Most cheer routines, particularly for competitive cheerleading, include two and a half minutes of upbeat music, stunting, tumbling and dance moves. Hip hop is a fast-paced style of dance that goes well in the middle of your cheer routine and can make the crowd and the judges sit up and take notice.
Basic Hip Hop Moves
When it comes to hip hop it seems that a new move hits the streets every week or two. However, there are some basic moves that are so common to dancers that they are an essential part of any hip hop routine.
Ball, Change, Step
This move is quite basic so that even beginning dancers can pick it up easily. There are specific steps to perform this move:
- Start with the feet together and hands at your sides.
- Step back with your right leg, placing the ball of your foot on the floor behind your left foot.
- Take the left leg (in front) and step over to the right while keeping the right foot in place.
- Bring the right foot forward and to the side ending in a stance that has the feet spread shoulder width apart.
- Repeat on the opposite side by starting with the left leg back.
There is a specific rhythm to this hip hop move, which is best illustrated in the video below. It is basically one quick beat, one long beat, one quick beat.
Popping and Locking
If you've talked to a dancer about hip hop, you've likely heard about "popping" and "locking." This is another basic move you'll need to master for hip hop. Popping and locking has been around for a long time in dance, but hip hop takes it to an entirely new level. Get started with this very basic move:
- Start with elbows by your sides, hands in fists facing upwards.
- Turn both arms over so that your still fisted palms now face down while moving your elbows a few inches away from your sides.
- Step back with one leg, keeping it straight and slightly bend the leg that is forward.
- Shift your head and shoulders from side to side.
There are many other positions when popping and locking. One thing to keep in mind is that your movements should appear sharp and a bit jerky. The video below will help you picture how the movements come together in a fluid dance.
Another simple move that cheerleaders can incorporate easily into an overall routine is the basic bounce. To perform the basic bounce:
- Start with feet slightly apart and legs relaxed.
- Bend the knees and slump slightly to the right and then the left.
- Bend slightly to one side at the waist as you bend the knees and then rock to the other side.
You should be relaxed throughout this motion almost as though you are a rag doll.
The slide step works well in hip hop dances, but you could also incorporate this basic step into any type of cheer dance routine to create a fluid motion among all the cheerleaders.
- Step quickly with your left foot, lifting it up and down and then rock on your right foot slightly on a beat of "one and." So, on "one" your left foot lifts up and back down and on "and" your right foot makes a slight jumping motion. Repeat so that you are taking two steps with your left foot. So, "one and" and "two and."
- On "three," take your right foot and make a semi circle from the front and around to the back (the slide part of the motion).
Ticking is pretty simple but is a more advanced move that your squad will need to practice to perfect. Some people call this a strobe, because it has the same look as motion under a strobe light.
- Start with your legs slightly apart and arms at your sides.
- Bring first one arm up with your elbow at your waist and your hand turned to the side and then the other arm.
- Bring the arms up slightly with each move from one side to the other. Imagine that you are a robot and your motions are very quick and stiff.
Beyond the Basic Hip Hop Moves
One key to incorporating hip hop into your cheer routine is to have a clip of the right kind of music. You wouldn't want to try to do a hip hop dance to a slow, romantic song, or a country and western favorite. Instead, aim for hip hop specific music, which is often rap music. Be sure to double-check the lyrics to make sure they are appropriate for your audience. Once you've mastered the basic motions above, you can incorporate these into a routine. For example, when performing the slide step, have every other cheerleader slide back on the final motion and the others stay in place for some variation and visual interest.
You can also borrow elements from specific hip hop dances, although you likely wouldn't have time in a short routine to perform an entire dance.
If you're showing off some stunts that involve only some of the squad members, the rest of the cheerleaders can perform the Dougie in the background as long as the music is appropriate.
The Cupid Shuffle is a fun line dance that many people know how to do. Using a well-known dance like this one adds familiarity to your routine.
The Spongebob consists of some simple footwork that can easily be incorporated at any point in a routine. Vary the arm motions to add interest.
Hip Hop Attitude
When performing a hip hop routine, remember that half the dance is the attitude you bring to it. Hip hop is a fast-paced, intense dance style. It isn't meant to be pretty or elegant, so focus more on performing with lots of gusto than perfecting each and every move.