Since its origins on the streets of New York in the early 1970s, hip-hop dance has rapidly evolved. It has become a cultural movement, with international influence, that embraces a wide variety of dance styles like breaking, popping, locking, krumping, etc. Hip-Hop dance has been distinguished as a “freestyle” and “street style” dance that has evolved as a part of hip-hop culture. Popular shows like Soul Train, America’s Best Dance Crew, and So You Think You Can Dance showcased dance styles in their early stages, giving hip-hop mainstream exposure. Although the psychology of hip-hop dance has not received the same amount of exposure, there have been multiple studies that help link the benefits of hip-hop dance to more than just being “the cool kid on the block.”
Expertise with kinesthetic (e.g. sports, dance, chess) activities have been found to be linked with specific cognitive skills. Some of these skills include problem solving, concentration, and working memory. Researchers have examined the specific benefits of hip-hop dance showing that those with hip-hop dance experience are linked with social cognitive ability. Hip-hop expands a dancer’s awareness of other emotions and social encounters. Dancers were tested with a set of computerized tasks, which showed that those with greater hip-hop dance experiences were faster and had greater trends of accuracy with their work. They were also faster at identifying positive emotions displayed within the tests.
So what does this mean for us? Hip-hop dance has already established itself as a fun, cultural, expressive style of dance. I am sure we have all shared a favorite hip-hop YouTube video a time or two. Now there is evidence that hip-hop dance is well-received for cognitive development as well. Whether we realize it or not, hip-hop dance demands a level of social awareness through emotions, creativity, and storytelling. It is also a form of movement that encourages a dancer to enhance their problem solving skills and speed. Through fast-paced motions and high energy kinesthetics, hip-hop increases a dancer’s mental capacity and accuracy. So next time you want to whip and nae-nae, go right ahead my friend. You’re smarter for it.