Why We Dance

Learn about the importance of dance and break down the dance moves synonymous with Hip-Hop

Black Cultural Archives

Written by Deborah Baddoo MBE | Dances by Sophia

Badejo Arts: Sisi Agbe Aye Photographs Badejo Arts: Sisi Agbe Aye Photographs (1995) by Eric RichmondBlack Cultural Archives

Dance brings people together, creates a sense of wellbeing, and can give communities strength and a sense of identity. The language of dance crosses cultural barriers and provides a way of communicating, giving a sense of unity without the use of words.

State of Emergency's Desert Crossings by Irven LewisBlack Cultural Archives

It enables us to connect with our ‘tribes’, either our cultural communities, communities of interest or our localities, and can also tell stories about identity and history.

Robert Hylton & Bawren Tavaziva for State of Emergency's The Mission by Eric RichmondBlack Cultural Archives

Dance, particularly social dance, is a creative expression accessible to all, and may provide valuable connection and endorsement for those on the margins of society.

Photographs of Deborah Baddoo Photographs of Deborah Baddoo (1984-1993)Black Cultural Archives

As well as examples of social and cultural history, these dance styles often illustrate an expression of protest and disenfranchisement, for example those dances derived from the Black music styles of the 70’s to 90’s including Dancehall and Hip Hop genres.

Marcia Edwards in State of Emergency's Mission Re-Position by Toby FarrowBlack Cultural Archives

The dances and the dance halls provide a space to escape daily troubles, an opportunity to get lost in the music and the rhythms, and to find temporary sanctuary from the stresses of life. Hip Hop and Dancehall moves share some commonalities of style.

Caribbean Dance Contest (1950) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

Originating in the Caribbean and the USA respectively, the styles mutate and develop to reflect and embody the Black experience of the time.

Empire Windrush (1990) by UnknownBlack Cultural Archives

Many of the first exponents of these styles in the UK were the second generation of Caribbean people who migrated to the UK also known as the ‘Windrush Generation’. 


The origins of Hip Hop dance styles can be traced way back to traditional African dance movements before the styles were developed and morphed into the well-known Hip Hop dance styles that we see today.

The Dance Movement The Dance Movement (1995-2005)Black Cultural Archives

The dances known as ‘The Bogle’, ‘The Butterfly’, ‘The Migraine Skank’, ‘The Running Man’ and ‘The Lean And Bop’, offer a broad brushstroke, a taste of the UK social dance styles of the 70’s to 90’s imported from Jamaica and the USA, mixed with British interpretations.


In all cases, the music stimulated the development of the dances, which in turn inspired the lyrical content of the music, such as in the ‘Migraine Skank’, a song which directly instructs the movement content of the dance.


Now, let's get dancing!

Watch below to learn some of the dance moves as shown by dancer and content creator Sophia.

Dance Tutorial - Bogle Dance (Union Black) by Sophia

The Bogle

This dance originated in Jamaica in the 1990s, and was named by Gerald ‘Bogle’ Levy, lead dancer with the Kingston based Black Roses crew. Levy was in turn named after a national hero of Jamaica, the activist Paul Bogle. The dance move has grown and featured in music videos.

Dance Tutorial - Butterfly Dance (Union Black) by Sophia

The Butterfly

This dance originated in Jamaica, although its historical roots go much further back. The Butterfly was danced to Reggae and Ragga music and was performed in dance halls, reaching mass popularity in the UK in the 90s.

Dance Tutorial - Migraine Skank (Union Black) by Sophia

The Migraine Skank

Early skanking originated in the dance halls of Jamaica from the 1950s and were danced to Reggae and Ska music. Since then, there have been many variations and developments on the form both in the Jamaican and UK scenes.


In the UK it was also appropriated by Skinheads and Punks, who developed their own versions. It was originally a dance to accompany a massive hit song of the same name by Gracious ‘’Nappa Man’’ K which hit in the UK in 2009.

Dance Tutorial - Running Man (Union Black) by Sophia

The Running Man

The Running Man is arguably the most recognisable dance from the 1980s Hip Hop scene. The dance replicates a runner’s moves whilst being stationary. Many sources state that it was created by dancer and singer Paula Abdul, after being hired as a choreographer for Janet Jackson.

Dance Tutorial - Lean & Bop (Union Black) by Sophia

The Lean and Bop

The track ‘Lean and Bop’ by London based rapper J Hus was released in 2015. This was another dance that was created using the song lyrics which give precise instructions for the dance but allow space for people to add their own personalities and styles.


Simple, accessible, and inclusive, the Lean and Bop brings people together for a fun social experience.  To underline the upbeat atmosphere of the rap, the accompanying video features people of all ages being taught by J Hus and enjoying the dance. 

Credits: Story

Words written by Deborah Baddoo MBE
Films and dances created and performed by content creator Soph


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Union Black
Celebrating the powerful influence of Black British music culture
View theme
Google apps