Popping dance is a style of dance that started in the late 1960’s and 70’s, characterized by sudden tensing and releasing of the muscles to the rhythm of beats in music.
How Popping Was Created
Origins of dance styles can get tricky. The OG’s have different accounts and interpretations of that story according to their regions and circles of influence.
While there are several moving parts of the story that sometimes conflict or overlap, one clear part of popping’s origin is that it started among groups of teenage friends in deindustrializing parts of the city. They’d come up with moves, practice them, then bust them out at clubs or battles. It was something that gave the dancers an escape, an identity, and a family.
Over time, the word “popping” (which is also often referred to as “hitting,”) started being used to describe the collection of moves and techniques invented by the OG poppers.
Pioneers and Notable Poppers/Crews
In 1975, Sam Solomon (AKA Boogaloo Sam) created a dance called the Boogaloo in Fresno, California. Sam influenced by his brother, Timothy Earl Solomon. In 1978, their family moved down to Long Beach, California, where he and other dancers formed the Electric Boogaloo Lockers.
Some members of the crew included of Pop’in Pete, Skeeter Rabbit, Suga Pop, Mr. Wiggles, Cedric Williams (AKA Creep’n Sid), Gary Allen (AKA Scarecrow Scally), Marvin “Puppet” Boozer and Dane “Robot” Parker.
Tick’n Will and Darnell Twist-o-Flex McDowell
William Green Jr. (AKA Tick’n Will) met his best friend Ricky Darnell “Twist-o-Flex” McDowell in the West Fresno projects in the 1970’s. They started making up dance moves and called themselves the Ace Tre Lockers. (But there didn’t Lock.)
“We didn’t call it Popping because to us it was just dance moves.”
– Will (Underground Dance Masters, 110)
The two would prepare dozens of steps and enter local battles. They invented their own dance moves, and added their own interpretation to existing dance moves. They came up with different variations of “Popping,” as well as techniques for Ticking, Creeping, and the Backslide. Some examples include The Old Man, Twist-o Flex and Neck-o Flex.
In 1976, Will and Darnell met Sam Solomon at Roeding Park in Fresno. They started practicing together at the Mary Ella Brown Community Center, learning and drawing from each others’ flavor. The group named themselves the Electric Boogaloo Lockers.
The Electric Boogaloos
They started performing together at local talent shows and started to expand to different areas, quickly gaining popularity for their originality and talent in all of Northern California.
When the group moved down to Long Beach, they introduced the style to Southern California dancers – recruiting newer members and polishing both their technique and group performance routines.
The Electric Boogaloos would also perform on the streets of Hollywood, trying to get discovered to work in the entertainment industry. They met and started working with Jeff Kutash in 1978, who produced dance shows in casinos. Their tour, titled “Jeff Kutash’s Dancin’ Machine featuring the Electric Boogaloo” was testing for the group – their identity was repeatedly misrepresented. For this and other reasons, members eventually stopped working under Kutash.
The Electric Boogaloos went on to innovate a number of different popping dance moves. Their style was characterized by fluid motions, incorporating rolls of the hips, knees, and head.
They appeared on national television on a show called Hot City, were featured at the Chicago Playboy Club, and performed opening numbers for various vocal artists. But the most pivotal appearance of The Electric Boogaloos was in 1979, when they danced on Soul Train.
Boogaloo Sam, Pop’in Pete, Creepin Ced, Puppet Boozer and Dane “Robot” Parker
“As you may know, these very creative young men have invented a dancing style that’s becoming very popular, and it’s described as ‘popping,’” said Don Cornelius in his introduction of the Electric Boogaloos.
The show helped to popularize and publicize popping dance. It served as a catalyst for developing different styles of popping dance in other parts of the country.
Popping and other street styles then went on to be featured in Hollywood films such as “Beat Street,” and “Breakin’.”
Bruno “Pop N’ Taco” Falcon in 1984’s “Breakin’”
The Electric Boogaloo dancers also appeared on another music variety show called Solid Gold. Though sometimes misrepresented, this put street dance and popping on the radar of a national audience.
In fact, Michael Jackson was a fan of the Boogaloo and learned from Pop’in Pete and Pop N Taco. In 1983, he performed the Backslide on national television (but incorrectly called it the “Moonwalk.”)
Popping dance is related to hip hop dancing and the other funk styles (such as Waacking and Locking), but is its own distinct style of dance. It is often performed in battles and cyphers, or incorporated into choreography. The foundations created by these popping “OGs” has been viewed, learned, and modified by generations of dancers all over the world.
Poppers aim to maintain the authenticity of the techniques and traditions of the style. With a better understanding of these origin stories, all dancers can learn to innovate their own popping dance style while staying true to the integrity of the culture.
Interview with Pop’in Pete & Suga Pop
Beneath the Surface: An In-Depth Look at Popping & Boogaloo – PART 2
Pop’in Pete Real Talk
Want to work on your popping foundations? Take our popping classes from some of the best poppers out there at STEEZY Studio!