Hip Hop Dance: The Basics, First Routine

As a dancer that didn’t start out with formal training, one of my biggest struggles was learning how to choreograph a Hip Hop routine. Imagining something in your head and translating it into a routine is a big challenge!

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you begin:

1) Remember to get low!

Hip Hop is a style that relies the least on formal technique. Your “home” position should include bent knees, a wide stance and a hunched posture. It shouldn’t be pretty!

2) Listen, listen, listen.

Once you have picked a song, be sure to listen to the song multiple times before attempting to choreograph. Listen on your stereo, on your iPod, in your car, etc. Different sound systems might reveal little beats and accents you hadn’t noticed before. Hip Hop is about visually seeing your music, so by accenting snares or backbeats, you can improve your routine that much more.

3) Don’t be scared to try something new!

When I choreograph, I do the craziest things and somehow am able to make them into a really cool Hip Hop move! Play your music and let your body do what it wants and see if you can refine those into something for your routine.

4) Be an individual.

Everybody has their own unique style. Don’t expect your routine to look similar to somebody you idolize. Definitely look to others for inspiration, but remember that your routine is your routine.

5) Think visually.

As a dancer, you always have to keep your audience in mind. If you have a move for your feet, don’t be afraid to add some arms as well. If you have arm choreography, pair it with a few steps or jumps to keep it visually appealing.

6) I’m stuck…

No worries! Creating a routine takes time. Give it time to settle into your body and mind and you will be surprised where inspiration can come from. But just in case, here are some basic moves you can build off of and tweak to fit your style:

The Chest Pop:

A very simple move that is great for accenting heavy bass beats. In whatever position your arms and feet are in, tense your chest upward quickly and retract, all in one beat.

The Body Roll:

Can be done upwards or downwards and my personal “go to” whenever I’m stuck. Start by sticking out your neck, then shoulders, chest, stomach and hips. When sped up this motion should move fluidly throughout your body and create a nice visual.

The Squat:

A very important aspect of Hip Hop dancing is levels. Doing every dance move standing upright can get boring visually. Think of a plié in second position without the proper form. Keep your feet in parallel as opposed to being turned out, and hunch your back so you’re not so upright. From here bend down and try a move starting from this position to mix up your levels!

Anything — seriously, anything can be made into a Hip Hop move. You have a lot of freedom with this style. Just remember to listen to your body and have fun!

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