Phil Wright teaching hip-hop choreography with two male dancers

Hip-Hop Fundamentals Beginners Need to Know

One of the things that’s special about hip-hop dance is that it’s a shared language of steps that can bring people closer together, through their own individuality and take on the movement. Different dance steps come to popularity through repetition and evolution in regional dance scenes, creating a global vernacular of dance steps that change as the world itself changes.

Hip-Hop dance, at its core, is a celebration of humanity and community. You can dance in the spirit of hip-hop without knowing a single step and still be “doing it right,” but it sure can help to learn a few fundamental grooves to get you started, especially since many are technically “easy!” The challenge of hip-hop dance is often how much you can use your spirit, your struggles, and your joy to fuel your movement.

To help you out, we’re going to take you through a few of our favorite hip-hop fundamentals with a little help from our friend, Phil Wright.

Phil Wright is a positive vibe-spreading dancer, choreographer, and creator. He is the executive producer and choreographer of Disney Channel show Fam Jam, which is based on his successful YouTube series Parent Jam. We’re using his Phrase Book course as a guideline for the hip-hop dances you need to know. If you check out his full course, you can enjoy a live band that creates tunes and tempos to match Phil and his assistant’s hip-hop grooves during each mini class.

The A-Town Stomp

Named for the town it originated in, the A-Town Stomp was popular during the 90’s and 00’s. You can hear a reference to it in the beginning of Yeah! By Usher ft. Lil Jon.

Atlanta is a rich city for hip hop music and dance, and the A-Town Stomp is just one example of that. Coined The Snap Era, partially as a literal reference to the amount of snapping in the moves, the early 00’s were an especially robust time of hip-hop song and dance in Atlanta. Songs like “Walk it Out,” Lil Jon, and Dem Franchise Boy’z “Lean With it Rock with It” would be included in this era of almost-viral dance moves. 

The Tootsee Roll

The tootsee roll is a dance that comes from the eponymous music video and song by the 69 Boyz released in 1994. The lyrics of the song start off, “The butterfly? Uh-uh, that’s old! Let me see the tootsee roll!”

Phil Wright says he “grew up on this move,” and the history of the move is richer than any one song or music video. 

The Kid n’ Play

Kid n’ Play are an American hip hop duo that rose to popularity in the late 80’s and early 90’s. First seen in their music video “Do This My Way,” the dance move is fully described in their song “Do The Kid n Play Kickstep.”

Inspired by The Charleston, the Kid n’ Play is ‘meant’ to be a partner dance, although it can be danced alone as well. The dance was made popular by Kid n’ Play’s film House Party. You can check out the dance done by the original creators along with Kid’s signature hi-top fade in their dance off with Tisha Campbell and Adrienne-Joi Johnson in the movie.

Cross and Clap

The Cross and Clap is a name Phil picked out for a common movement in hip hop dancing. The rocking bounce action, the use of both feet at the same time in a jump or weight change, and the clap are all tools used in house dance. This step evokes the best dance party, and when accompanied with energy and personality, can hype up any room you start doing it in!

Swag and Surf

Many a social dance came out of the peak YouTube era of the early aughts. Some like Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” have involved choreography resembling the Tik Tok’s of today. The Swag n Surf stood out not for its fancy footwork, but because of its catchiness— both as a song, and a dance.

The song Swag Surfin’ was released in 2009 by the Fast Life Yungstaz, or F.L.Y. From the music video to dance floors worldwide, the Swag and Surf groove caught on quickly, to say the least. Can’t you imagine you and your friends swaggin and surfing like that?

As you take more hip-hop classes you’ll notice these steps are commonly used in choreography. The more you get comfortable practicing and mastering these grooves, the easier and faster it will be to pick up your favorite dance combos.

Head to clistudios.com to become a member and practice these moves when you take Phil’s full course.

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