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What to Expect From Your Child’s First Hip Hop Dance Class

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

If you’ve got a kid who is cooler than you’ve ever been, hip hop class might be right up their alley! Good hip hop classes stay on the pulse of what’s popular in current hip hop culture while paying homage to the founders and movements that created the styles that make up contemporary hip hop. 

Beginner hip hop classes are 45 minutes to an hour in length, and consist of a warm-up, progressions across the floor, and a center combo. Hip hop classes will teach rhythm, and musicality, and focus on individual expression while using kid-friendly hip hop music. 

It’s important to remember that hip hop was born out of a culture of struggle and strife, and has a rich history just like other styles of dance. When looking for hip hop classes, be sure to ask questions about the instructor’s background in hip hop, and what styles they teach. For more info on the various styles of hip hop out there, check out our The Origins of Hip Hop – Dance History You Need To Know article!

Why Choose Hip Hop?

The question should be, why NOT choose hip hop? Hip hop is having a moment in the sun in the dance studio world, with the popularity of shows like “World of Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew” showing audiences the variety of styles of hip hop that are out there. Your child might be moving and grooving from a young age, and enrolling them in a hip hop class could help them fine tune their skills.

Similarly to tap, hip hop teaches students to have a great sense of internal rhythm and groove in the body. Dancers who take a rhythm based class are better contemporary and jazz dancers because they understand timing and musicality. If your dancer is already taking other styles of dance, hip hop would be a smart addition to help level up their musicality skills.

Hip hop is a great choice for all kids who have a lot of energy and want to dance, but hip hop is especially good for boys who want to dance but might be shy about admitting it. While acceptance of boys in dance has grown exponentially over the years, in part due to the shows mentioned above, in many places there is still a stigma. Taking hip hop class could be just the beginning for boys who want to explore other styles of dance, or it could be exactly the one class your child is looking for! 

How Old Does My Child Have To Be To Start Taking Hip Hop?

Kids of different ages jumping for joy in a hip hop class -  - What to Expect From Your Child's First Hip Hop Dance Class

Generally, children ages 8 and up can start a hip hop class at most dance studios. In classes for that age, students will be learning the basics of hip hop. Some studios will have hip hop as a standalone class, while others may have it as part of a combination class, or “combo” class option, paired with tap or jazz.

However, due to the interest in hip hop music in our culture, some studios have started adding what is billed as “Tot Hop” or something similar for as young as 3 years old. In these types of classes, dancers are learning more creative movement and motor skills, just set to tot-friendly hip hop music.

How is Hip Hop Class Different From Jazz Class?

Hip hop classes are different from jazz classes in several ways. Hip hop is unique from other styles of dance because it emerged from a specific culture, and has yet to be really codified like jazz and ballet. For that reason, you will see some major differences not only between hip hop and jazz classes, but between two hip hop classes. For even more about hip hop and how it developed over time, check out our article What Are The Different Types of Hip Hop?

In hip hop, less time is spent on flexibility, as it is not as necessary to most styles of hip hop being taught in dance studios. There will still be some stretching going on, but the focus won’t be on attaining a full split or a high kick. Instead, stretching will serve as a general warm up.

The focus in hip hop class will be on grounded movement, body awareness, basic rhythm, and personal style, while in jazz class, there is more of an emphasis on uniformity, precision, and technique that comes from the ballet world. All hip hop styles have a technique all their own, so you will likely not see much movement that borrows from any other style of dance in any kind of hip hop class.

Finally, if your student is taking hip hop from someone who immerses themselves in hip hop culture, they will learn a wide variety of social dances from different eras of hip hop that have become staples of the vernacular. They may come home doing dances that you recognize from the 80s and 90s, like the Running Man, the Tootsie Roll, and the Cabbage Patch. Feel free to embarrass your child by showing off your favorite moves!

How is a Hip Hop dance class  Different from TikTok Dances?

A common misconception these days is that dances you see on TikTok are hip hop, or born out of hip hop. While TikTok dances are fun to watch and learn, they are not hip hop. Hip hop came from a community, and even though the social dances mentioned above feel similar to what TikTok dances showcase, the interaction, give and take, and community are what sets hip hop apart.

