body popping


Popping is a funk dance and street dance style 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. A popping dancer is commonly referred to as a popper.

Popping is also used as an umbrella term for a group of closely related illusionary dance styles and techniques that are often integrated with popping to create a more varied performance (see below).

It is generally believed that the dance evolved in Fresno, California in the 1970s, partly inspired by locking.

Like other street dances, popping is often performed in battles, trying to outperform another dancer or group of dancers in front of a crowd. This gives room for improvisation and moves that are seldom seen in shows and performances, such as interaction with the other contestants and spectators.

Today, popping has been incorporated into both the hip hop and electronica dance scenes to some extent.


In the late 1970s, a popping group called Electric Boogaloos (earlier known as the Electronic Boogaloo Lockers) from California greatly contributed to the spread of popping, partly because of their appearance on the television program Soul Train.

The Electric Boogaloos themselves state that around the years 1975-1976 their founder Sam Solomon (a.k.a. Boogaloo Sam) created a set of movements that evolved into the styles known today as popping and boogaloo after being inspired by one of the pioneer locking groups known as The Lockers as well as a fad dance popular in the 1960s known as the jerk. While dancing, Sam would say the word "pop" everytime he flexed his muscles, eventually leading to the dance being called popping. Many confirm the Electric Boogaloos' story that Boogaloo Sam came up with the basics of popping.

Other closely related styles, such as the robot, are known to have existed prior to popping, and some state that even popping itself existed in some forms in the late 1960s in Oakland, California before the Electric Boogaloos was formed, and that the style cannot be traced to a specific person or group. This is less controversial regarding various related styles, which the Electric Boogaloos themselves acknowledge: "While Sam was creating popping and boogaloo, others were creating and practicing unique styles of their own. Back in the day many different areas in the west coast were known for their own distinct styles, each with their own rich history behind them. Some of these areas included Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco."

The mainstream media contributed to the spread of popping and its related styles through movies such as Breakin', but also introduced a naming confusion by putting them all under the label breakdance, conflicting with the distinct floor-oriented dance by the same name (at that time known as breaking). Michael Jackson also helped popularize popping related styles such as the robot and moves such as the moonwalk, but introduced a new naming confusion as the moonwalk was already known by a different name in popping contexts (the backslide, see floating) before Jackson made the move famous.


Popping is the name given to a specific style of street dance. The name was coined by Boogaloo Sam, the founder of the pioneer popping group the Electric Boogaloos, when he used the word "pop" everytime he flexed his muscles to perform the characteristic popping technique.

Through the years, popping has also become a popular 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 as those who specialize in more specific styles mustn't be classified as poppers.

Another term, pop-locking, gained popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some circles around Los Angeles as a general slang term for popping and its integrated styles. The term is controversial because some believe it generates connotative confusion by incorporating the word "locking", which also is the name of another distinct style of street dance (see locking) that is generally kept separate from popping compared to its more integrated styles. Funk styles is another umbrella term, encouraged by the Electric Boogaloos, for both popping, locking and related dance styles that were created on the West Coast of the United States during the funk era.


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 popper's body. Popping can be concentrated to specific body parts, creating variants such as arm pops, leg pops, chest pops and neck pops, and can vary in explosiveness. Stronger pops normally involve popping both the lower and upper body simultaneously.

Normally, pops are performed at regular intervals timed to the beat of the music, causing the dance to appear very rhythmic in nature, and are often combined with stopping and holding a pose right before the pop. A common technique of transitioning between poses is the so called dime stop, heavily utilized in robot dancing as well, which basically means to end a movement with an abrupt halt (thus "stopping on a dime"), after which a pop normally occurs.

Poses in popping make heavy use of angles, mime style movements and facial expressions, and 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, being either robotic and rigid or very loose and flowing.

As opposed to breakdance 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 even lies down for a short while to perform a special move.


