The Street Dance Culture
by Annie Saxena on Feb 10, 2023
Venturing out of the mainstream dance studios and enjoying art in its truest sense and space is street dance. Street dance is a vernacular dance in an urban context. Vernacular dances are often improvisational and social in nature, encouraging interaction with spectators and the other dancers. Street dance has no rules, it’s about expressing music with one’s body. It’s the best way to express oneself without words.
Street Dance or Hip-Hop (as it is sometimes called) began as a cultural movement in the Bronx, New York City in 1976, mostly among the African-American and Latino population. During this time, individuals without professional dance training but with a natural instinct for movement brought dancing to the streets. It was for the people and not for the academy. It was music and movement coming together to form a new art. During the early 1980s, certain aspects of this culture – for example, the clothes, language and music – began spreading into the mainstream population of the US and by the 1990s, hip-hop culture had spread throughout the world.
Street dance is often divided into old school and new school, with 1984 as the dividing year. In the old school section, there are categories like tap – invented by the Irish and African-Americans, locking – invented by funk dancers in various clubs, popping – that originated in the west coast of the USA, and break dancing – that began with DJs using breaking beats. In the new school section there exists, hip hop – which is mainly the commercialised form of all the old school styles, house – that was born in Chicago, and techno – which originated after dancers were introduced to European techno music.
Various factors have influenced the rise of the street dance culture in the world. Although the majority of influences can be traced to African culture, the multicultural society of New York City contributed diverse musical influences that found their way into hip-hop music providing stimuli for street dancing. Today, hip hop in all its forms can be found everywhere from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to TV reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance. As an art form, street dancing requires real mastery, but an amateur enthusiast can pick up a few smooth moves in a dance studio or by watching videos online.