Street dance is an umbrella term used to describe dance styles that evolved outside of dance studios at more everyday spaces such as streets, school yards and nightclubs. They're often improvisational and social in nature, encouraging interaction and contact with the spectators and the other dancers.|
Today, street dance is commonly used specifically for the many hip hop dances and funk dance styles that began appearing in the United States in the 1970s, and are still alive and evolving within the hip hop culture of today. Most of these styles are considered African American vernacular dances as they first appeared within African American communities.
Many street dance styles were formed as an answer to needs among youths of various urban areas, such as the lack of affordable dance studios. They also offered a solution to gang violence, by giving these people an alternative lifestyle, opening up new ways to form social bonds and expressing their feelings through nonviolent and creative methods.
Opposite to many other dance forms, most street dances encourage individuality and originality, and that dancers interpret the existing moves freely and even invent new ones to create a personal style of their own. Improvisation is the heart of most street dances, though choreography is also seen, mostly mixed with improvisation or used for prepared shows.
Generally, a street dance is based on a unique style or feel that are expressed through the dance, usually tied to a certain genre of music. As new moves evolve based on this feel, the dance is under constant development, and if the feel starts to change it might give birth to a completely new dance form.
Many street dances involve battles of some sort (known as jamming in other dance cultures), where individuals or groups of people (called crews in hip hop contexts) dance against each other, with the observing crowd or a group of judges deciding the winner. Battles normally takes place in a circle of free space on the dance floor, with the dancers taking turns to enter and executing their moves. Normally, if the street dance style is not a partner dance, only one dancer performs at a time, except when people from the same crew performs a choreographed routine. There are some exceptions to this, such as uprocking, which uses a line formation with the dancers facing each other on fixed positions on a straight line, dancing simultaneously.
Battles are very improvisational in nature, and the winners are often those who best manage to adapt to the music, their opponents and the current atmosphere. Though battles can become quite energetic, most dancers consider it very important to show respect to all other dancers, even to adversaries. To let the feelings in a battle become too personal is generally frowned upon.
Today, serious street dance competitions are getting increasingly popular, and a number of large reoccurring international events are taking place around the world, such as Battle of the Year, Juste Debout and Jump Off. These contests focus mainly on judged battles but also on choreographed shows.
Some of the most famous street dance styles of today, such as breakdancing, popping and locking, began appearing around the 1970s, with breakdancing soon becoming a part of the hip hop culture. Popping and locking are considered funk dances rather than hip hop dances, but are today commonly associated with the hip hop scene and breakdancing as well, as they share many street dance elements.
More recently, new street dance styles are emerging that are further inspired by hip hop and its music. Krumping, with its focus on highly energetic battles and movements, is an example of such a style that just recently became publicly known. It's also common to see some characteristics of street dance being mixed with other more traditional dance forms, creating styles such as street-jazz, a hybrid of modern hip hop styles and jazz dance. Such styles are generally focused more on choreography and performance and less on improvisation and battles, and are not always considered pure street dances.