Learn How to Hip Hop Dance: The Fundamentals

Ever felt like you’re lacking that certain ’something’ that puts you off from learning how to hip hop dance? Look no further. By the time you’re finished with this article, you’re all ready to wow some of guys and gals and show it off when you go clubbing, if that’s your intention. Or just look ridiculously good dancing in front of the mirror. Or supercharge your already good dancing skill.

Here’s what 95% of aspiring hip hoppers overlook: The fundamentals of hip hop dance and the key factors that make ‘hip hop dance’ looking like ‘hip hop dance’. Learn these and learn well, and this is not your typical hip hop dance how-to.

Let’s cut to the chase. The fundamentals of hip hop dance are again, the essence that makes hip hop dancing really look exactly like hip hop dancing, in every sence of that word. For this, you do not exactly need to know dance steps in detail. That’s simply because the hip hop dance fundamentals only require us to tap into our primal instincts. Be one with the music.

Fundamentals #1: Get to Know Hip Hop

This is probably the MOST obvious one but it is also neglected the MOST. You probably don’t know Hip Hop well enough.

As the name suggests, Hip Hop is exactly ‘Hip Hop’. Let’s break down the words: Hip and Hop -or the other way around- Hop and Hip.

The definition of Hip: The part of your body, the part where your pelvises are.
The definition of Hop: To make a small bouncing leap.

These are the main key differences that makes hip hop dancing different from all other forms of dance. Move your hips, and just bounce. Have fun with it. Certainly, there are many different variants of hip-movements and also certainly many variations of hopping.

Get to know Mr. Hip Hop well, and know your body well too. You’re the only one that knows how to move yours hips and bounce to the beats.

So, put emphasis on ‘hip hop’ in your dance, in every sense of the word and really show it in you!

Master your hips, and master your hops. Learn how to really “hip hop” dance.

Fundamentals #2: Upper Body and Lower Body

To dance hip hop, you have to separate your upper and lower body movements, ya know what I’m sayin’?
(a rather prosaic quote from a distressed random dude in Melbourne)

Note added 7th November: While I was bathing, suddenly I thought that separate is probably not the best word. Isolate is a better word. So yeah, isolate your upper body and lower body movements. That simply means, you need to have decent control of your body.

To further strengthen your understanding of hip hop dancing, it’s important to know what’s above and below your hips. You got that right! – your upper body and lower body, and your hips of course.

One of the main essences of hip hop dancing lies in your ability to separate your upper body and lower body movements.

And that leads to one very crucial point in hip hop dancing – remember to move your hands, upper body, and head! Most people just focus their dancing attention on their footwork. While it is sufficient enough to just move your legs, it’s simply unimpressive, characterless and emotionless.

Action to be taken: A very easy one, move your hips and loosen it by circling movements – just like hula-hooping. Do this for your warm ups everyday.

Another action to be taken: A slightly difficult one, try moving your upper body and your lower body at different speeds (or tempos). It’s like walking at normal speed but swinging your hands faster or slower than usual.

Learn how to be in control of your body. All it takes is just a little practice and you’re set for hip hop dancing.

Start out by separating your upper body and lower body movements in symmetrical form. Practice asymmetrical forms later. This understanding of separated body movements will unlock many other stylized dances if you practice enough. Congratulations!

Fundamentals #3: The Music is Your Best Friend

With plenty of hip hop music (or R&B) these days, choose your poison. Just choose the type you love most and would really love to dance to.

Be in character. Be smooth to smooth hip hop music, go wild on sick beats – words just can’t describe it well enough, you know Michael Jackson’s really doing his thing when he’s dancing to his music. You can learn to be in character by listening to plenty of hip hop (dance) songs. Just make sure you love what you’re listening to.

Music is essentially composed of multiple looping tracks – the bass, claps, snares, background, foreground, transitions and such. Just pick one or two components of the music and dance to it, if you’re a beginner. As you go along, you’ll get your own unique audio cues for your own hip hop dance.

That’s when you’ll start to develop your own style of dancing. It’s making use of your own interpretation of the hip hop beats that you’re hearing, and then transfer it to your own physical movements. How wonderful is that?

Fundamentals #4: Express Yourself!

This would be the last of the fundamentals of hip hop dance that you must know. Articulate yourself through your dance!

Be into your dance no matter how good or bad your dance is. Be larger than life.

Always try to size up your movements, take up more space. Do not squeeze your movements at all. Let loose and just go with the groove. Of course you can take up less space and do smaller movements, but only do it for stylistic reasons.

As a rule of thumb, express yourself through your dance and don’t be afraid to take up space.


That is all. If that’s way too much to digest, just remember these four little basics:
– Love your music. Develop your own way of interpreting the music.
– Know that hip hop dance makes use of your hips and your hops. Nail these down.
– Separate out the movement of your limbs. Start with upper/lower body.
– Be expressive in your dance. Take up space. Smoke the dance floor.

And here’s the gem: In most hip hop dance styles, be ‘hip’ ready. That is to slightly bend your knees as your default hip-hop dancing stance. And loosen up your hips and waist by doing the hula-hooping thing that I’ve mentioned earlier in this article. If you have your own perception of hip hop dance, try putting it into your dance!

You might have crazy hip hop dance moves but feel like you’re lacking the essence of hip hop. Just throw those moves out the window for a moment and do simple exercises to build these fundamentals in you. That’s all for the basics of learning how to hip hop dance.

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