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ABCs of Hip-Hop


How to tell popping from locking—and more

battling: informal dance between individuals or crews; usually personal and “in-your-face.”

b-boy/b-girl: a practitioner of breaking.

beats: the entire non-vocal layer of a song, particularly the tempo and rhythms. 

break dancing: Layman’s terminology for the acrobatic dance style in which various body parts (head, hands) touch the ground. Considered an uncool term by b-boys and b-girls.

breaking: street dance with four elements (toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes).

crew: a group of street dancers working and training together, connected by a style, neighborhood, dance studio, or friendship.

deejaying: providing dance music and mixing beats, using turntabling to vary the music. 

downrock (also footwork, floorwork): floor movements with hands and feet supporting the dancer.

emceeing: speaking or chanting rhyming rap to music to engage a crowd.

freestyle: improvisational dance.

freeze: a stylish pose, often of a contortionist nature, with the body suspended off the ground. Showcases upper-body strength, balance, and flexibility.

house: club dance styles; improvisational with fast and complex footwork and a fluid torso. Originated in disco-era clubs.

locking: freezing into a position from a fast movement, in contrast to looseness in other parts of the body. Often used in character-driven or comic choreography.

popping: quickly contracting/releasing to cause a jerk.

power moves: acrobatic maneuvers requiring momentum and physical power, such as windmills, head spins, and flips.

toprock: a string of steps performed in a standing position, often to start a dance; a basic side step with a heel press in front or back, moving from side to side. Sometimes defines a dancer’s individual style.

turntabling: using turntables to manipulate the music on a record by varying the playback speed, “scratching” the stylus across the record’s surface, and other techniques.

uprock: rhythmic, competitive toprock dance between a pair of dancers who mimic fighting.

waving: creating the illusion of a fluid wave in the body by isolating and flexing muscles along a chosen path.

Sources: Wikipedia,, Urban Dictionary, Leah Cordiano-Siemens of Wildwood Dance & Arts


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