The hip hop dance world is competitive, and there are lots of dancers vying to become one of 11 most famous hip hop dancers. Yet the truth is, it’s not like there’s some leaderboard that determines who’s on the list and who’s not. So, we decided to take it upon ourselves to create our own list of famous hip hop dancers from its origins in the street up through the present day.
Hip Hop: From the Street to the Studio
In hip hop, it’s important to distinguish between “Old School” and “New Style.” Old school refers to the original hip hop street dancing that got its start in the 1970s, evolving alongside the developing rap music style. Hip hop dancers in those days vied for bragging rights by holding street dance battles between crews that featured breaking, popping and locking – moves put together improvisationally in freestyle dances.
As hip hop caught on nationwide in the early 80s, it was featured in movies like Breakin’ and on televised dance shows of the time, including Soul Train. Around this time, it was also noticed by dance industry pioneers like Toni Basil who began developing hip hop choreography based on the traditional eight count. This move away from pure freestyling or improvisation was the beginning of the “new school” of hip hop dance.
Today, many hip hop dancers study “new style” hip hop dance at the thousands of studios that have sprung up to teach the next generation the old school moves along with formal jazz-funk choreography. Crews and freestyle dance battles still exist, on the street, in competitions and increasingly, on social media.
Top 11 Most Famous Hip Hop Dancers: Singer / Dancers
Hip hop music and dance evolved simultaneously and for many outside the dance world, entertainers who are both singers and dancers are often considered the most famous hip hop dancers. On that note, we’ll lead off our list with a few of these double threat hip hop artists:
Ciara – Ciara is a singer and dancer who has won the Soul Train Music Awards “Best Dance Performance” three times. Her first win was for the video to “Ride” in 2010, she won a second time in 2013 for the video to “Body Party” and a third time in 2018 for her performance in “Level Up.”
Beyonce – Beyonce may not have won the Soul Train Best Dance Performance as often as Ciara (for the record, Queen B has won twice: once in 2011 for the video to “Rule the World (Girls)” and again 2012 for “Love on Top”) but she has been nominated more often than any other female artist: a total of five times.
Chris Brown – No, we’re not going to leave it to the ladies. Next on our list is Chris Brown who won the Best Dance Performance award in 2014 for his dancing in the “Loyal” video, and again in 2019 for “No Guidance.” He’s also been nominated a whopping 8 times – more than any other artist.
Top 11 Most Famous Hip Hop Dancers: Crews and Duos
Next on our list of 11 most famous hip hop dancers are a few of the best known dance crews. These old school and new style teams made their name on the street and in competitions, including on popular reality TV dance competitions.
Les Twins – As their name would suggest, this duo are identical twin brothers from France. They were finalists on the French TV program Incroyable Talent in 2008 and since then have risen to prominence globally as dancers, models, choreographers, designers and creative directors of their brand “Eleven Paris.” They were the 2017 winners of the reality TV competition “World of Dance” and have been featured dancers for Beyonce, Missy Elliott and Meghan Trainor among many other accomplishments.
Poreotics -This all male dance crew from Westminster, California has won multiple dance competitions including Vibe 15, FUSION X and Body Rock. They were the 2010 season winners of TV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, and won the World of Dance competition in 2011. Even those who haven’t ever watched a hip-hop dance competition are likely to have caught these electrifying performers in action: they were the dancing monkeys in Bruno Mars’ “Lazy Song” video.
Jabbawockeez – Based out of San Diego, Jabbawockeez were the first winners of the 2008 season of America’s Best Dance Crew. Since then the crew has appeared in Pepsi, Gatorade and Ford commercials, and have appeared on So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Ellen DeGeneres and Live With Regis and Kelly. They also competed in 2017 on World of Dance but were eliminated. In 2012 they were the first dance crew to be awarded the Living Legends of Hip Hop award by Hip Hop International.
Rock Steady Crew – No listing of hip hop crews would be complete without mentioning to the OG kings, the original hip hop crew from New York City, the Rock Steady Crew. Rock Steady was
New Style and Old School Solo Dancers
Last, here are a few of the solo hip hop dancers who have made their mark on the dance scene since the style’s inception in the early 1980s..
Fik-Shun – DuShaunt “Fik-shun” Stegall was the male winner of season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance in 2013 at the tender age of 18. Since then, he has been featured on SYTYCD multiple times and has appeared in films and TV shows such as “All Styles,” “Making Moves,” “World of Dance” as well as Ellen DeGeneres, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and many others.
Leon “Kida” Burns – Another hip hop prodigy from SYTYCD is Leon “Kida” Burns, who was mentored by Fik-shun on “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation” in 2016. After winning SYTYCD, Kida danced with Usher at the 2016 BET Awards. He has also appeared on the Queen Latifah and Rachel Ray shows, and in the movie Battlefield America. In 2020, Kida choreographed and appeared in Justin Bieber’s “Come Around Me” video.
Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon and Steffan “Mr. Wiggles” Clemente – As President of the Rock Steady Crew, Crazy Legs is probably the best known member of the troupe and was the “face of hip hop” in its early days. Another founding member of Rock Steady, Mr. Wiggles, was featured alongside Crazy Legs in two of hip hop dance’s most influential movies, “Beat Street” and “Wild Style.” Since then, Colon moved into choreography and producing, while Mr. Wiggles went on to work with Missy Elliott, Usher, Madonna and many others.
Toni Basil – Best known for the 1982 hit “Mickey,” Basil is also one of the leading influences on the development of new school hip hop. Basil’s background was in classical ballet and cheerleading, which she parlayed into a professional dance career starting in the early 1960s. By the 1980s, she had become interested in street dance and was one of the founding members of the street dance troupe “The Lockers,” alongside Don “Campbellock” Campbell, who invented the hip hop dance move that bears his and the group’s name. Basil was one of the first in the dance industry to bring hip hop dance to a broad audience.
We blew right past 11 famous hip hop dancers and gave you twelve of the dancers, crews and entertainers who are among the best known and most influential in the hip hop world. Hip hop is a dynamic style with new artists discovered every day. If you love hip hop and want to learn more, contact Joffrey Ballet School today and register to audition for one of our Hip Hop Summer Dance Intensives in New York City.
Digital Auditions: https://summer.joffreyballetschool.com/digital-audition/
Summer of Hip Hop NYC: https://summer.joffreyballetschool.com/summer-of-hiphop-nyc/