Where China opens up, hip-hop jumps in

Timothy Francis Hughes
Hip-hop is growing in China, fuelled by influences from the United States and Japan.
Timothy Francis Hughes

As China continues to open up and import physical products and ideas from the outside world, the modern Western dance of hip-hop has managed to be absorbed into Chinese society.

But how and why has hip-hop gained such a foothold? What happened?

Wang Han is known as the godfather of hip-hop in Shanghai, having taught hip-hop dancing for over a decade. Another veteran is Pu Kai, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Their base can be traced to famous Japanese hip-hop coach Ohji, who influenced and personally taught many other prominent Chinese hip hop coaches.

“It is a combination of television shows, Internet videos, and other hip hop events coming from the United States that continue to influence our development of the dance,” says Zhang Jianpeng, coach of TI, the recent Hip Hop International China mega crew champion.

Hip-hop in China is influenced by both the United States and Japan. But there are also important local developments.

Where China opens up, hip-hop jumps in
Ti Gong

Best Crew members exhibit their dancing expertise at the competition.

Ye Zheng, an HHI judge and coach who participated in the competition with his mega crew team, Wiik Family, says different regions of China are known for different styles of dancing, such as Shanghai’s usage of “old school” style that consists of popping and locking, while Beijing is known for incorporating a lot of urban-style dance.

“Urban-style dance is a quite recent phenomenon as it became popular in the 2000s and is defined by the fact that the dance is a blending of other dances or is a dance that cannot be assigned to one specific category so it has received its own designation,” says Ye. “This is in comparison to the locking and popping styles which were developed during the 1960s and 1970s.”

A reflection of how intense, serious and prized hip-hop dancing in China has become is the gap between the awards given at the HHI events. The HHI World Championship mega crew champions received about US$8,000 while the HHI China mega crew champions won US$60,000.

Members of UPeepz, the 2017 mega crew World Hip Hop Dance champion team, put on a special guest performance.

UPeepz crew members were surprised by the prize money, saying “to win the HHI World Championship is more about having the bragging rights.” 

To compare China with the rest, check out the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in which hip-hop champions from around the world will head to the heat of Pheonix, Arizona, the United States, on August 5-11.

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