hop,” which varies greatly according to individual interpretation and also lacks greatly in strict rules and technique.  In true Hip Hop, there are basic names of steps and techniques that aren’t completely present in this new style… so though we may dance as freely and as creatively as we want to Hip Hop and R&B music, can we REALLY say that it is Hip Hop?.. or are we just over-generalizing things to spare ourselves the trouble of analyzing & truly understanding Hip Hop history?

With so many new dancers coming up in the next generation, I think it’s very important for all those capable to educate them wisely and accurately… and that we don’t discredit or undermine the value of Hip Hop’s history.

in God we trust
<33 apes x essence


13 Responses to "Hip Hop vs. Urban Choreography"


April!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!!!

this is excellent and should really be expounded upon…
WORD UP, April!

Yea, Apes I’m feeling this too.

‘urban choreography’ appears to me to be the choreography of the dance ‘freestyle’.. im not referring to freestyling itself. which is totally different and is like improvising to the music at that given time etc. but the name ‘freestyle’, terminology for the dance with no rules.. In locking.. an uncle sam point looks a certain way, done in a certain fashion, in popping, ‘the fresno’ is the same, in breaking,baby freeze is a certain shape [it has variations, but itself has one shape] and so on.. In ‘freestyle’, you can put your hand or your leg in any shape and its a move.. as long as its on beat. and traditionally.. many many many of the shapes executed are less structured versions of moves from dances such as locking and popping etc anyway. To get to my point… it is the embodiment of the commercial dance industry’s interpretation of and attempts to imitate the first wave of hiphop which was mass publicised in and around 1983/1984. hence why many of the moves are less complete versions of other dances and why there is no given ‘foundation’ to this dance.. simply because it doesnt own the foundation it uses and the rest is improvisation [freestyle]. This is how I believe it differs from Hip Hop.. ‘foundation’… Is this a bad thing..? no. free expression of feelings and ideas to music with no restriction.. no rules.. no boundaries… im sure this sounds appealing to many. thanks for the article. really interesting to read.

very excellent post! do you mind if i feature this on That’s Fresh?

Wow, this is something I’ve def. thought abt before!
But you have put it into much better words, into perspective….
ThanX for that! =^)

And I agree that a lot of today’s Hip-Hop/Urban choreography is more inspired by the foundation styles of hip-hop, rather than “owning” them…..Personally, I think it’s like having the best of both worlds!
To be inspired by the old school that helped us create what we do today!

wow Apes!!! love it!!!

Really deep post. I’m really happy to see that people like you exist and respect Hip Hop culture and dance. Much love from France!

I love this article. Sorry that I took a liberty to translate your writing to Indonesian before asking you and put it in here I hope you don’t mind.
Thank you so much for sharing your thought ^^

Hey, April!

I wanted to share a recent blogpost from one of my very respected teachers/dance historians; he references your blog post in it:

Please take the time to read.
This gentleman knows A LOT about Hip Hop and many other cultures/dances. He has an incredible documentary that I wish I owned so I could share it with everyone! =)

Hope to see you around sooner than later!

by the way, i’m a big fan april 🙂

Thank you so much 🙂

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