What is the Difference Between Popping and Locking?

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Locking is often confused with other dance styles, most notably popping. What is locking? Is it street dance, is it hip-hop dance, is it a funk style?

The answer to this question will draw different responses from different people. However it is generally accepted that it falls under the general ‘street dance category.’

It is generally accepted to be part of hip-hop history and the wider term ‘hip hop dance’ to include locking, popping and breaking.

It is also termed under the ‘funk styles’ term which is probably the most precise if you want to give it a label.

Usually it is confused with popping because locking and popping both came into being at around the same time, locking coming just before popping in the late sixties. Also many of the early adopters of these dance styles would do performances incorporating both popping and locking in them.

However it is important to note that these are two completely different dance styles. When locking and popping are done in the same performance it is sometimes called ‘pop-locking’ a slightly ambiguous term which has drawn many voices into the discussion whether it is an appropriate term.

Politics aside, locking is deemed to be one style and popping is one style. Locking is generally a lot looser incorporating ‘stops’ where the movement is stopped before continuing in relation with the funk rhythms.

A lot of the time the postures are quite relaxed and muscles relaxed before they may strengthen up in the actual stops.

Popping on the other hand makes use of flexing or contracting and relaxing of muscles. Often the dancer is popping different parts of the body at the same time.

Both dances draw on certain key elements in their respective styles. For example in locking, ‘stopping’ the moves and grooving certain moves are prerequisites however the moves themselves may carry many forms and variations.

The same applies to popping, the technique of ‘popping’ the muscles is used in different moves which may look different but carry the technique of popping in their execution.

Whether to include both locking and popping, or just one of them in a performance is at the dancers’ discretion. Usually they would need to have some level of proficiency in both styles to attempt this while many dancers like to base performances around one style.

Of course the best way to differentiate between the dance styles is to watch each of the styles in their own right. Watching a few videos of just pure locking or just pure popping will show you the stylistic elements and many of the popular moves that each style includes.

And then when you come to watch a performance that incorporates multifarious dance styles you can say, “That is some popping”, or “that is some locking.” Quickly followed by, “I know the difference between locking and popping.”

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