Hip Hop Moves Every Dancer Should Know

As a hip-hop dancer, there are certain hip-hop moves that come up over and over again, and you should be familiar with them because wherever your dance journey takes you, you will feel better prepared when you do your next open class.
These are the most popular hip hop moves that you will hear in a typical hip hop class.

hip hop dance moves

What Is Hip Hop Dancing?

When learning hip-hop, it is important to understand where hip hop dance moves originated and what defines each style.

Hip-hop dancing is a style of street dance that originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States.

It is a freestyle dance form that incorporates elements from a variety of different dance styles, like African dancing, contemporary, tap, and swing and now includes dance moves such as popping, breaking, locking, funk and krumping among others.

Hip hop dance moves are often seen as an expression of one’s culture and identity. This really allows dancers to find their freedom and develop their own individual styles.

You can see a comprehensive list of all the hip-hop dance moves here.

Popular Hip Hop Moves Or Dances

Take It From The Top

When you hear your coach ask you to ‘take it from the top,’ they are asking you to go back to the beginning of the phrase you are working on. (You may hear them say take it from the ‘tippity top’ if they want you to take it from the very beginning of the song).


A groove is less of a move in hip hop dance but more of a feeling. It is your unique inner sensation you put underneath dance steps. It’s less about technique and more about allowing your body to interpret the rhythm.

This is what truly sets it hip hop dance apart from other styles: each dancer brings a groove that can be fast, slow, jerky, or smooth. Ultimately, it is your own, and you are encouraged to embrace it as you dance.

Full Out

This means to give your dancing your all: at 100%! Don’t hold back, and push your own limits. You’ll probably hear this phrase in more than just Hip Hop classes, but it’s used commonly in Hip Hop dance due to the unique style and individuality dancing this way allows. If you don’t go full out in hip hop dancing, it can look rather flat and dead.


You might hear the choreographer ask you to watch your ‘levels’ in class. This means they want you to pay attention to how high or low your body is. So, to go lower, you might need to plie more or stand straighter to go higher.


Another term typically heard in many other dance styles; an 8-count is a set period of time. Most commonly, two bars of music in 4/4 time. The choreographer uses this to plan out a dance work piece by piece, and dancers will often be taught 8 counts at a time.


Locking was originally called Campbellocking and it is a style of street dance.

A dancer will move very quickly and then lock into a distinct position before moving at fast speeds again.

It is large and exaggerated and is a very rhythmic style of hip hop dancing.


Popping is quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to create a precise jerking in the dancer’s body (often referred to as a pop or a hit). It is a standing dance move influenced by dance moves of the 60s like twisting, jerking, and strutting.

Popping is often used as an umbrella term as a style that incorporates other dance moves such as tutting or even the robot! The effect of popping can make a dancer look like they are in stop-motion or under a strobe light.


This hip hop move looks like an illusion that waves flow through a dancer’s body.

Often, this is done as a passage of energy through the arms, legs, or even the entire body from the head to the feet or vice versa. Waving requires control and precision. You need to isolate small parts of your body where the ‘wave’ is passing and keep the other parts still so that the effect is convincing.

Here is a video tutorial on how to do the arm wave.


In hip hop dance, isolations are performed by moving an individual part of the body without moving another part. Isolations are found in many different dance styles, but they are different in each style.


When you freeze in hip hop you are halting all movement in your body. Unlike locking you are allowed to come out slowly from a freeze position or take on a new tempo when you begin to move again.


Tutting uses mostly 90-degree angles with the arms and fingers as you dance. It was inspired by ancient Egyptian artwork and ‘Tutting’ refers to ‘King Tut. Tutting is mostly done with an emphasis on the arms, hands, and fingers.


Krumping is a highly energetic hip hop dance style and is rarely choreographed. It is mostly done freestyle and is used a lot in dance battles due to its intensity and aggressiveness.


This is the most well-known hip hop dance style. It uses acrobatics and intricate body movements. Dancers often spin on their heads or hold their bodies in difficult contortions. Breakin’ is done mostly on the floor and predominantly by male dancers.

New School

New school hip hop is a term used to describe hip hop music and moves that were released after the early 2000s. It often encompasses a wide range of styles and influences, such as trap music, mumble rap, and cloud rap. These newer styles often incorporate elements of older styles, while also exploring new sounds and dance ideas.

Other Popular Hip Hop Moves To Look At:

1. The Moonwalk

2. The Running Man

3. The Cabbage Patch

4. The Dougie

5. The Wop

6. The Two Step

7. The Nae Nae

8. The Helicopter

9. The Whip

10. The Jerk

You can find all the hip-hop terminology by clicking here.

Now you know some of the popular hip-hop moves, try googling some tutorials to help you on your way.

8 thoughts on “Hip Hop Moves Every Dancer Should Know”

  1. Great tutorial on how to do the arm wave. It’s hard to believe that hip-hop has actually evolved into what it is today, just like rap.

    Growing up on the east coast when rap and hip-hop were like taboo back in the early 70s, it has become its own genre. Keep teaching what you know my sister!

  2. Great tutorial on how to do the arm wave. It’s hard to believe hip-hop has actually evolved into what it is today, just like rap. Growing up on the east coast when rap & hip-hop were like taboo back in the early 70’s, it has become its own genre. Keep teaching what you know my sister!

    • Yes, it is amazing how hip-hop has evolved, and it keeps evolving. I find I am battling to keep up with all the new steps.

  3. Reading your article on hip-hop moves really brought back some great memories of growing up in the 80s. I can remember myself and all my friends wanting to learn so many of those moves. Everyone had to do the moonwalk and learn the arm wave. That was a given if you wanted to fit in. 

    We spent hours trying to practice but could never really perfect them. I just loved watching break dancers do their moves though. They made it all look so easy. Thanks for sharing the video on the arm wave. That was fun to watch. Keep up the great work with your dancing!

    • Teens now are definitely at an advantage as they have the internet to learn from. In the eighties we relied on trial and error. 

  4. Thank you for the primer on Hip Hop dance moves Michel, this was a very interesting read and I’m sure it will be helpful to many who like me are somewhat ignorant of the minutia of the subject.

    Full out, levels, locking and many of the other terms used were not familiar to me, having no experience with Hip Hop dancing myself but the term count makes perfect sense just from my background in music. A person may have terrible rhythm but if they can keep time with the music then they should at least be able to keep up a modicum of the rhythm required.

  5. Greetings! 

    I was blown away by the article I read. 

    It’s amazing how much has changed in the world of Hip Hop since 20 years ago. I can hardly believe it! The movement has evolved so much that I hardly recognize the Hip Hop I knew as a teenager. The article was great and the video presentation was perfect. It kept me engaged and wanting to read more. Well done! Keep up the great work and continue at this pace.

    • Thanks for stopping by Milan. Yes I think hip hop is the dance form that evolves the fastest. I also can’t keep track with all the different styles coming out. 


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