Having its root in the late 1970s dance club scene, popping is commonly danced to dance and pop music of that time, such as funk, disco and electro. Today, it's also common to see popping danced to more current music genres such as modern hip hop music (often snap music) and various forms of electronica.

Songs are generally favored that has 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.

Integrated styles and techniques

There are a number of techniques and styles that are commonly integrated with popping to enhance the dancer's performance and create a more varied show, many which are seldom seen outside of popping contexts. When using popping as an umbrella term, these can be considered a part of popping.

Animation: A style and a technique that attempt to imitate film characters being animated by stop motion. The technique consists of moving rigidly and jerky by tensing muscles and using techniques similar to strobing and the robot to make it appear as if the dancer has been animated frame by frame. This style was heavily inspired by the dynamation films created by Ray Harryhausen, such as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958).

Video example (YouTube)

Boogaloo/Electric boogaloo

The boogaloo is a loose and fluid 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 was developed in 1976 by Boogaloo Sam. Combined with popping it becomes the electric boogaloo, which is the signature style of the Electric Boogaloos.


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. Cobra
Similar to a Boogaloo, except you roll your chest like a snake. Crazy legs : A leg-oriented style focusing on fast moving legs, knee rolls and twisting feet. Developed in 1980-81 by Popin' Pete, originally inspired by the fast and agitated style of breakdance by the famous b-boy Crazy Legs from Rock Steady Crew.

Dime stopping

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.

Egyptian Twist

Fast forward

The concept of moving faster than normal, like being part of a video being played in fast forward.

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 moonwalk/backslide.


Technically not a style, but sometimes integrated in choreographed routines. Originally a term used by poppers as an exercise where they practice hitting their individual arm and leg at the same time. The "technique" requires you to raise one arm in front of you, and contract your arm and the leg on the side of your raised arm at the same time before switching to the other side. Possibly originated in Fresno, California.

Liquid dancing

An illusionary dance style that focuses on flowing and continuous liquid-like motions, with concentration on the fingers, hands and arms. It is stylistically connected to – and often mixed with – waving. Liquid dancing is common in rave culture, and some dancers consider it a complete style of its own.


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.

Old Man

Inspired by watching an old man who had one of his leg deformed and had walking difficulty, Off that, Boogaloo Sam saw inspiration and worked with that move.


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.


The robot is a style imitating a dancing robot or mannequin.

Roman Twist

Romeo Twist


A style imitating the scarecrow character of The Wizard of Oz. Created by Boogaloo Sam in 1977. Focuses on out-stretched arms and rigid poses contrasted with loose hands and legs.

Slow motion

Moving very slowly with exaggerated movements to make it appear as if the dancer is viewed in slow motion.


Using the same principle as dime stopping, but movements between halts should be shorter, and as quick and regular as possible to give the impression that the dancer is moving within a strobe light.

Ticking : A way of popping where the dancer pops at smaller intervals, generally twice as fast as normal.

Toyman : Based on action figures such as G.I. Joe and Major Matt Mason, developed by an old member of the Electric Boogaloos called Toyman Skeet. Goes between straight arms and right angles to simulate limited joint movement.

Tutting/King Tut

Inspired by the art of Ancient Egypt, tutting exploits the body's ability to create geometric positions and movements, predominantly with the use of right angles.
Video example (YouTube)

twist o flex

Vibrating : Tensing muscles very hard, causing them to shake or vibrate.

Walk Out


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.

Notable poppers

Famous artist whose style is related to popping

Popping influenced Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson's famous Billie Jean performance at Motown's 25 anniversary in 1983, which included the famous moonwalk was influenced by the legendary dancer and popper Jeffery Daniel. Jeffery Daniel originally called the moonwalk the "backslide". The backslide was already used by poppers but it was made famous by Michael Jackson's performance. Michael Jackson was coached by Bruno "Poppin Taco" Falcon and Timothy "Poppin Pete" Solomon .

References and notes

See also

  • Official site of the International Urban Dance Master Assoc. est. 1996.
  • Interviews and articles with famous poppers.

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