The robot (or mannequin) is an illusionary dance style often combined with popping that attempts to imitate a dancing robot or mannequin. Body joints are bent in straight unnatural ways and all movements started and finished with a small jerk to give the impression of motors starting and stopping, or creaking hinges.|
The robot is frequently confused with popping and liquid dancing in general. Robot dancing, however, refers only to the technique of imitating a humanoid robot (or mannequin come alive) which is one of several techniques used in these dance styles.
A variation on the robot is the "broken robot" style, where various parts of the dancer's body is shaken rapidly giving the impression that the robot is breaking down. A lock-and-release of joints can also give the appearance of supports breaking down. Most moves are very stiff.
Mime artists have traditionally been doing mannequin impersonations for many years, but the dance "The Robot" can be traced back to one man in particular: Charles "Charles Robot" Washington a member of the first Soul Train Gang who toured with the improvisation dancers known as "The Campbellock Dancers" in 1972. He was the originator of the Robot style of rhythmic dancing and organized the group "The Robot Brothers" in the late 1960s.
As a dance it was popularized by The Jackson 5 when performing their 1974 hit "Dancing Machine". The dance has a certain comical appeal and is also a frequently referenced artifact of the 1970s and 1980s when it was referred to as "doing the Robot".
As with popping in general, the visual impact of the robot can be boosted by doing it in pace with music. The best effect is achieved with music that has very distinct beats such as electrofunk. It is nonetheless common to use music not particularly suited for the dance, but which has a "robot theme", e.g. Styx's Mr. Roboto.
Unlike most other dances, the robot may also be accompanied a cappella by making vocal impressions of beeps and motor noise.