Hip Hop dance forms are all about exploration and creativity, especially given their freestyle nature. However, the cypher circle might seem incredibly daunting for someone just starting out or with paralysing fear of crowds and judgement. In my personal training and experience, I find that technique can be of immense value to dancers here.
Contrary to most mainstream belief, Hip Hop freestyle is not defined by its complete absence of structured movement. Freestyle, simply put, does not mean ‘do whatever you want’ but instead refers to the freedom a dancer has to combine and apply different ‘styles’ of movement. This is why a dancer skilled in technique and practice would win out over an unskilled practitioner. This is because Hip Hop dance is rooted in an arsenal of techniques and stylized movements stemming from different influences of Hip Hop culture. It is inspired by styles like breaking, popping, locking, boogaloo, turfin’, tutting on the one hand and by Hip Hop’s culturally specific moves – starting from a simple bounce/groove going all the way to steps like ‘Steve Martin’, ‘Bart Simpson’, ‘the Smurf’, etc.
These established movements were created as individual concepts but were part and parcel of Hip Hop in its dance element. They connect dances together and offer a list of techniques and skills a dancer can tap into when exploring. How does this help a dancer in freestyle? The dancer can resort to the basic foundational movements provided by the culture itself when experiencing a ‘blank’ whilst freestyle dancing. The bounce is a perfect example. It can be used to start off your exploration but can also be used to refocus your dance round or experimentation when you seemingly get lost in all the concepts you are creating.
Make it a goal to learn as many foundational movements as possible through dance classes or through online exploration (most moves mentioned in this blog can be found online!). Your vocabulary will increase indefinitely and you will find yourself more adapted to freestyle. You won’t experience blocks because you would have built up such a vast arsenal of skills, techniques, variations, steps and movements you can apply at your own whim!