Saturday, October 23e, individual dance competition, Red Bull Dance Your Style, ended the American line-up. The wild card, Angyil McNeal, took the dance floor by storm and was crowned national champion. The iconic popper will now advance to the World Finals in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you’ve never been to one of these events, qualifiers from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Memphis, and Miami come together to show off the versatility and uniqueness of dance. While just witnessing the natural talent of many of these dancers, the style and story behind the moves makes it even more compelling.
There are five elements of hip-hop, one being station wagon, which originated in New York in the late 60s and early 70s. The energetic and complex style of the dance would be a gateway. for the emergence of new styles. Much like the station wagon, many styles of dance originated in downtown areas like Chicago and New York. Popping, jookin ‘, footwork, whacking, turfing and flexing have become fundamental dance styles, unique to their own regions. Like any cultural influence, the history of each dance plays a central role in its representation on larger stages and within the music.
Like station wagons, house dancing has been around since the late 1960s. Hailing from underground clubs in Chicago and New York, house blends elements of disco and electronic music. The main elements of the house include lofting, jacking, and footwork. Dancers like Prince Wayne took the time to learn the history of dance and develop a sense of appreciation for the decades-old style. The Atlanta skilled and professionally trained dancer finds creative therapy in house dancing. “House dance comes from club culture, the main movement being jacking. The jacking comes from the bounce of the chest, ”he explains. An alluring movement of the body, artists like Chip E, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and Steve “Hurley” Silk would be inspired and would turn this movement into booming club hymns. Wayne delves into the style, explaining that “it comes from people who have come together in the club and who shaped these movements. A lot of people don’t understand house dance and take it too seriously, but learning the history of it really helps me appreciate the style.
The disco and post-disco era inspired much of the dancing we see today. Like house dance, waacking and voguing have also emerged from club culture. While vogueing is said to be based on the East Coast and often linked to house music, waacking originated in LGBT clubs in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Typically made for disco music like “It’s Gonna Be Right” by Cheryl Lynn , the elements of waacking are distinguished by intricate arm movements, poses and punks. Originally from Seattle, Washington and qualified from Atlanta, Tracey Wong, found her passion for waacking while creating empowerment spaces for queer women. “It’s a form of dance that was created by the black and Latin gay community, in the style of the West Coast,” she describes. “Although he’s known for his many circular arm movements, it’s really about presenting the music with your whole body. Wong discusses the real beauty of waacking – freedom. In the 1970s, there were very few places where members of the LGBT community could express themselves, safely and freely. For Wong, understanding and respecting the historical context of waacking and the dances that have arisen from the community, brings much more value and meaning to this style of dance. For her and many others, you can’t respect this dance without learning its history.
While club culture has contributed to the development of dance styles like Chicago footwork, waacking, and voguing, subgenres of hip-hop like the hyphy movement have also inspired creative expression. Dancers like Krow the god who can contort his body in positions you wouldn’t believe can attest to this cultural influence. Turfing and flexing are both symbolic and exclusive to Bay Area street culture. Characterized by rhythmic movements on the floor, glides, bends and contortions, this distinctive style was invented by dancer Jeriel Bey in the 90s. “Turfin ‘started in Oakland, my hometown,” reveals the dancer in About how he got into the form of dancing. “The Architeckz were the first turf group created by E-40 and they also spread to the Anamaniac.” The Archictecks were also an extension of the initiator, Jeriel Bey. “It’s an extension of the Hyphy era, but we just made it more technical. The technique also differed depending on which hood you came from. Founded in the various “territories” of Oakland, the art form is constrained by socio-political injustices. An expression that addressed brutality towards black and brown communities, dance is deeper than movement. Blessed to be in the spotlight, Krow the God is happy to see his hometown receive well-deserved attention.
From the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between, the impact of history on the culture of dance and music is just as important as the dancers themselves. Most of the styles we see today wouldn’t exist without the people and history that influenced them. So the next time you get lost in the music or the dance, remember how far you’ve come.