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Boogaloo is a freestyle, improvisational street dance movement of soulful steps and robotic movements which make up the foundations of popping dance and turfing; boogaloo can incorporate illusions, restriction of muscles, stops, robot and/or wiggling. The style also incorporates foundational popping techniques, which were initially referred to as "Posing Hard". It is related to the later electric boogaloo dance.
The Boogaloo was initially a social dance within the African American community in Chicago that had crossover appeal to white teenagers. Between 1965 and 1966, it was described as "a total new look compared to previous (social) dances...the entire body moved in a pulsating motion from side to side. The rhythmic impulse seemed to have centered in the upper torso, shoulders, and head". The boogaloo dance craze would inspire a number of soul dance records such as "Boo-Ga-Loo" by Robert "Tom" Tharpe and Jerry "Jerrio" Murray, as well as Fantastic Johnny-C's "Boogaloo Down Broadway". Tharpe got the idea of releasing "Boo-Ga-Loo" by seeing local African American teenagers dancing the Boogaloo at a local record hop hosted by the legendary Chicago Radio DJ Herb "Cool Gent" Kent.
The Boogaloo dance step is also described as a "single-step combination made up of a smooth repetitive side-to-side movement, based on the soul music dance beat on a 4/4 time signature, it consists of lunging motion to the side on the downbeat, held for two counts..accented by a distinct arm swing where the hand is raised up to eye level...then combined with a distinctive backward head-nod to the beat...on the third musical beat, the body and head abruptly shift back and lunge in the opposite direction, before shifting once again on the fourth beat."
In 1966, soul & funk musician James Brown released a boogaloo dance single, "James Brown's Boogaloo" and danced his interpretation of the boogaloo on Where the Action Is on national TV.
In 1966, Larry Thompson, a local dancer in Oakland, California, put together a boogaloo style inspired by the Boogaloo social dance, James Brown, the Temptations, and Fred Astaire. Through these influences, Thompson would innovate a local boogaloo style and formed a dance group Pirate and the Easy Walkers, together with Cornell "Tony Rome" Reese, Wayne "Freddy Snow" Dillard and Levi Warner. Thompson would also be inspired by watching a dancer from The Hy-Lit Show, a Black and Puerto Rican dancer named Harold (Harold Hazzard): "The move this guy did on the show was a Boogaloo style step with flailing arm moves that would cross the body then end in a freeze with the chest sticking out. This was a good step because we could use it to go into the Camel Walk and into the Skate."
Through 1967 to 1968, soul dancers in Sobrante Park in Oakland, California, would challenge Pirate and the Easy Walkers through "face off's". The Easy Walkers were unique because they mixed different steps of social dances together in a uniform boogaloo style and would innovate challenge steps called the "Ditalian" where dancers would shuffle a combination of cha-cha steps, a stomp and end with a right hand to point and challenge another dancer. The Ditalian was created by Danny Boy Reese, who was the younger brother of Easy Walker's member Cornell Reese.
In 1967, 1968, & 1969, a style known as 3-D, Dinosaurin' or Animating developed. Dancers such as Albert "Iron Man" Milton, Michael "The Mad" Enoch and Jerry "The Worm" Rentie as the group, One Plus One imitated Ray Harryhausen stop-motion DynoRama animation movies and incorporated these movements as slap-stick crowd entertainment. Iron Man particularly took influence from 20 Million Miles to Earth reenacting the dinosaur-like creature birthed in the movie and would dance to James Brown. A second generation in the 1970s innovated this style with less comical approach to animated movements and focused on intricate detailed dinosaur movement: this was complete with sudden, full stopping in motion techniques called "dime-stops", minute stop-motion affects and posing; dancers from the group, Soulful Movements - such as Ted Williams, Steve Williams & Tony Newsome were masters at this Boogaloo animated style.
|Watch: "Boogaloo dancer Reo Robot demonstrates Dinosaur and Robot" on YouTube|
In 1964, a Boogaloo dancer named John Murphy imitated Robotic movements influenced by the robot in the 1954 sci-fi movie Tobor the Great, he would move from West Oakland to East Oakland and introduce The Robot in various school talent shows; he is credited with introducing Robot techniques to the Boogaloo community influencing and teaching popular dancers such as Derrick Lovings of Derrick & Company, Newberry, Boogaloo Dan, and the Robotroids. In 1972, John Murphy would help form the Boogaloo dance group The Black Messengers and develop robotic boogaloo.
Throughout every highschool in Oakland - Castlemont, McClymonds, Fremont - schools would host dance competitions to select their high school mascots. While in costume, every mascot was innovating in-character steps and developed "hitting" techniques to be noticed in large rallies. For example, Donald "Duck" Mathews was the Fremont High School's Tiger mascot, during half-time football shows, he would grab his tail, point and pose to taunt the opponents' mascot and innovated wiggling or worming movements with his chest. Mascots such competed in costume such as Fremont Tigers, Castlemont Knights, Oakland Technical Bulldogs. Competing high schools would have a dance off of Mascots during Basketball and Football games. Duck from Fremont High School is a notable mascot and boogaloo dancer who innovated worming, wiggling and posing while taunting school opponents in a Tiger uniform and character, Fremont High would be known to popularize the "Oakland Hit", allowing his head piece to shake during each hit that inspired similar vibrating Boogaloo hat effects. Other innovative dancers in this era are Gregory Holm from Castlemont High, Henry Fischer, Lil Willie, Larry Robertson and John Murphy at Fremont High, and Ronald Nerves at Oakland Technical High School.