If your studio offers a TikTok class, that would be considered a separate style from hip hop, so be sure to watch a class and ask questions if you are unsure what is being taught. 

How is A Hip Hop Class Structured?

Four girls in a dance studio learning Hip Hop Dance - - What to Expect From Your Child's First Hip Hop Dance Class

Hip hop class for dance studios is structured similarly to a jazz class. Dancers will begin in the center of the room with a warm-up that includes stretching, isolations, rhythm and groove exercises, and fundamentals of whatever style is being taught. 

Next, dancers may go across the floor with traveling exercises focusing on direction changes, footwork, floorwork, and freestyle. 

Finally, center work will be practiced and could include anything from learning a combo to having a mock battle, to working on rudiments of skills. If you are at a studio that has an end-of-year recital, your child will spend part of the end of class learning and rehearsing a routine.

What Is a Battle In Hip Hop?

If you have ever watched “Step Up 2: The Streets”, you will remember the epic battle scene between the two crews. A battle is a competition between either two individual dancers or two crews of dancers. Some dance studios will hold mock battles within hip hop classes to allow their dancers to practice their freestyle skills. 

What Steps Should My Child Be Learning in a Beginner Hip Hop Class?

Dance studio hip hop classes typically encompass a variety of styles, some of which aren’t even authentically hip hop, so you will likely see a variety of steps and concepts taught that may range from breaking, street styles, funk styles, and others. Here are just a few steps from several different styles that you may encounter while your child is studying hip hop!

Bounces

Bouncing as a concept is something that’s important to finding your groove in hip hop. You will see variations on the bounce being taught and honed in all levels of hip hop.

Two Step

There are many variations on the two step depending on what style of hip hop you are studying, but the basic two step is simply a step touch, with some added upper body groove.

Six Step

The six step is a breaking move meant to lead into other floorwork, like spins and freezes.

Kick Step

The kick step, or kick cross step, is another move that comes from the breakdancing world and is part of the “top rock” family of steps.

Isolations

Body isolations, like the ones you see in jazz class, are also important in hip hop. Shown here are chest isolations, but other body parts can be isolated as well for dynamic additions to movement.

Waving

Waving is an extension of the popping style of dance, and can be applied to all body parts. Waving is essentially very small, contained isolations.

Baby Freeze

A baby freeze is a breakdancing move that comes out of a six step and involves balancing on the shoulder and hands. 

Freestyle

Since hip hop emphasizes a dancers’ personal style, most classes will involve freestyle practice, where dancers will utilize steps they know to make up phrases on the spot. 

What Shoes Should My Child Wear to Hip Hop Class?

Most hip-hop teachers prefer full-soled, rubber-soled sneakers for hip hop class. Some studios will require uniformity for performances, so be sure to check with your teacher for any guidelines regarding shoes.

Some studios will also ask that these sneakers be solely used for class and not worn outside as street shoes. This is mainly to ensure that their studio floors stay clean, that day-to-day grime does not get on the floors, and that rocks stuck in normal street shoes do not scratch their flooring. 

If you would like some ideas on what you should be looking for check out our article What types of Shoes are Best for Hip Hop Dancing?

What Clothing Should My Child Wear to Hip Hop Class?

Hip hop class is typically relaxed when it comes to dress code, and depending on your studio, anything could go! Joggers, sweat pants, or tear-away pants are usually great choices, and anything from a tank top to a t-shirt to a sweatshirt will be acceptable as well. 

Most hip hop teachers prefer that students “dress out” for class, meaning that even if they’re coming from ballet or jazz and are wearing a leotard, putting hip hop appropriate clothing on over their other attire will place students in the right frame of mind for hip hop.

I Hope I Have helped You Decide Whether Hip Hop Dance is For Your Child! 

Hip hop can be an incredible outlet for dancers looking to change up their movement quality or learn a new style. The variety of styles within hip hop provides many opportunities for learning different concepts and becoming more versatile, as well as simply having a blast! Happy dancing!

Further Reading