Popping is a street dance and one of the original funk styles that came from California during the 1960s–1970s. It is based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancer's body, referred to as a pop or a hit. This is done continuously to the rhythm of a song in combination with various movements and poses.
Closely related illusionary dance styles and techniques are often integrated with popping to create a more varied performance. These dance styles include the robot, waving and tutting. However, popping is distinct from breaking and locking, with which it is often confused. A popping dancer is commonly referred to as a popper.
As one of the earliest funk styles, popping is closely related to hip hop dancing. It is often performed in battles, where participants try to outperform each other in front of a crowd, giving room for improvisation and freestyle moves that are seldom seen in shows and performances, such as interaction with other dancers and spectators. Popping and related styles such as waving and tutting have also been incorporated into the electronica dance scene to some extent, influencing new styles such as liquid and digits and turfing.
As stated earlier, popping has become an umbrella term for a group of closely related styles and techniques that have often been combined or danced together with popping, some of which are seldom seen outside of popping contexts. However, the use of popping as an umbrella term has been criticized on the grounds that its many related styles must be clearly separated so that those who specialize in more specific styles aren't classified as poppers (ex: a waver, a tutter, a strober).
It is often assumed[by whom?] that popping is a style of breakdance. This is due in large part to the movies Breakin' and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo. In these movies all styles of dance represented, (breaking and the funk styles: popping, locking, and electric boogaloo) were put under the "breakdance" label causing a naming confusion. This caused the media to associate funk styles with hip hop music and assume that popping and electric boogaloo were the same as breaking. The difference between the two is that breaking originated in the Bronx, New York and is danced a lot on the floor while popping and boogaloo developed in various places in California and are danced almost entirely standing up.
Popping is centered around the technique of popping (or hitting), which means to quickly contract and relax muscles to create a jerking effect (a pop or hit) in the body. Popping can be concentrated to specific body parts creating variants such as arm pops, leg pops, chest pops and neck pops. They also can vary in explosiveness. Stronger pops normally involve popping both the lower and upper body simultaneously.
Normally, pops (or hits) are performed at regular intervals timed to the beat of the music, but the popper can also choose to pop to other elements of the song, or pop at twice or half the speed of the beat. To transition between poses, most poppers use a technique called dime stopping, common in robot dancing, which basically means to end a movement with an abrupt halt (thus "stopping on a dime"), after which a pop normally occurs. To create variation, poppers often mix in other styles as well, such as waving or tutting, which creates a sharp contrast to the popping itself.
Poses in popping make heavy use of angles, mime style movements and sometimes facial expressions. The lower body has many ways to move around from basic walking and stepping to the more complex and gravity defying styles of floating and electric boogaloo. Movements and techniques used in popping are generally focused on sharp contrasts and extremes, being either robotic and rigid or very loose and flowing.
As opposed to breaking and its floor-oriented moves, popping is almost always performed standing up, except in rare cases when the dancer goes down on the knees or to the floor to perform a special move.
Songs that are generally favored have a straight and steady beat at around 90-120 beats per minute, a 4/4 time signature and a strong emphasis on the back beat, normally by a snare drum or a drum machine. The pops performed by the popper normally occur on every beat or on the distinct back beats. The popper can also choose to follow the music more freely such as by timing the pops to the rhythm of a melody or other rhythmic elements.
Related styles and techniques
A street dancer doing the backslide or "moonwalk", a common move in the floating style often seen combined with popping.
There are a number of dance styles and techniques that are commonly mixed with popping to enhance the dancer's performance and create a more varied show, many of which are seldom seen outside of popping contexts. They can be seen as separate styles related to popping or as a part of popping when using it as an umbrella term.
A style that imitates animatronic robots. Related to the robot style, but adds a hit or bounce at the end of each movement.
Boogaloo or boog style is a loose and fluid dance style trying to give the impression of a body lacking bones, partly inspired by animated movies and cartoons. It utilizes circular rolls of various body parts, such as the hips, knees and head, as well as isolation and sectioning, like separating the rib cage from the hip. It also makes heavy use of angles and various steps and transitions to get from one spot to the next. It was developed in 1975 by Boogaloo Sam. In the original boogaloo you do not pop, but combined with popping it becomes the electric boogaloo, the signature style of The Electric Boogaloos (the dance crew).
A style of popping in which the chest is isolated by being pushed out and brought back while flexing the chest muscles. As this movement is performed to the beat the popper can incorporate different moves in between the chest bop. When practiced the chest bop can be done at a double-time interval adding a unique effect to the move.
A technique of moving at a steady pace and then abruptly coming to a halt, as if attempting to stop on a dime. This is often combined with a pop at the beginning and/or end of the movement.
Floating, gliding and sliding
A set of footwork-oriented techniques that attempt to create the illusion that the dancer's body is floating smoothly across the floor, or that the legs are walking while the dancer travels in unexpected directions. Encompasses moves such as the backslide, which was made famous by Michael Jackson who called it the moonwalk.
Performing techniques of traditional miming to the beat of a song. Most commonly practiced are various movements with the hands as if one could hold onto air and pull their body in any possibly direction. Miming can also be used to allow a popper to tell a story through his or her dance. This style is often used in battles to show the opponent how they can defeat them.
A style imitating a puppet or marionette tied to strings. Normally performed alone or with a partner acting as the puppet master pulling the strings.
A style imitating the scarecrow character of The Wizard of Oz. Claimed to be pioneered by Boogaloo Sam in 1977. Focuses on outstretched arms and rigid poses contrasted with loose hands and legs.
A style of popping that gives the impression that the dancer is moving within a strobe light. To produce this effect, a dancer will take any ordinary movement (such as waving hello to someone) in conjunction with quick, short stop-and-go movements to make a strobing motion. Mastering strobing requires perfect timing and distance between each movement.
Inspired by the art of Ancient Egypt (the name derived from the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun), tutting exploits the body's ability to create geometric positions (such as boxes) and movements, predominantly with the use of right angles. It generally focuses on the arms and hands, and includes sub-styles such as finger tutting.
Waving is composed of a series of fluid movements that give the appearance that a wave is traveling through the dancer's body. It is often mixed with liquid dancing.
A variety of intricate moves that create the illusion of separating, or isolating, parts of the body from the rest of the body. The most common types of isolation that poppers perform are head isolations, in which they seem to take their head out of place from the rest of their body and move it back in place in creative ways.
^Henderson, April K. "Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora." In The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180–199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 200