Re-Discovering Boogaloo and its Place in the Fabric of Dance Culture – The Hype Magazine
Published on March 14th, 2021 | by Jerry Doby
I was going to write this scathing article about the racist organization Boogaloo Bois, a loosely organized far-right anti-government extremist political movement in the United States, BUT, I’d rather celebrate the folks they stole their name from. I see no reason to give them more than the cursory mention as we delve into the REAL boogaloo movement that has meant so much to street dance culture and influenced it so deeply.
What brought my attention to the boogaloo dance movement which began in Oakland, CA, was this absolutely enthralling piece sent over to me by the Arts & Culture Desk of San Francisco’s NPR/PBS affiliate station KQED. The title of the piece is Reclaiming the Legacy of Oakland’s Boogaloo Dance Culture by Eric Arnold and Spencer Wilkinson. It’s a combination of a video piece and a written feature that gives an in-depth look at the beginnings and the legends of the phenomenon that is Boogaloo. The video itself is part of KQED Art’s Webby award-winning series If Cities could Dance.
I for one had never heard the story of boogaloo though unbeknownst to me, I’d seen its influence in the dances that would become famous like pop-locking and later breakdancing which was birthed from Hip Hop music some 10 years after the birth of boogaloo. According to the story told by some of the remaining originators of the movement, as seen in the video above, they took inspiration from the likes of James Brown, the Temptations, Charlie Chaplin, cartoon characters, and sci-fi robots, with boogaloo innovators creating a repertoire of original moves like the “Dime Stop,” the “Hit,” the “Mack Pose,” and the “Ditallion.” (Reclaiming the Legacy of Oakland’s Boogaloo Dance Culture, Eric Arnold, Spencer Wilkinson)
Boogaloo has a rich history and blazed a wide swath across the west coast, beginning in Oakland and migrating to cities like San Francisco, Richmond, and beyond, creating derivatives of the original called strutting and robottin’. According to the piece, these styles are now recognized as the “funk styles” due to the fact they were birthed during the funk era.
The story of Oakland’s boogaloo culture includes some great moments of discovery:
…Will Randolph was just eight years old when he witnessed something that would change his life forever.
The young East Oakland resident was at a New Years’ Eve party thrown by the Pointer Sisters, his neighbors at the time, marveling at two teenagers moving in an animated fashion, craning their necks and striking poses. Randolph remembers thinking to himself: “What in the world is that?”…
…That night launched a six-decade-long love affair with boogaloo, a dance form invented by African American youth in Oakland…
…despite its pioneering status, boogaloo’s cultural contributions are little-known outside of Bay Area dance circles. That’s why, for the past 20 years, Randolph and other veteran boogaloos have spread the word in an attempt to revive boogaloo, maintain its cultural traditions, and pass them on to a new generation–bridging the gap between boogaloo, pop-locking, and contemporary dance forms like turf dancing…
I got a chance to speak with both Eric Arnold and Spencer Wilkinson about their story and our conversation was even more enlightening…tune in!
I think what I most enjoyed about learning more about boogaloo and its origins was that it had/has such far-reaching tentacles within the dance world. When you take a look at programs such as So You Think You Can Dance, World of Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew, and the like, you witness how even today the boogaloo movement is ingrained in the community of dance…which make it even more important to separate the real boogaloo community from those who would try and steal its glory by using the name in a disrespectful manner and in the name of violence.
Boogaloo is a beautiful part of American history, it’s helped to grow and define movements of dance that have gone global and brought a world together through dance…we should celebrate it as such and not feed its usurpation by an extremist group who doesn’t have any idea where it even gets its name.
Ending on a positive note…let’s boogaloo!
Featured image, video, and playlist courtesy of KQED Arts