When kids in Kenosha, Wisconsin marveled at the spastic dance moves of the boys from Pop N’ Taco or Michael Jackson’s flawless backslide in Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, they were witnessing a style of dancing that owed its kinetic genealogy not to quintessential deindustrializing communities like the Bronx or South Los Angeles but to Fresno. This dance, dubbed “Popping,” is characterized by fast contractions and relaxation of the muscles in the body that create a popping effect.
As opposed to hip hop, which is characterized by fluidity and smooth isolations of the legs, arms and head, the movements in popping are robotic and precise. However, a dancer can incorporate certain techniques of hip hop into his or her routine to add variety.
Popping dance is often compared to other street and funk dance styles such as locking, waacking, and breaking but it is considered its own distinct genre because of its unique movement style, techniques, and culture. Popping is commonly performed in dance battles and cyphers as well as being integrated into choreography.
While the basic techniques of popping are simple, mastering it takes practice and dedication to perfect. It is also important to note that the word “pop” in popping is not used to describe a specific move, but rather the action of hitting the muscle (think chest pop). While some may think they can do a chest pop by simply flexing their chest, this is not chest pop; it’s more like an explosion that happens in the pectoralis major muscle.