In 1967, Jerry Rentie while living in Oakland, would innovate soul boogaloo styles with new funk movements inspired by "mimicking toys, cartoons, movies...everywere we would cut a step (e.g. creating a step). "We took the Ditallion from soft and sliding to a step with a stomp, a bounce, a hop and a skip." Rentie would also innovate the concept of "the Freeze", he explains, "The Freeze was a part of a step where as in doing it you would stop and that pause was to lead into or accent the next movement. Lock It Down was how we called freezing so hard to the point that we would jiggle when we would freeze." The Freeze would be a predecessor to the "Popping" or "Hitting" techniques in the late 70s. Rentie referred to their new Boogaloo style as "Bug'n", Rentie recalls "when we were Bug'n we meant Boogaloo in the term of our dance style but it was clearly not the James Brown Boogaloo anymore."
In the early 1970s dancers from the Black Messengers group innovated a Boogaloo technique of "Posing Hard": they would end their boogaloo poses and dime-stops with a hard "hit" - to the point of vibrating their muscles; this technique would influence the modern day "popping" technique within the Popping dance form. Since Boogaloo dancers would dance to the changing sounds of funk, Posing Hard matched the rhythm and intensity of the beat with their body's vibrations, chanting "BAM!" or "BOOM!" with each pose.
|Watch: "The Black Messengers as Mechanical Device performing Boogaloo group steps on the Gong Show, aired on national TV in 1977 (4-min mark)" on YouTube|
Through various U.S. Federal funding for community development, Oakland had several community development districts especially in East Oakland and West Oakland, these districts hosted talent shows where Boogaloo dancers would showcase routines alongside live bands and singers. Throughout the 1960 and 1970s, Oakland had numerous teenage funk bands that created the musical landscape for Boogaloo dancers with some Boogaloo groups having their own band to perform with; East Oakland often had three to four bands in every block.
Taking place throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Oakland was the center of the Black Power Movement which involved the creation of the Black Panther Party. Boogaloo dance groups such as the Black Resurgents performed for Black Panther community rallies and events. With the advent of the liberation spirit of funk music and Black Power, Boogaloo group names such as The Black Messengers, The Black Resurgents, Black Mechanics, and Black Operators would signify Black pride and self-determination.
In East Oakland, in order to outreach to militant youth, the Allen Temple Baptist Church created a partnership with the Black Panthers to host various social programs at the Temple church hall, the Black Panthers would host Oakland socials that featured Boogaloo dancers such as the Black Messengers.
Another central venue for local Boogaloo dancers was the Oakland Community School (OCS) or the "Temple", the Black Panthers had operated this school as part of their community "survival programs". As local Nation of Islam members hosted services on the weekends, this venue was known as "the Temple" and hosted numerous talent shows that featured groups such as the Black Messengers, funk bands and singers. As part of the Black Panthers' curriculum, the venue's principle was “We serve the people everyday. We serve the people, body and soul.” Directed by Ericka Huggins and Donna Howell, OCS provided youth with a culturally relevant education and challenged the public school system’s perceptions of what it meant to be Black and poor.
Boogaloo dance groups incorporated various formations with different styles, here is a working compiled list of active Boogaloo dance groups during the 1960s and 1970s.
|Watch: "Boogaloo: An Intro to Basic Movements with Chuck Powell" on YouTube|
Boogaloo relies on the swing and groove of live funk records, and the Boogaloo dance era corresponds with pre-drum machine preference for live drums. Below are notable songs Boogaloo dancers dance to:
|Watch: "SF and Oakland Hip Hop Histories Come Alive in this Dance Demo" on KQED|
In 1975, Oakland dancers Donald Jones of the Boogaloo group Robotroids performed at a talent show in San Francisco. Eventually the Robotroids would join Debrah "Granny" Johnson. Through the combination of robotic dance moves of Lorenzo "Tony" Johnson and Donald Jones' Boogaloo, they would refer to this style as Strutting in San Francisco. Strutting was done in a solo through swift arm angles (The Fillmore) and through group choreography. Boogaloo Dancers such as Benjamin James from Live, Inc. were also instrumental in the evolution of Boogaloo to Strutting.
Oakland Boogaloo groups as well as prominent San Francisco, San Jose dancers would compete in talent shows held in Richmond, California; this would be a cultural center for regional dance influences, by the late 1970s Richmond would be an epicenter of performers such as the Posing Puppets, Richmond Robots, Androids, Audionauts, Criminons, Lady Mechanical Robots and Green Machine. Groups from Richmond would refer to their style as Richmond Robottin.
The 60s and 70s Boogaloo generations have similar storytelling, animated movements and share the same neighborhoods and families with today's Turf dancers who practice a street style Turfing. Turf dancers cite inspiration from the previous generations of Boogaloo; they come from a long lineage of dancers in the Bay Area, specifically from Oakland, California.
Popping would be eventually adapted from earlier Boogaloo movements to influence dancers in Fresno, California, in the late 1970s by way of California high-school gatherings of track & meet events called the West Coast Relays. Often, the best boogaloo dancers in Oakland would be chosen as high school mascots: all of the surrounding high school mascots would compete against other with a live school band during the half-time show.
An annual event held in Oakland honors contributions of the Boogaloo generation and hosts an intergenerational event for dancers in the Popping and Hiphop community to meet the original Boogaloo generation. Many Bay Area styles represented through Boogaloo, Robot, and Strutting are also showcased through different dancers at this event.
|Watch: "Black Resurgents perform live on The Jay Payton Show (24:47 min marker) on Internet Archive|