Hip hop across the world by Angela Caldin

I look forward to Wednesdays because it’s the day I go and collect my 12 year old granddaughter from hip hop. I like to go a bit early so that I can watch her and her fellow dancers going through their latest routine.

Last week they were practising a segment which involved very fast arm movements, flashing above and around their heads. It looked challenging and hard to keep in time with the music and each other. ‘It’s called waacking,’ said a mother standing next to me. ‘Why don’t you tell your granddaughter that you enjoyed the waacking? She’ll be really surprised.’

Waacking and voguing

So I did tell her. And she was surprised. Later, I looked it up and found that in the early 1970s in Los Angeles, a dance style known as punking emerged with punk being a derogatory term at the time. The term whack was a specific movement within the punking style which involved moving the arms over the head in a fast rhythmic fashion. The club-going community who took part in punking didn’t want the dance to have negative connotations attached to it and therefore renamed the genre waacking.

Madonna in 1990

‘There’s lots of other styles, she told me, ‘there’s voguing and krumping and locking. Voguing is a bit like waacking only not so fast.’ Voguing, it seems, involves highly stylized, pose striking moves, originating in the late 1980s and evolving out of the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. It gained mainstream exposure when it was featured in Madonna’s song and video Vogue in 1990 and in the documentary Paris Is Burning.

Krumping and locking

Krumping is a style of dance popularized in the United States, described as Afro-diasporic dance, characterized by free, expressive, exaggerated, and highly energetic movement. Dancers who started krumping saw the dance as a means for them to escape gang life and to channel their fierce emotions in a powerful but non-violent way.

Don Campbell, inventor of the locking move

Locking is based on the concept of freezing in the middle of a fast movement and holding a certain position for a short while before continuing at the same speed as before. The beginning of locking can be traced to one man, Don Campbell, in the late 1960s. The original lock was created by accident: Campbell was attempting a move called the Robot Shuffle and stopped at a particular point, creating a locking effect. He wasn’t able to perform the move fluently, because he couldn’t remember which step to take next. These halts soon became popular as Don added them into his performances. The resulting dance was called Campbellocking, which was later shortened to locking.

A world away

It’s fascinating to realise that these types of dance moves originated for the most part on the streets and in the clubs of deprived urban areas of New York and California, among gangs and even in prisons. A far cry from suburban New Zealand where my granddaughter and her friends gather on a Wednesday evening to dance and laugh energetically thousands of miles from the mean streets which gave birth to the dance they enjoy so much.

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