August 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Hand Styles and Backslide

Photo by Bill H

Photo by Bill H

Hand Styles and Backslide

By Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro

Tip 1
Hands play a major role in hip-hop dance and can say a lot about a dancer, displaying personality and performance style, showing confidence, and telling a story. Hands should always be doing something, not be kept at the sides. My first rule for students is to keep the hands up, like a boxer.

Remind students to keep changing their hand patterns as they dance. Hand styles might imitate rappers rapping, kung fu movies, partner dancing, 52 blocks/jailhouse rock (a martial arts system that arose in prisons), and even New Yorkers who talk with their hands.

Tip 2
To teach the backslide, have students start with their weight on the left leg. The right knee is bent with the heel raised and the ball of the foot planted.

Shift the weight to the right foot, with the knee and heel still popped. Slide the flat left foot backward on the floor until the heel must lift. Then—the most important transition—shift the weight from right to left. The left leg takes the weight, knee bent and heel raised, and the flat right foot slides backward. Repeat the step, sliding left, sliding right. Practice making each weight shift seamlessly smooth; that’s what creates the illusion of a continuous backward slide.

Does this step seem familiar? “Backslide” is the original name of the hip-hop move Michael Jackson made famous as the moonwalk.


Philadelphia b-boy Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro is a member of the Rock Steady Crew and an MFA candidate at Arizona State University. He studied with Crazy Legs and Mr. Wiggles and travels the world teaching.