Nothing good ever comes easy, so if you really want to master hip-hop you’ll need some determination and dedication. Luckily, you’re only ever a few block away from your next class. Once you set your heart to it, hip-hop is easy to master if you keep in mind these quick and dirty hip-hop tips.
#1 – It’s okay to be chill
When you’re dancing hip-hop, you need to relax your body to let the music guide you. It’s okay to be chill, and in fact it’s better. You definitely do not want to look stiff. Even though some hip-hop moves like locking may feel a bit rigid, you need to relax to achieve those smooth moves. There’s no way you’ll be able to enjoy the rhythm if you’re moving like you’re got a stick up your backside.
#2 – Loosen up your feet and arms
This isn’t ballroom dancing, you don’t need to create a frame around your body with your arms. And in fact, you want your legs and arms to be loose so that they’re relaxed (see above) and ready to go where your moves take them. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep your knees slightly bent so you’re ready to try any dance move that comes your way. Arms by your sides—not crosses, not fidgeting. Just let them hang so you stay relaxed when you start to move to the music.
#3 – Wear something comfortable
If you want to be able to master all those smooth moves, you’ve got to wear comfortable clothes. You may choose to wear something more form-fitting when you take your moves on the road—but when you’re learning go for something comfortable.
Even though you’ve just bought some new super cute sneakers and there are about million leggings in your closet that you want to try with that cool crop top you picked up, be sure to wear something that feels good on your skin and that lets you move around with ease. That means sneakers that allow you to slide easily and clothes that let you move. Nothing can spoil a dance class more than tank top slipping off (wardrobe malfunction, here you come), or a stiff shoe putting pressure on your joints.
#4 – Learn the moves
Everything feels challenging at the beginning, but there’s no need to be discouraged when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror during your first class. Don’t worry about nailing the perfect swagger, focus on learning the moves. It’s true that hip hop is a super accessible dance style—almost anyone with a sense of rhythm can pick it up—but that doesn’t mean you can just wing it without learning the basics.
Once you have learned the core moves though, the world is pretty much your dance floor. You can mix and match your moves and create a customized flow that feels all your own. In the beginning, concentrate on remembering the dance patterns. When you do, you’ll have an easier time down the line picking up the speed and improving your overall performance.
#5 – Know your body
Once you know the moves, get to know your body. Hip-hop is special in that to really master it, you need to bring your own personality to each and every movement. And the dance itself is made up of a lot of isolated moves that require focus and precision. To be able to master new moves you need to think about every part of your body as a separate entity. So start with getting to know your body first—try some light yoga or Pilates at home on the side. Continuous movement and exercise will help you learn more about yourself and how your body moves.
#6 – Feel the music
Everything in hop-hop comes back to the music. Whether it’s old school hip-hop like Dr. Dre or more modern hits from Drake and Kanye, the music is what shaped this culture and made it so fun. You need to feel the music to be able to follow the rhythm. Almost every song has a symmetrical pattern, so if you pay attention to the beat and bass, you’ll notice that it all feels so right. The beat is your unspoken dance pattern in everything you do, so relax and let it move through you.
#7 – Start from the bottom
We all start from the bottom, not only Drake. When you’re beginning with hip-hop, don’t get discouraged. Start with the beginner moves like the Dougie, stanky leg, and popping. Even shuffling your feet counts—try the classic T-step or the running man. Anyone can master these moves with just a little bit a rhythm and dedication. Once you’ve nailed the basics, you can whip them out on any dance floor, anywhere. And you can also start layering on the more complicated moves, like moonwalking and the pop, lock, and drop.
#8 – Have fun!
If you’re not having fun, then what are you doing? Hip-hop is all about freedom to express yourself, about the power to be who you are and work with others to create something truly incredible. So have fun while you’re practicing and working out! Let your true self shine through. Stay relaxed, stay calm, and stay focused.
If you still want more, there are a whole bunch of useful online videos that explain the major hip-hop moves in detail, so you can practice at home before hitting a studio. There are plenty of beginning hip-hop classes in the city, though, so don’t stay home for too long! Don’t forget that hip-hop is about you—your body, your movement, your experience. So don’t be afraid to ask your instructor to show you the move again, and be sure to work at your own pace.