Hip-hop dance refers to dance styles primarily danced to hip-hop music or that have evolved as part of hip-hop culture. This includes a wide range of styles notably breaking, locking, and popping which were created in the 1970s by African Americans.[note 1] What separates hip-hop dance from other forms of dance is that it is often freestyle (improvisational) in nature and hip-hop dancers frequently engage in battles—formal or informal freestyle dance competitions. Informal freestyle sessions and battles are usually performed in a cipher, "a circular dance space that forms naturally once the dancing begins." These three elements—freestyling, battles, and ciphers—are key components of hip-hop dance.
More than 30 years old, hip-hop dance became widely known after the first professional breaking, locking, and popping crews formed in the 1970s. The most influential groups are the Rock Steady Crew, The Lockers, and the Electric Boogaloos who are responsible for the spread of breaking, locking, and popping respectively. Parallel with the evolution of hip-hop music, hip-hop dancing evolved from breaking and the funk styles into different forms: moves such as the "running man" and the "cabbage patch" hit the mainstream and became fad dances. The dance industry in particular responded with a studio based version of hip-hop—sometimes called new style— and jazz funk. These styles were developed by technically trained dancers who wanted to create choreography for hip-hop music from the hip-hop dances they saw being performed on the street. Because of this development, hip-hop dance is now practiced at both studios and outside spaces.
Internationally, hip-hop dance has had a particularly strong influence in France and South Korea. France is the birthplace of Tecktonik, a style of house dance from Paris that borrows heavily from popping and breaking. France is also the home of Juste Debout, an international hip-hop dance competition, and Battle of the Year, the largest team-based breaking competition in the world. South Korea is home to the international breaking competition R16 which is sponsored by the government and broadcast every year live on Korean television. The country consistently produces such skillful b-boys that the South Korean government has designated the Gamblerz and Rivers b-boy crews official ambassadors of Korean culture.
To some, hip-hop dance may only be a form of entertainment or a hobby. To others it has become a lifestyle: a way to be active in physical fitness or competitive dance and a way to make a living by dancing professionally.