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What is Waacking?

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

Waacking is a style associated with street and hip hop dance that is characterized by intricate fast arm movements and vogues or freezes. Much of the movement originates in the shoulders and some moves look similar to a person dancing with invisible nun chucks. 

Latin and jazz dance foot work can be seen within the style of waaking as the dancers move around the space but the focus always comes back to the arms and hands. Waaking has a noticeably feminine flair, and is a very expressive and sometimes an aggressive form of freestyle dance. 

Whacking originated in gay clubs in the 1970s in California during the Funk and Disco music era. It was in these clubs that LGBTQ African-Americans, Latinx, and Asians found sanctuary from the various oppressions they faced and could feel free to express their true selves through dance and dress. 

“Initially it was called ‘garbo’, because dancers copied pretentious theatrical postures characteristic of famous actresses of 40s years, first of all, Greta Garbo” (mywaydance)

The dance was infact actually first called Punking, as Punk was a derogatory term for gay men at the time, and using it was the community’s way of flipping the term on its head, and turning it into something positive. 

Waaking (a term inspired by comic books) was actually a name for a specific type of movement within the style. Then Shaba-do, a famous Locker, became the first straight male to learn Punking/Waaking, and helped popularize it. 

As Punking spread in popularity heterosexuals wanted to learn it without negative aspects associated with the term “Punk” so the name was officially changed to Waaking.

Similar to Locking, Waaking surged in popularity after it was featured on Soul Train, but eventually faded out after the 70s, partly as a result of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, which claimed the lives of many of those who pioneered the style.

It’s clear that Waacking is and has always been all about empowerment, performance, and individual expression. 

“And while this style was originally created to empower people of color in the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s gone on to inspire younger generations of dancers of all backgrounds around the world” (Steezy).

Though locking nearly disappeared as a style in the late 80s and 90s, it has since experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to dance TV shows and social media. Seeing older styles of movement be resurrected is exciting, and helps connect us to the past, as well as each other.

Waaking classes can be found online as well as in some dance studios, but it’s availability greatly depends on it’s popularity and availability of teachers. 

Learning a style like this isn’t just about learning some moves. “They are about a dialogue between different communities, across different locations, even across different times.”

Naomi Macalalad Bragin, an assistant professor at University of Washington Bothell. 

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!