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“So you’re a dancer! What kind of dance do you do?” “Uhh.. Urban dance..” “What is urban dance??” “Well…”

At this point, we all kinda get what urban dance or urban dance choreography refer to.

But if someone asked you to put it into words, you probably wouldn’t have an exact explanation on hand.

Most of the time, when someone asks me what kind of dancing I do, I just say “hip hop” to save time… But I KNOW that’s not an accurate label! (I’m sorry I’M SORRY!)

Hip hop dance originally referred to either social / party dancing or breakin’ (breakdancing).

Though the relationship can be interpreted in multiple ways, hip hop is not classified as including, but is associated with other dance styles such as popping, waacking, locking, house, and krump.

Choreographing and performing pieces is clearly a departure from the freestyle circles at clubs and battles that most hip hop dancers are used to.

So we started to call it “urban dance.”


Learn more about this relationship in The Fundamental Difference Between Freestyle And Choreography Communities

The urban dance scene did evolve, in certain aspects, from hip hop dance roots. Several moves and grooves and concepts were inspired by hip hop and funk styles.

But in the past 2 decades or so, urban dance has come to develop its own identity.

From competitions like Body Rock and VIBE, teams like GRV, Choreo Cookies, and huge dance workshops taught by traveling choreographers and concept videos with production crews – there are a lot of moving parts that make up our culture and lifestyle.

Let’s go back a few decades to better understand what urban dance means to us.

Urban dance is a genre, commmunity, and lifestyle revolving around choreographed pieces and performances by a dancer or groups of dancers. It is influenced by several different dance styles, but is ultimately based on the choreographer’s individual interpretation of the music.

A big part of the modern urban dance culture stemmed from collegiate dance teams and competitions.

How Collegiate And Competitive Dance Teams Started

Dance Teams In Southern California

what is urban dance

(*Note that other dancers and events around NorCal, the east coast, across the nation and world contributed to the community’s inception, but in this section we will focus on SoCal’s story. It’s not the only part, but it is a big part of the dance community’s development!)

Most great things in the world started with a few friends just wanting to have fun. The urban dance community is no different.

Arnel Calvario and his friends loved making routines to perform in the “hip hop suite” at Pilipino Culture Night (PCN) hosted by Kababayan, UCI’s Pilipino cultural club. But these dancers did not have a group to dance with, nor a stage to perform on, outside of that one annual event.

Thus, Kaba Modern was formed in 1992. In ’94, CADC was formed through the Chinese American Association at UCI, and the same dance company “Culture” (later known as Team Millennia) was founded in Fullerton by Danny Batimana. In ’95 PAC Modern was formed at CSU Long Beach, then Samahang Modern at UCLA.

For a more comprehensive account, see The Evolution Of Our Global Dance Community

How The Dance Teams First Started “Competing”

what is urban dance

“All these different groups popped up in different areas. But we never had a chance to compete together… until car show promoters noticed the appeal in hip hop crew performances and created dance competitions at their events.

It was a great way to meet other dancers from other areas and watch them dance, but the setting wasn’t very relevant. We were a part of a marketing tool – a buzz for promoters to capitalize on.”

– Arnel Calvario

Arnel’s roommate suggested hosting their own competition to give these newly formed, aspiring groups to showcase to each other in a more authentic way. The inception of VIBE Dance Competition created a domino effect in competitions – we soon saw Prelude, Maxt Out, Ultimate Brawl, and Fusion, to name a few.

what is urban dance

Flyer from “The Vibe” – year 1. Photo courtesy of Arnel Calvario

Get a better idea of how dance competitions started by reading What You Should Know About VIBE Dance Competition’s 22-Year Old History

Culture Shock San Diego Turns International

The hip hop dance scene in San Diego was still very much (To continue ready please visit Steezy here…)

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