Joffrey Ballet School

How to Dance Professional Hip Hop

Wondering how to dance professional hip hop? You’ve come to the right place. Joffrey Ballet School has trained thousands of dancers across all genres of dance – including hip hop – to become versatile professionals in the dance world. But we also recognize that this is a bit of a loaded question. Because when it comes to hip hop, even more than any other genre of dance, there’s no one way to become a professional. 

Joffrey Summer of Hip Hop from Joffrey Ballet School on Vimeo.

Truth is, top hip hop dancers can come from the street or the studio. But although professional hip hop dancers have diverse backgrounds, hip hop is similar to other professional dance careers in this way: it’s a highly competitive field with no guarantees. That means it can be a challenge to set yourself apart. But there are things you can do that will increase your chances of success. 

Tips for Dancing Professional Hip Hop 

Hip hop is unique because of its origins and continuing status as a street dance. Hip hop isn’t like other genres of dance such as classical ballet where there is a typical career trajectory that leads to getting work in the field, or a specific background that professional hip hop dancers must have. There’s no “pointe shoes moment” – the moment when you know you’re on track to becoming a professional. 

But professional hip hop dancers do have a few things in common. Hip hop dancers who want to work regularly need to be well versed not just in hip hop but other dance styles whether its pop, house, funk, hip hop, dance hall, or any other genre. And they should have enough formal dance training to reliably follow eight count direction. Those are just for starters. 

Here are a few other tips for becoming a professional hip hop dancer.

Respect and understand the art form – Hip hop isn’t just a dance form. Hip hop is a culture, an art form that blends music, dance, street fashion, and much more. Technically, hip hop incorporates four unique art forms: DJing, MCing, breakdancing and tagging, or graffiti. It’s important to note that dance is just part of the overall culture and if you don’t understand the culture, it’s hard to “feel” the art form as a dancer. So if you want to be a professional hip hop dancer, we recommend that you spend some time studying hip hop: learn about its history and listen to the old school music from its origins through today. Watch what other dancers are doing and have done in the past, and learn from them. Developing your understanding and appreciation of hip hop culture makes you a stronger dancer and a better ambassador for the art form.

Spend some time in the studio – Although professional hip hop dancers can still come from the streets the “old school” way, those stories are becoming ever rarer. For better or worse, “New style” hip hop dancers – who learned their craft in a studio, are becoming the norm. That is because a professional dancer must be able to take direction and follow complex choreography. The ability to freestyle is key, but to perform as part of a crew or as a background dancer means that a background in the formal language of dance is important. In addition, formal dance training teaches you to develop strength and flexibility which will reduce your chances of injury and increase your longevity as a dancer. These are good things.  

Be insanely talented and athletic – Let’s face it, hip hop dancing is extremely high energy performance. You need to be incredibly athletic and strong to pull off the moves it takes to perform a street freestyle or a new style choreographed performance. Hip hop music is high energy and you must be too. Also keep in mind that because hip hop is a culture, not just a form of music or dance, many professional hip hop dancers become ambassadors for the art form and may also find work as dancers, models or actors. So take good care of your body because hip hop dancing is truly a lifestyle!

Market yourself like a professional – As in any performing arts field, applying for jobs as a hip hop dancer requires a few professional tools. These include your headshot, a resume or CV (curriculum vitae), and a dance reel. Your headshot should be recent, natural, and look like the real you, so not too much makeup. Wear a hairstyle similar to what you would wear to an audition. A dance reel is simply a video that highlights your best dance skills – popping, locking, freestyling, your work as part of a crew, highlights of a dance battle or competition. The video can be submitted on a flash drive, SD card or shared on social media. Finally, gaining representation by an agent can be incredibly helpful when it comes to finding paying work as a hip hop dancer…but it is neither a guarantee nor a requirement.

Network like crazy – Lastly – and we can’t stress this enough – when it comes to professional hip hop dancing (or any form of professional dance) it isn’t just what you know, it’s who you know. To find work professionally, you need to develop an extensive network of people who know you and your work, so that when it’s time to hire, your name is at the top of the list. Formal training – whether it’s through a local studio, a summer intensive or a pre-professional dance training program –  is a great way to start building your network. Competitions and dance crews are also a great way to gain recognition in the hip hop dance world.

Get Schooled – With Formal Training

Although “old school” hip hop originated as a street dance, no longer is it limited to that – especially for those who aspire to dance professionally. 

Since the development of “new style” hip hop in the late 1980s, most who aspire to dance hip hop professionally also spend a significant amount of time training in the studio, and for good reason. Formal education expands your ability to work professionally, so investing in your formal dance education is a smart choice. It allows you to dance more than just hip hop, it teaches you the choreography skills that will allow you to extend your professional longevity, and provides the skills to become an instructor capable of teaching the next generation when your performing career comes to an end. 

If you’re ready to take the next step towards dancing professional hip hop, register today for Joffrey Ballet School’s NYC Hip Hop Summer Dance intensive. The intensive includes a jam packed week of more than 75 class types, including Breaking, Freestyle, House, Jazz/Funk, Street, Locking, Pop’n, commercial dance and other forms. You’ll have the opportunity to perform in a recorded summer dance showcase and add footage to your dance reel. 

Best of all, you can network with the best in hip hop. Our instructors include hip hop stars like TRIX, season 9 finalist of So You Think You Can Dance; Andrew “Dr.Ew” Carter, who has danced with performers like Ariana Grande, J Lo, Janet Jackson, Kendrick Lamar and many other top artists; and Carlos Neto, among many others. Our artistic directors are Lisette Salgado-Lucas and David Lucas, founders of the Stomp the Ground (STG): The Ultimate Dance Competition.

Audition With Joffrey!

If you’re looking to take the next step towards dancing hip hop professionally, contact Joffrey Ballet School today to register for an audition for our next hip hop summer dance intensive or our year round Jazz and Contemporary training program. Whether you spend a summer or a year with us, your dreams of dancing professional hip hop start here!

Digital Auditions: https://summer.joffreyballetschool.com/digital-audition/

Avatar JBS Admin (69 Posts)

Founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Joffrey Ballet School maintains the vision of its founders to transform passionate dance students into versatile, individualistic artists able to collaborate and evolve fluidly in a fast-changing society. With an accredited dance program that offers two core areas of study – ballet and jazz/contemporary – JBS is known for its diverse curriculum and has the largest summer intensive training program in the country.


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Author: JBS Admin

Founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Joffrey Ballet School maintains the vision of its founders to transform passionate dance students into versatile, individualistic artists able to collaborate and evolve fluidly in a fast-changing society. With an accredited dance program that offers two core areas of study – ballet and jazz/contemporary – JBS is known for its diverse curriculum and has the largest summer intensive training program in the country.

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