13 Famous Hip-Hop Dancers

famous hip hop dancersWith shows like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent we’ve seen some pretty amazing footwork cross our television sets. It’s no wonder that hip-hop is gaining more cred than before and not limited to city streets and underground hip-hop clubs. Hip-hop is a collection of urban dances that includes a foundation of breaking, locking and popping.  In the course Locking, learn how to “lock” easily and like a pro. There are of course a plethora of derivative street styles including jerkin’, twerkin’ and krumping that have made their way through the urban hip-hop dance scene.

I want to touch on the DJ “king”, Kevin Donovan a.k.a. Afrika Bambaataa, who dubbed the name hip-hop back in the late 1970’s. Not many people know that hip-hop culture was born to unite and de-marginalize outcast youth while broadcasting values of peace, love and plain ol’ fun. It’s sometimes hard to believe by looking at today’s mainstream “hip-hop” that the core philosophy was intended to be against violence and for social and economic justice. So, Afrika Bambaataa spun the first true hip-hop culture beats along with his crews The Organization and Zulu Nation. Hip-hop dance began in the underground before Bambaataa started MCing but it was his conviction of hip-hop culture that brought the dance into the limelight. Learn 10 Beat Making Techniques in this online course. Hip-hop today has strayed from the founding principles of hip-hop in the 70’s. According to Emilio “Buddha Stretch” Austin Jr., a choreographer and hip-hop dance teacher:

“There are a lot of jazz dancers out there doing pseudo hip hop. A lot of teachers don’t know the history, they’re just teaching the steps. They’re learning from videos, but they don’t know the culture. If all you see is Britney Spears, you think that’s hip hop, but that’s never been hip hop. It’s completely watered down. And studios could care less, because hip hop is one of their biggest moneymakers.”

So who are the most famous true hip-hop dancers and who are the most famous lyrical (new-style) hip hop dancers?

Old School Dancers

  • Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson is highly regarded as the King of Pop, however, a lot of his dance moves find their origin in hip-hop dance. He married hip-hop dance styles with funk, soul and electric boogaloo to create a unique blend of pop, and hip-hop worthy dance. His style is revered worldwide for its uniqueness and fashion.

  • Run-DMC

For you younger readers this name may not even ring a bell. Run-DMC was a product of the 80’s and they were the ultimate hip-hop group equipped with timeless hip-hop moves.

  • Aaliyah

Aaliayah was a famous hip-hop and pop singer in the 90’s. She was ranked by BET (Black Entertainment Television) as one of the top 25 dancers of all time. Her style was unique, fluid and utilized many hip-hop styles. Unfortunately, she was killed in 2001 in a plane crash. During her career she shared the stage with prolific hip-hop artists like Timberland and Sean Combs.

  • Paula Abdul

Despite her recent burst in popularity because of her position as a judge on American Idol, Paula Abdul has always had a cult following for her musical talents and choreography skills. As a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, Abdul organized dance routines for top-name performers like Janet Jackson and The Jackson’s and even choreographed the piano dance scene performed by Tom Hanks in the movie Big. She’s won several “Best of Dance” awards. In the course piano lessons for hip-hop, learn how to incorporate this timeless instrument into the breakbeats of hip-hop.

  • Doctor Ice

Doctor Ice was born Fred Reeves. He was a part of UTFO (Untouchable Force Organization) a hip-hop group in the 1980’s. He began his career as a dancer for the rap group Whotini, of whom his brother was the frontrunner. His style is heavily concentrated in breakdancing. He performed on the Phil Donahue Show and has had numerous appearances worldwide for his hip-hop style dancing.

  • MC Hammer

Can’t forget about MC Hammer. One of the most famous hip-hop artists and dancers of all time. His heyday was the 80’s and 90’s where he showcased his dancing skills across many platforms; creating a following of the Hammer Dance, The Running Man and The Butterfly. He is also the founder of the culture Hyphy which is short for hyperactive. Hyphy was coined to describe the music and culture associate with urban hip-hop.

  • James Brown

While James Brown may not strike most hip-hop enthusiasts as a traditional “hip-hop dancer” he invented the Mashed Potato dance move which became a craze in the 1960’s. This move has been incorporated into many hip-hop dance routines and is considered a standard move although many may not call is by its food-oriented name.

Modern/New Style

  • Ciara

Ciara is an American singer and dancer who released her debut in 2004. She is known for her hip-hop and pop infused style of music and dance. She won the Best Dance Performance at the 2010 Soul Train Music Awards and has worked with big names like Akon, Flo Rida and Ja Rule.

  • NappyTabs (Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo)

This couple is unstoppable. They met in school and began choreographing hip-hop performances for the dance company Culture Shock. They are currently residential choreographers for So You Think You Can Dance, they organized dance performances for Michal Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. They’ve also worked with countless top names like Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion and Madonna.

  • Les Twins

The Les Twins are identical brothers of French descent. They are recognized internationally for their new style hip-hop talents. They have won several hip-hop awards including the World of Dance in 2010. They’ve been highlighted on BET, Good Morning America, the Ellen DeGeneres Show and have worked with people like Beyoncé, Kanye West and Timberland.

  • Shane Sparks

Best known for his work on So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew, Sparks is a world-renowned hip-hop dancer and choreographer. He has worked with names such as Aaliyah, Monica and Lindsay Lohan – to name a few.

  • Beyoncé

Everyone knows Beyoncé. Well, almost everyone. She is one of the most powerful female vocalists and dancers of modern times. She started off as a member of Destiny’s Child and after the dissolution of the group went on to a solo career. Her hit single “Single Ladies” started a world-wide dance craze where Beyoncé’s famous moves became staples in many hip-hop routines.

  • Soulja Boy

Ever heard of Crank That? If you have then you know what Soulja Boy is capable of. If not, you should. Crank That was Soulja Boy’s debut song and the song video introduced the Crank That dance which has become a keystone of his career. He won the 2007 BET Best Hip Hop Dancer award.

If hip-hop isn’t totally your groove, learn other forms of dance through the article Learn Dance Online. Want to learn how to street dance or perform hip-hop? Check out the course street dance moves to master moves like the moonwalk and other slides and glides.