What is the Popping style of Hip Hop Dance?

By Heidi Williams / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

Popping is considered to be one of the original Hip Hop dance styles and has come to describe a variety of movement types. Underneath the giant umbrella term that is Popping, there are many different sub-styles and off-shoots, and what is considered definitively to be popping is still being debated. 

Generally, however, a pop is considered to be a “hit” –a quick tensing and releasing of the muscles to the beat. “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” (Steezy). 

Although the exact origins are still being debated, what can be agreed upon is that the Electric Boogaloos are who brought Popping to the forefront, and the original members are considered the OGs who pioneered the style. 

The original members were Boogaloo Sam, Popin Pete, Mr. Wiggles, Skeeter Rabbit, Suga Pop, Pop N‘ Taco, and Boogaloo Shrimp. 

The Electric Boogaloo’s signature flavor of movement is truly what laid the groundwork for the iconic movement style of Popping, and what gave such a variety to the technical elements and unique ways of execution. 

Some of the different styles and techniques for Popping are:






Dime Stop
















Part of the reason why these sub-styles all fall under the blanket of Popping is that a Popper may execute several of these styles simultaneously as they are dancing, or move fluidly between each of them as the music inspires them. 

Like all styles inspired by black culture, hip hop culture, Popping is improvisation or freestyle based, and should be inspired by a feeling conjured by the music being danced to. 

Sometimes Poppers will tell a story with their movement, sometimes it’s just about hitting the beats, sometimes it’s just about becoming a 3 dimensional representation of the music. 

As music has evolved, so has Popping, as dancers continue to hone and perfect their craft to properly suit any type of song that might be played. 

The recent trend in music is full of build-ups, beat drops, tempo changes, and sliding time scales, which are delightful challenges for any freestyle dancer, poppers included. For more information and to learn more about the different interpretations of Popping’s complex history, check out these reputable sources:




This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!

About the Author

Heidi Williams

Heidi Anna Williams has over 17 years of professional experience as a dance instructor, educator, coach, and choreographer. In addition to her training in the dance dept. at WMU, she has received instruction from many of the industry’s top choreographers/teachers and trained frequently in LA, California. Her choreography has been awarded frequently on both regional and national levels, often winning national titles. In addition to being nominated for Best Choreography, several of her pieces were chosen to be performed at Disney in Orlando, Florida.